Cabinet okays ‘comprehensive plan’ to bring down prices

Updated 14 Oct 2020


Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Oct 13. — APP
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Oct 13. — APP

ISLAMABAD: With just two days left before the opposition’s anti-government public gathering in Gujranwala, the federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a comprehensive plan to overcome price hike and shortage of food items.

The meeting also approved a proposal for setting up of camp offices of the president and prime minister.

“Today, for the first time it felt that steps being taken by the government will help bring down prices and overcome shortage of food items in the country,” Information Minister Shibli Faraz said in his post-cabinet meeting press conference.

It was the second consecutive cabinet meeting in which threadbare discussion was held on the issue of high prices amid the opposition’s protest call against the government’s failure to control skyrocketing prices and shortage of food items as well as its poor handling of the economic situation.

Minister blames Sindh for wheat shortage; camp offices for president, PM approved

About the prevailing wheat shortage and high prices of flour, Mr Faraz blamed the Sindh government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for allowing an increase in prices of wheat flour.

“We have reports that a 20kg bag of wheat flour is being sold at between Rs1,100 and Rs1,500 in Sindh whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa it is available in the price range of Rs1,100 and Rs1,300,” he said, adding that “if the price of a commodity goes up in any place, its effects are felt throughout the country”.

The minister said the Sindh government’s failure to purchase wheat on time led to a flour shortage in the province, adding that it had now decided to purchase the commodity by Oct 16.

Due to the wheat crisis, Naan was being sold for Rs15 in most parts of the country instead of its previous price of Rs10.

Camp offices

The federal cabinet decided to allow the prime minister to keep one camp office, Mr Faraz said.

It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister Khan had lashed out against previous rulers for keeping many camp offices.

“The prime minister said there should be only one camp office to limit expenditure,” the minister said, adding that former premier Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari had kept several camp offices. Only one camp office of Nawaz Sharif in Jati Umra had 2,752 police personnel for his security, he said.

According to a press release, the cabinet allowed one camp office each for the president and prime minister and also decided to review the expenses incurred by past presidents and prime ministers.

Prime Minister Khan directed that expenditure on the camp offices should be capped.

Opposition’s rally

Talking about the rally of the joint opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement in Gujranwala, the information minister said: “They are free to hold public meetings anywhere; the government is not worried.”

He said Nawaz Sharif, whose children live abroad, and the PPP leadership, which was against opening businesses during Covid-19, had decided to bring people to the streets without realising that a second wave of the virus was imminent.

Mr Faraz said the government would not come under any pressure and never give the opposition concessions in corruption cases.

He said people had rejected JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Even the PML-N and PPP abandoned him when he came to Islamabad the last time, Mr Faraz added.

He said the opposition parties had no moral ground to agitate on the streets as their leadership wanted a country where they could further amass wealth through corruption.

In response to a question, the minister said the PTI government had improved the economy, which was damaged by the previous government. However, efforts to expand it further were hampered by coronavirus which had dealt a blow even on the leading economies of the world, he added.

Mr Faraz, however, said the government would improve the financial situation of institutions and reduce circular debt in the power and gas sectors.

About K-Electric’s rates, he said they had been raised to end disparity with other parts of the country.

He said the Tiger Force, which comprised volunteers such as teachers, students and doctors would just keep a check on prices as it had no administrative power.

Mr Faraz said the family of Maryam Safdar looted national wealth with the courts giving verdicts against them, adding that ideologies of the Sharif family changed like the weather.

The PTI, he said, would be in power even in 2028, contrary to what the opposition was saying.

Meanwhile, the cabinet praised the performance of the Punjab government and law enforcement institutions for arresting the main accused in the motorway gang-rape incident.

A press release said the cabinet also approved establishment of new gas terminals, keeping in view requirements of winter. It was given a briefing on initiating e-office application in the ministries by December.

The cabinet also considered financial and legal matters of the National Information Technology Board. It was reaffirmed that encroachments on greenbelts would not be allowed.

The cabinet approved posting of members on the board of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation besides the Export Import Bank of Pakistan Act 2020 and the budget estimates of Capital Development Authority for the year 2019-20 and 2020-21. It gave a go-ahead to sending material assistance to Niger which had been hit by rains and floods.

It was also given a briefing on the financial affairs of Roosevelt Hotel and was informed that the hotel had been facing losses but the government took a timely decision and made a payment of more than $100 million to secure the national asset.

The cabinet was told that the Utility Stores Corporation’s (USC) sales had increased by seven per cent, and its losses brought down to Rs2.3 billion from Rs8.7 billion.

The USC chairman said sugar was being sold at Rs68 per kg at their outlets.

The cabinet also consented to the decisions of the Economic Coordination Committee which met on Oct 7 and allowed recovery of about Rs115 billion through re-gasified liquefied natural gas tariff to meet the revenue shortfall of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, including Rs74bn past receivables.

MQM cases

Shibli Faraz said the issue of cases against Muttahida Qaumi Movement leaders also came under discussion in the cabinet meeting.

The party representatives told the meeting that cases against them were based on petty issues like listening to Altaf Hussain’s speech and replying to a slogan.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2020