• Fawad says plan likely to be finalised today
• Ismail links price cut with formation of PTI govt in Sindh
• Feasibility study of Rs19.5bn New Balakot City development project completed
ISLAMABAD: Days after raising the petrol prices to a record level, the federal government has decided in principle to provide subsidised petrol to motorcycle and rickshaw owners.
The government also made up its mind to give another round of stipend to the less privileged people under the Ehsaas programme enabling them to get essential food items at comparatively reduced rates.
Both decisions were made at a meeting of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) core committee on Wednesday.
Presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, “the meeting decided to provide petrol to the owners of motorbikes and rickshaws at subsidised rates but it is yet to be decided how the plan will be implemented,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry while speaking to Dawn.
He said the prime minister would chair another meeting on “how to give relief to inflation-hit people” on Thursday (today) to finalise the plan for supplying subsidised petrol to motorcycles and rickshaws.
The government had made the unprecedented increase of Rs10.49 per litre in petrol price on Oct 16 after which the opposition kicked off its countrywide protest campaign against the government.
First of such demonstrations was staged in Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
‘Relief within a week’
In a press talk after attending the PTI core committee meeting, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail told reporters outside the parliament house that relief in petroleum prices would be given to motorcyclists and rickshaw drivers within a week.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had earlier ruled out “immediate relief” in rising commodity prices and made it clear that it could take at least five months for the “abnormal increase” in prices to head towards normalcy. “We hope people get relief soon, but — according to experts — the relief may not be visible immediately and actual improvement may be seen from March,” he had told a press conference on Monday.
About the core committee meeting, the governor said PM Khan had directed federal ministers to visit different cities to apprise people about reasons behind price hike and to assure them that relief would be provided to them soon.
The Sindh governor then told the media the province of Sindh had the highest prices of essential items in the country, because the provincial government had delayed release of wheat stocks to the mills. “Wheat flour is the costliest in Sindh. We have found its solution and that is the formation of next government by the PTI in Sindh,” he added.
However, the information minister later told a presser that the prices of essential items such as pulses, vegetables, sugar and wheat were on the decline despite the surge in prices of petroleum products.
“While petrol prices have increased, the prices of pulses, vegetables, sugar and flour are on the downward trend. If the trend continues, public will get some relief. The entire government is working on tackling inflation and the premier will announce major programmes in this regard in coming days,” he added.
In an online address, the information minister told the media party leaders from Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had participated in PTI’s core committee meeting. He said Prime Minister Khan also presided over a meeting of the Ehsaas programme earlier.
During the meeting, he said, the premier directed the officials concerned to take immediate steps to alleviate the burden on the people by expanding the subsidy scheme under the Ehsaas programme.
“KP and Punjab are ready to become a part of the subsidy scheme. We want that Sindh and Balochistan also become a part of this scheme,” he said, adding that Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir had also expressed their interest.
The minister said the real issue was delay in the release of wheat stocks by the Sindh government. “Because of this, a 20kg bag of flour is being sold for Rs400 more in Sindh as compared to Punjab and KP,” he said, explaining that the federal government had been pressing the provincial government to increase the amount of wheat stocked being released to mills to allow prices to fall.
Wheat, cotton, sugar
“According to government estimates, we will have historic wheat crop this year and the cotton yield was 60 per cent more than the previous year. Sugar price is also coming down and will reduce further once the crushing season begins,” he claimed.
He said the prime minister had directed party leaders to prepare a schedule of visits to districts in preparation for the local government elections. While discussing local government elections in Punjab, Mr Khan had directed the leadership to launch a public campaign, the information minister said.
“PM Imran said he is aware of the difficulties being faced by the poor due to inflation and therefore the scope of the Sehat Card, Kisan Card and Ehsaas programme is being expanded,” he added.
Special Assistant to the PM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the meeting on the Ehsaas targeted subsidy programme and said: “Eligible families will receive discounts from grocery stores on specific items”.
New Balakot City
At a separate meeting, the prime minister said the government would develop new tourist resorts in the hilly areas for the promotion of tourism. “For this purpose, reputed private investors in the field of tourism and hospitality are being attracted on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode,” Mr Khan said.
The prime minister expressed these views while chairing a meeting on the Rs19.5 billion worth New Balakot City development project. He directed the federal and provincial authorities concerned to take all necessary measures to facilitate investment in developing the area as a tourist hub.
Mr Khan also asked relevant officials to exclude irrigated land from the project in order to ensure food security in the region. He was earlier told that a feasibility study of the project had been completed.
The KP government already acquired land for the purpose, as the tourist resort is expected to have a youth hostel, a theme park, a three-star hotel and a camping ground.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2021