Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday addressed the nation to announce a package to mitigate the hardships of the inflation-hit public.
Under the Rs120 billion subsidy programme, eligible families will be able to purchase ghee, wheat flour and pulses at 30 per cent lower prices for the next six months, he said.
At the start of his speech, the premier said the package would be "the biggest welfare programme in Pakistan's history", which he said would take the country towards becoming a welfare state.
PM Imran's address:
- Eligible families to be provided 30pc discount on ghee, flour and pulses
- Petrol prices to increase further
- Will slash the prices of all food items by half if "two big families bring half the money they looted and took abroad" back to Pakistan: PM
- Pakistan will face a "gas problem" in the winter: PM
He lauded the team of the government's flagship Ehsaas programme for collecting data on the financial status of families across the country. "Until we had this data, giving subsidies was not an easy task, it was based on estimations. But since we have this data today, I am now in the position to present this relief package," he said.
Prime Minister Imran said the PTI government had inherited a difficult economic situation, and thanked Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China for providing the help that saved Pakistan from defaulting.
"We had to approach the IMF, we were stabilising the country for a year and then corona came," he said, lauding the NCOC for taking data-based decisions that helped Pakistan's coronavirus fight.
"We were internationally acknowledged for being one of the few countries to deal with Covid-19 in the best manner."
Fearing unemployment, the premier said, the government imposed "small and smart" lockdowns instead of completely shutting down the economy. "We especially saved agriculture and construction, which create jobs in urban areas and [increase] exports," he added.
Recounting the government's incentives for the construction and agriculture sectors, he said the country's economic indicators were "positive".
Prime Minister Imran acknowledged that inflation was a major problem in the country, saying the media and the opposition had the right to criticise the government.
But he said the media "needs to balance and think whether inflation is rising because of our government or due to rise in prices in the international market".
Quoting rising inflation figures in Europe and the US, the premier said the price of natural gas had increased by 116pc in the US and by 300pc in Europe, while there had been no increase in the price of gas being supplied to homes in Pakistan.
"There has only been an increase in the price of gas that is being procured from outside Pakistan," he said. He hinted that the country will face a "gas problem" in the winter.
The prime minister noted that oil prices had risen by 100 per cent in the last 3-4 months internationally, while they had increased 33pc in Pakistan.
"When you say petrol is expensive, it is the cheapest in Pakistan, but we will have to increase the price because otherwise our deficit will increase and we will be further burdened by debt," he added.
Prime Minister Imran further said the price of wheat in Pakistan was half of that in India and Bangladesh, stressing that the government was "doing our best so that you are not burdened much".
He announced a subsidy programme to mitigate the impact of rising prices, saying it would provide relief to 20 million families and would affect 130m people.
Under the package, he said, 30 per cent subsidy would be given on ghee, flour, and pulses for the next six months.
"You will be able to buy flour, ghee and pulses at 30pc lower prices," he announced.
The package, worth Rs120 billion, is being given jointly by the federal and the provincial government. Prime Minister Imran said the package would be extended in the future if the conditions allowed.
Aside from the above, the prime minister noted that the government's Ehsaas programme worth Rs260 billion was already functioning with the aim to benefit 12 million families.
"We are also launching the Kamyab Pakistan [programme] with a funding of Rs1,400 billion to give interest-free loans to 4m families," he said.
The government is also providing skills education to 200,000 people as well as 6m scholarships and school stipends, the premier added.
Additionally, he said, the entire population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been given health cards, while the same programme was likely to be launched in Punjab in December.
In his speech, Prime Minister Imran also appealed to industrialists and "seths" to increase the salaries of their employees and share their profits will labourers.
The premier then addressed the opposition who he said had been protesting against rising inflation.
"I request the two big families to bring half of the money they looted and took outside [to Pakistan]. Even if they bring half [the money], I promise you and the nation that I will slash the prices of all food items by half," he said, in an apparent jibe at the families of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari.
'Big public relief package'
The PTI earlier said in a tweet that the prime minister would "announce a big public relief package in the country's history during his address".
The prime minister's plan to address the nation was first disclosed by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Monday, who said the premier would soon announce a "big package" to deal with rising inflation, providing relief to 10 million people directly.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill told media persons that the prime minister would take people into confidence on the current economic situation and share details of the inflation package.
The government has been facing severe criticism from the opposition, particularly after Prime Minister Imran approved a Rs10 increase in the price of petrol last month. Major opposition parties, including the PML-N and the PPP, have held countrywide rallies and protests over what they term "unprecedented inflation in the country".
Inflation measured through the Sensitive Price Index posted an increase of 1.23 per cent for the week ended on October 28 driven by a sharp rise in the prices of essential food items, data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics showed.
This was the fourth consecutive week that witnessed an upward increase. Earlier, the finance ministry had warned of inflation further rising in the country.
Last month, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had ruled out "immediate relief" in rising commodity prices, saying it could take at least five months for the "abnormal increase" in global prices to head towards normalcy.
Even before the prime minister's address took place, PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb earlier today branded the government's expected relief package an "eyewash", saying the "biggest relief package" for the country would be Prime Minister Imran's resignation.