People in two provinces may not benefit from subsidy package

Published November 15, 2021
People buy food items at a government-run utility store in Islamabad on May 16, 2018. — AFP
People buy food items at a government-run utility store in Islamabad on May 16, 2018. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The people of Sindh and Balochistan may not get the fruits of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new initiative to provide some relief amid unprecedented inflation through Ehsaas Rashan subsidy as both the provinces have refused to contribute their 65 per cent share to the Rs120 billion programme for six months.

Under the Ehsaas Rashan programme, poor households will get Rs1,000 each subsidy per month. The proposed federal government’s contribution to the subsidy is Rs350 while provincial share stands at Rs650.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar told Dawn that in the first 48 hours of the opening of the programme’s portal on Nov 9, more than 136 million hits (applications) were received. She said that out of total 136 million applicants, over one million had been registered as eligible for the programme.

Under the programme, three consumer items — pulses, wheat flour and edible oil/ghee — will be available on subsidised rates for the registered persons at utility stores, super stores and thousands of designated general/kiryana stores across the country. A subsidy of Rs22 will be given on flour, Rs105 on ghee and Rs55 on pulses.

Sindh, Balochistan refuse to contribute their share to Rs120bn Ehsaas Rashan initiative

“Sindh and Balochistan have refused to contribute to the programme after which people of both provinces will get only Rs350 subsidy (federal government share), and not the total subsidy of Rs1,000,” Ms Nishtar said, adding that Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan had agreed to bear Rs650 as share in the subsidy programme.

Balochistan’s refusal to share the subsidy programme is said to be quite shocking for the federal government which is facing ‘lack of confidence’ of its allies and the opposition’s threats to topple it owing to its ‘faulty economic policies’.

In Balochistan, the ruling Balochistan Awami Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf are coalition partners, while Sindh is being ruled by the Pakistan Peoples Party, one of the main opposition parties in the country. Under the Rs120bn subsidy programme, the provinces have to share Rs85.45bn — Punjab Rs41.76bn, KP Rs15.30bn, Sindh Rs21.46bn, Balochistan Rs5.14bn, AJK Rs1.11bn and GB Rs5bn.

When contacted, Sindh government’s spokesman Saeed Ghani said he was not aware of the provincial government’s stance on the issue. “Not sharing in the programme might have been decided by the chief minister and the decision has so far not been conveyed to the lower level,” he added.

Balochistan government’s former spokesman Liaquat Ali Shehwani said he did not know the provincial government’s stance on the matter, adding that since the change of government in the province, he had not been conveyed whether or not he was still the spokesman.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2021

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