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April 16, 2019

Treasury benches face tough time in PA over price-hike


April 16, 2019

PESHAWAR: Treasury benches in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly faced a tough time on Monday as the opposition lashed out at the government for the unprecedented price-hike, especially sharp increase in prices of daily use commodities.

Initiating the debate on the price-hike and unemployment, Khushdil Khan of Awami National Party (ANP) said the increase in prices of the items of daily use had made life miserable for the poor. The upward revision of tax on petroleum products led to a sharp increase in prices, he said, adding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was snatching bread from the poor instead of providing any relief to them.

He said, on the one hand, the PTI was criticizing the previous federal government for taking loans but on the other, the KP govt got Rs80 billion loan during the financial year 2017-18 on which an interest of Rs24.75 billion would be paid.

The opposition lawmaker asked except for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for which Rs33.5 billion loan was got, what mega project the government executed with the borrowed money.

Inayatullah Khan of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) said deprivation and injustice always led to revolutions.

He said the inflation in Pakistan was highest in the country’s history and it might go up to 14 percent.

According to the World Bank’s report, every year one million people would be rendered unemployed and four million would go down the poverty line if the same economic situation continued in the country, he said.

The GDP growth would come down to 3.5 percent this year and 2.5 percent next year which is alarming, he cautioned.

Where are the claims and promises of improvement when there was a rise of Rs 240 billion in the circular debt, Rs3000 billion in loans and a shortfall of Rs485 billion in revenue collection, he asked?

The legislator said the prices of 300 items would be further increased if oil prices were not controlled. He asked the government to at least reduce the prices of six kitchen items including flour, sugar, ghee/oil, tea leaves and pulses.

Nighat Orakzai of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) while making a comparison between the previous and incumbent governments, said petrol was at the rate of Rs64 per litre during the ‘corrupt’ setup and at Rs104 in the so-called ‘Riasat-e-Madina, dollar raised to 145 from Rs105, fertilizer to Rs3500 from Rs2400, rice to Rs4500 per bag from Rs3000 in the last government, while electricity bill of Rs800 in the previous government was raised to Rs2000 by the PTI rulers.

She said that gas tariff was hiked by 142 percent and there were reports of an increase of Rs7 per unit in electricity tariff.

Sardar Aurangzeb Nalotha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, ANP’s Salahuddin and Rehana Yasmin of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F also criticized the government for its wrong policies.

Senior Minister Atif Khan, in his reply, admitted that there was exorbitant price-hike but tried to shift its responsibility to the previous government, saying there was a gap between export and import, circular debt was too high, the incumbent government has to pay Rs6.5 billion daily interest on foreign loans.

He claimed the previous government kept the dollar stable artificially.

At the same time, he tried to defend foreign loans and argued there was no harm in the loan if it was meant for generating economic activities.

Amid heated debate, a member from the treasury pointed out the quorum and Deputy Speaker Mehmood Jan, who presided over, had to adjourn the session till Tuesday (today) 1:30 pm.

Earlier the House passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities (amendment) Bill, 2019 unanimously.

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