ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet met here on Tuesday with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, and decided that 1.5 million ton wheat would be imported in the coming days to thwart the designs of hoarders.
Separately, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet approved import of up to three lakh tons of sugar and revision of prices of petroleum products on fortnightly basis, instead of monthly basis.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting, said private and public sectors had been allowed to import wheat to meet the deficit of commodity. He said the district administrations had been directed to take strict action against hoarders of wheat and sugar.
The minister said the cabinet was informed that the country had sufficient stock of wheat and sugar, and hence there was no issue of demand and supply. He added that wheat was being provided to flour mills in Punjab, and the provincial government was providing subsidy on the commodity.
About the increase in price of wheat and flour, the minister conceded that in such scenarios, the government had to face direct consequences besides the public, adding Prime Minister Imran Khan was fully aware of the situation and was keeping an eye on the trend.
He pointed out that the chief secretaries were summoned on Monday for a meeting on the matter and the chief ministers also had been directed to not only ensure smooth availability of flour but also make sure its quality was also fine.
“It is utmost effort of the government to not only ensure wheat and flour supply, but also bring stability in prices. “The government and its departments are working day and night on this. In such a situation, when there is gap between supply and demand, hoarders exploit it to their advantage,” he added.
That was why, he noted, more wheat was being imported than what was required to make sure such elements did not fleece people. The minister said the federal cabinet also approved formation of a commission to probe recent shortage of petroleum products in the country. The commission would furnish recommendations to ensure that such a situation did not arise in
future and also propose action against the culprits.
Shibli said the commission would be headed by Additional Director GeneralFederal Investigation Agency (FIA) Abu-Bakr Khuda Bux and its members would include DG Anti-Corruption Punjab, former DG Oil and Petroleum Division Rashid Farooq as well as ECO Petroleum Institute of Pakistan Asim Murtaza.
The cabinet was informed that Euro 5 petroleum products’ availability in Pakistan would be ensured from Sept 1 instead of August 1 due to logistical problems and some issues, relating to the refineries.
Shibli Faraz said the cabinet discussed the post-rain Karachi situation and various other matters. He said that after looking at post-rain situation in Karachi, it seemed there was no government in Sindh at all. He said the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government had not done anything for development of Sindh including Karachi, the most important city of the country. He said the people of Karachi could not be left at the mercy of Sindh government anymore. He said it was a clear evidence of Sindh government's incompetence while the federal government would do everything possible for Karachi.
Already, he noted, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNAs and MPAs had been asked to remain in touch with the people of their respective areas and give proposals for betterment.
He said choking of Karachi sewerage system was yet another proof that in the past decades, all institutions were ruined and infrastructure was not upgraded. He said that natural question arises in the situation that where had gone the development funds worth billions of rupees.
If this situation, he noted, was to be seen in a civilised country, it would be extremely painful, as people had to undergo so much trouble and suffered massive losses. Diseases would also spread in the port city, as the entire system stood devastated, he added.
Shibli said the PM expressed his satisfaction over the response given to Naya Pakistan Housing scheme, as it would not only provide shelter but had the potential to lift the entire economy. The information minister said the premier was dismayed over non-payment of salaries to the media workers by the media houses owners.
The forum also reviewed the coronavirus situation and PM expressed satisfaction over reduction in the virus cases in Pakistan and appealed to people to be careful on Eidul Azha and adopt precautionary measures on Eid and Muharram, as the pandemic was not over yet.
Replying to questions from journalists, the minister said the Sindh government was responsible and accountable for the ongoing plight of Karachiites in the wake of rains. He said that the provincial government was not above accountability and their negligence and inefficiency would be raised in the Parliament as well as in the Sindh legislature by the elected representatives of people.
He regretted that people had not come out of the COVID-19 crisis yet and now they were hit by the devastation and insisted that the Sindh government would have to take measures on war-footing to provide relief to people of Karachi.
The minister noted that fundamental responsibility with regards to Karachi was that of the Sindh government, being the most important city, having people from all across Pakistan. “However, nowhere is seen the provincial government but before rains, their five or six people will often hold news conferences there and mount attacks on the federal government. Just rhetoric won’t do, they will have to deliver and mitigate sufferings of people there,” he added.
Shibli regretted that already Sindh government had been playing politics on the coronavirus pandemic and now showing negligence with regard to Karachi.
Replying to another question, he urged people to take it as their social responsibility to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and precautionary measures to keep the coronavirus under control during Eidul Azha and Muharramul Harram. He added if the public and the government departments both worked towards that end, the virus would remain under control and results would be promising.
He said the responsibilities of the federal government and provincial governments were well-defined. As far as the Centre’s responsibilities were concerned, a case was already pending in the Sindh High Court for which the attorney general had been asked to take it forward so that ‘we could play our constitutional role’.
Meanwhile, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also gave go-ahead to a proposal by the Ministry of Industries and Production for import of 300,000 tonnes of refined white sugar to maintain buffer stocks and prevent any shortage of sugar in the coming months before the start of next crushing season.The ECC decided to adopt a revised pricing methodology for motor gasoline and high speed diesel on a fortnightly basis, based on Platts average, in view of its advantages for ensuring fair competition, alignment of margins with international pricing trend and smoothing out of volatility and distortions because of purchasing dates of one OMC.
The revision of oil prices on fortnightly basis, coming into effect from August 1, 2020 subject to endorsement from the federal cabinet, would also allow for planning for three months ahead with refineries and OMCs, better inventory management, better reporting of sales and enforcement of stock requirements, transparency and visibility of prices and reduced dependence on one OMC.
On a proposal by the Finance Division, the ECC approved upgradation of Habib Bank Limited representative office in Beijing to branch and remittance of RMB 300 million being capital of proposed branch from Pakistan.
The ECC also allowed exemption from the Re-lending Policy of the Government of Pakistan a proposal by the Ministry of Climate Change for seeking AFD loan of USD 20 million as part of Emergency Assistance for Fighting against COVID-19 Pandemic for strengthening health workforce capacity, adopting infection minimisation measures and supporting implementation of COVID-19 National Action Plan across Pakistan.
The ECC also considered and approval a technical supplementary grant of Rs340 million for the operationalisation of Swat Motorway. The ECC also discussed a proposal by the Ministry of Energy for third-party access to LNG terminals to use excess capacity or government contracted-unutilised capacity, and approved the proposal for selling the un-utilised capacity.
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