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August 13, 2020

PM Imran Khan has sought mechanism to control prices of basic items: Shibli Faraz

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August 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz said Wednesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan directed to formulate a mechanism for uniform price of flour in the country.

Speaking here at a news conference after a meeting of the Price Control Committee here, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Shibli said that the prime minister had always thought of the poor whereas in the past only the elite, who also owned sugar mills, were benefited.

The minister noted that the government was facing the challenge of inflation and the prime minister convened a meeting of the Price Control Committee every week in which the chief secretariesof all the provinces and the concerned officers participated.

Shibli asserted that come what may, the prices of essential commodities would be brought down significantly and the back of hoarders and profiteers be broken, being the government responsibility and moral duty. He said that a review meeting on inflation was held in which a briefing was given on the prices of essential commodities in the country.

The minister said that the reduction in the prices of flour and sugar was very important as it was the most desirable food. He added that the price of a 20kg bag of flour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was between Rs900 to Rs1150 while in Punjab the price of a 20kg bag of flour is Rs860. Likewise, he said that the price of 20kg bag of flour in Sindh was said to be Rs1100 to 1200 but according to Karachi data, the price of 20kg bag of flour in Karachi was between Rs1400 and 1600.

The Sindh government, he claimed, was not releasing wheat which was causing problems in fixing the prices and rates were so high. He said that Rahim Yar Khan and some other cities have 1213 mills which are many times more than their demand and it is feared that due to high price difference goods are picked up from Punjab market and sold where the price is very high. “There is a lot from which massive profit is being earned,” he noted. The minister said that nominal difference in prices was acceptable but in order to eliminate such a big difference, we want a mechanism to be adopted so that the prices of flour are the same in all the provinces.

Shibli said that the prime minister has directed the Finance Advisor Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Aleem Khan and the concerned secretaries for food to work out a mechanism to close the price gap and be aware of the concrete steps to be taken in this regard in one to two days.

The minister said that the government and Prime Minister Imran Khan were constantly looking into this matter and whatever happened in a short time, we have to reduce these prices. “It is a problem of the poor and we want to keep inflation to a minimum,” he said.

Talking about sugar prices, he said that there was a sudden decline in sugar stocks in Punjab and it was being investigated. He added, “We fear that this crisis is being created. I don't know if it involves sugar mills or sugar distributors because they are only close to 23”.

Regarding sugar import, he said that it was the duty of the government to make sugar cheaper even by importing it and the prices of flour and sugar have gone up for the first time in the world otherwise it is always low. He added that the government's job was to break the back of the mafia that has hoarded and raised prices and the government's aim was to provide cheap sugar and flour to the people.

He said that the sugar and flour cartels were powerful people but they were not more powerful than the people, law and the government of Pakistan and they would not be given any concession at the cost of the consumers.

The government, he said, would reduce the prices of essential at any cost and that following the report of the Sugar Commission, the increase in sugar prices was done to put pressure on the government, but it will not come under any pressure from the sugar cartel.

He said that as the past rulers had their own sugar mills, they made policies in self-interest harming the interests of the farmers and consumers. He added it was a matter of satisfaction that even during the difficult times of the corona pandemic, the supply of daily use items remained stable.

The minister contended both public and private sectors were importing sugar to reduce its prices in the market. He said that the government in collaboration with the provincial governments was introducing new law to ensure timely start of sugarcane crushing on time. Wheat ship was also reaching Pakistan on August 24 and then another one after a week to meet the gap of 1.5-2 million tones, as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could not meet its target this year due to weather.

About measures to check sugar-related manipulations, he said that through a bill or ordinance, a sugar mill that delays crushing will be fined Rs5 million per day, which was presently Rs20,000 for entire season. Likewise, he said the government was also keeping a close eye on those trying to stockpile sugar and such elements would be taken to task. He said that there were some indications that some people were hoarding sugar in Karachi.

Shibli said that there was no doubt that institutions ran the country and not the individuals but in the past, these institutions were paralysed and degraded to a level, wherein they could not function. He explained that the mafias were very strong and had great access to use these institutions to their own benefit. The minister, in reply to a question said that the concerned institutions, like SECP, FBR and FIA were being held responsible.

The minister continued that in the case of sugar crisis, which institutions were related, were being investigated. He pointed out that while the coronavirus was a global issue but here, when decisions were made with consensus, the government of Sindh would play politics. “In Sindh, unlike other provinces, there are still relics of the past. But people will erase them next time,” the minister asserted referring to PPP provincial government.

The objective of import of wheat and sugar, he noted, was to improve supplies in order to bring down prices and this would ultimately provide relief to masses. He added the government target was that sugar price must come down by at least Rs20-25 per kilo.

To a question about subsidies to the Utility Stores Corporation, the minister contended that Punjab government was providing Rs6 billion subsidies per month and everyone, rich or poor was benefiting from this relief. However, he added that by utilising the Ehsaas Programme data, targeted subsidy would be given aimed at provision of relief to the deserving persons.

The minister said emphatically that the back of the hoarders and profiteers would have to be broken to provide cheaper flour and sugar to people and this was the prime concern of Prime Minister Imran Khan, as he was dissatisfied with the commodities rates, though some of them had come down in these days.