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September 9, 2020

Purging poverty top priority: Shibli Faraz


September 9, 2020

Purging poverty top priority: Shibli Faraz

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz on Tuesday said tackling inflation was the government’s top priority and it would be defeated like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Briefing the media on the decisions taken in the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan here, he said it was the government’s job to formulate and implement policies but unfortunately, the PPP leadership could not proceed beyond 10 percent.

Regarding the high price of commodities, Shibli claimed that inflation had come down slightly last month. He said inflation was a continuous process that developed during the last 30 to 35 years to promote and protect vested interests.

He said the prime minister had tasked the NDMA with assessing the losses caused by the recent unprecedented rains in different parts of the country, so that a comprehensive strategy could be formulated to provide relief to the affected people.

Shibli said the federal cabinet would decide about the financial package after submission of assessment report. He claimed that interior Sindh had suffered more than Karachi adding that it was not political point-scoring but a fact.

Replying to a question, Shibli said those affected in rural Sindh would be paid separately. “There is a very unfortunate tale of rural Sindh and even Larkana is no exception,” the minister added. He said Dr Fehmida Mirza told the meeting that floods had also affected Badin district. He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa losses were minimal, as the government there had learnt a lesson from the past experience and taken precautionary measures.

He said Sindhis in both rural and urban areas were suffering, as the provincial government had treated them with one yardstick. He said the cabinet expressed concern over the loss of lives and property caused by floods in Sindh,Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and some areas of Punjab.

Shibli quoted the PM as saying that Karachi was the engine of Pakistan's growth and its development was development of Pakistan. He said the federal government was determined to play its role for resolution of problems of Karachiites.

The minister said the cabinet approved a proposal for starting a ferry service for Zaireen (pilgrims). He said it was an initiative of the Ministry of Ports and Shipping and customs and immigration facilities would be provided at Karachi, Port Qasim, and Gwadar.

The Power Division, he said, had submitted its report on reforms in the power sector and the cabinet approved a proposal for closure of inefficient power plants. Under the decision, 1,479MW plants are being shut down immediately, while 1460MW plants with poor efficiency will be shut down by September 2022.

The minister said the cabinet constituted a committee to look into a ban on provision of power and gas connections to unapproved societies and buildings in the capital. A committee, comprising commissioner Islamabad and Iesco, has been constituted to suggest measures for removal of hurdles in connections. Shibli said the cabinet approved expansion in the network of Panagahs across the country to facilitate poor people and those having no shelter.

He said shelter homes project was closer to the heart of Prime Minister Imran Khan adding that philanthropists could come forward to open such homes in various parts of the country.

The cabinet decided that cameras would be installed in the shelter homes to ensure that the poor people were not mistreated and substandard food was not served.

The minister said the cabinet was informed that the government had paid Rs1.1 billion outstanding dues of the media houses and now a mechanism had been devised to ensure payments of dues in time. He said the media people had given an undertaking to pay dues to their workers but there were complaints of non-payment and cut in salaries.

He said during the prime minister’s recent Karachi visit, a media owner said the situation had improved and now they had 17 percent revenue. He expressed hope that the media houses would pay outstanding salaries of their employees, as they worked day and night for their respective institutions.

Speaking about the construction of a new LNG terminal at Port Qasim, he said the cabinet had decided that a NOC would be issued for construction of a new terminal at Port Qasim. The minister said the Petroleum Division would ensure provision of quota to the operators of new terminal on first come, first served basis in the existing and new gas pipeline.

The annual report of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority for 2018-19 and State of Industry Report 2019 were presented to the cabinet. The cabinet emphasized that after settlement with the IPPs, steps should be taken for provision of relief to the people, he said.

On reforms being introduced in the energy sector, he noted that the planning minister said that the policy on renewable energy, which had been pending since April 2019, had finally been approved.

The forum was informed that the K-Electric capacity was being increased to meet power shortage and this process would be completed in next three years. The federal cabinet was informed that 300 to 400MW power would be added to the system immediately.

The cabinet was also told that the government would save over Rs100 billion every year after settlement of issues with the IPPs. He said the cabinet approved appointment of Qaiser Alam as Chairman Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE).

He said the cabinet also approved a proposal for constitution of Capital Mass Transit Authority (CMTA). Shibli said economy was now in a positive zone with the resumption of construction and business activities and even bikes were being purchased in big numbers.

He said as the government had controlled Covid-19 with the blessings of Allah and prudent policies, economy would also fully recover and prices would also come down. The minister admitted that rise in inflation had affected the economy due to the coronavirus epidemic and if the government had followed the PPP or the Sindh government, the whole country would have shut down.