ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said all possible administrative steps would be taken to bring down the prices of basic necessities, as he approved the proposed administrative measures in this regard.
Imran said he was personally monitoring the situation and strict action would be taken against the hoarders and profiteers. He said the government machinery would be activated for providing the desired relief.
To this effect, Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting on prices of basic commodities, especially wheat and sugar, and their availability and prices.
Federal ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Senator Shibli Faraz, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Hammad Azhar, Fakhar Imam, Ali Amin Gandapur, Advisers Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Abdul Razak Dawood, Dr Ishrat Hussain, Special Assistants Dr Shahbaz Gill and Muhammad Usman attended the meeting.
Dr Waqar Masood, SBP Governor Dr Reza Baqir, senior government officials, Punjab Food Minister Abdul Aleem Khan, Punjab Industries Minister Mian Aslam Iqbal and provincial chief secretary attended the meeting through the video link.
In the first part of the meeting, availability of wheat in the country and prices of wheat and flour in different provinces were reviewed and the schedule of arrival of wheat imported from the government and private sector and arrival in the country to meet future needs was shared.
Report on wheat and flour prices in different parts of the country from Tiger Force and independent sources was presented during the meeting. A briefing was given on the administrative measures taken to ensure adequate level of wheat prices and prevention of stockpiling, detailed system for making reliable estimates of supply and demand of basic commodities in these measures.
Measures to reduce price gaps between wholesalers and retailers, eliminating exploitation in the market and eliminating stockpiling, smuggling and speculation, as well as making the monitoring system more efficient were discussed and reviewed. A briefing on new administrative measures was also given to the meeting.
The meeting was apprised of the situation of release of wheat by the Punjab government on a daily basis. The meeting was informed that the release would be started by the Sindh government between October 15 and 16.
It was decided that the wheat released by Punjab government on a daily basis would be further increased so that ample supply of wheat could be available. Briefing on sugar availability and imported sugar and its prices were the features of the second part of the meeting.
The meeting was informed that imported sugar would be available to the people at lower rates than the current price. The meeting was told that the crushing season will start from November 10 in Punjab. Existing stocks, imported sugar and the early start of the crushing season will not only provide ample supply of sugar, but also reduce its prices.
Later briefing media persons here about the federal cabinet’s decisions in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said the government had evolved a comprehensive mechanism of what he called realistic and practical steps to bring down prices of essential items, ensuring their sufficient availability across Pakistan.
Shibli said the government would ensure availability of essential commodities, especially food items, at the village level. He said the issue would be resolved in the coming days, as the cabinet had discussed the matter in detail and the difference would be visible soon.
On availability of wheat, the minister explained that sufficient stocks of the commodity were available in the country to meet the requirements. The minister said the public and private sectors were allowed to import wheat, which had arrived already and more was coming in days and weeks.
He reiterated that it was unfortunate that the Sindh government intentionally halted release of wheat, causing increase in its price. Asked how halting of wheat by Sindh could be of that much impact, as it produced only 20 per cent of total yield, he welcomed the decision of the Sindh government to start releasing wheat from October 15 or 16, which he believed, would help control prices of vital staple food.
He rubbished reports and speculations that the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, owned by the Pakistan International Airlines, had been sold out. The minister noted that Pakistan had acquired complete ownership of the hotel by paying off its liabilities of about $128,0000. He said there was no plan to sell the hotel, as it was a national asset.
He said the cabinet was informed that the PIA revenue had increased despite the corona factor. He said consultants would be appointed regarding the matter and they would recommend the future course of action.
The minister continued that all the dues of the hotel staff had also been cleared and the government would look after the national asset in the best possible way. The cabinet, he noted had discussion on the PIA members, before according approval.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his annoyance at the past practices of having so many camp offices and the rulers living like the rich countries’ rulers. Shibli further said as many as 2,752 policemen were posted at the Jati Umra camp office and one cop’s cost Rs50,000 per month.
The prime minister said there could not be that much difference between the rulers and the common people’s living style. He said just one camp office could be allowed and proposed capping of its expenditure owing to the economic condition of the country.
It was learnt that the prime minister directed that a bill be introduced to determine the expenditure of the rulers. He directed that the expenses of the president and the prime minister be determined through a legislation. He gave the responsibility of legislation to Parliamentary Affairs Advisor Babar Awan.
The prime minister said the expenses of the president and the prime minister should be reasonable while seeking details of expenditure incurred by the exchequer from the national exchequer.
About the opposition’s planned public meetings, the minister said, “We have no concern or worry about their protests and the government is busy in its normal functions.” He added that there was no mention of the upcoming opposition programme during the cabinet meeting. He alleged that majority of those in the opposition alliance faced serious corruption allegations and even cases and some were on parole.
He maintained there was no moral justification for them to hold such events but they wanted their royal lifestyle to continue and were together to protect their leaders and their ill-gotten wealth. “They wanted to put pressure on the government to secure some concessions and wished to fan unrest for this purpose whereas economic activities are increasing despite the Covid-19,” he remarked.
Shibli said the opposition had no future, as the people had rejected them. He said all those people had come together to save their looted wealth adding that previously, the PPP and PML-N used Fazlur Rehman and he went back from Islamabad empty-handed and same would happen again.
In response to a question, he said the economy had improved but then came the virus, resulting in 12-17 per cent negative growth in many developed countries. He noted that the coronavirus was spreading again in the country.
“It makes no difference if they hold public meeting; they want Pakistan to run against on the track whereby they could have their royal lifestyle and rampant corruption. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focus on every initiative is to provide relief to the poor be it the Ehsaas programme or housing programme,” he noted.
Shibli pointed out that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif kept his children in London but wanted the children of others in Pakistan to come out to attend the opposition’s meeting. “What could be more hypocritical than that?”
Likewise, he noted that the PPP used to talk of lockdown due to the corona but they were holding a rally in Karachi. Replying to a question about increase in the power tariff in Karachi, he said tariff in Karachi was lower than in other cities in the last four years and the decision was taken to bring balance in tariff.
He expressed ignorance about the interview given by Dr. Moeed, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, to the Indian media and said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would hold a press conference on Wednesday (today).
He said the price of a 20kg flour bag in Karachi was between Rs13,00 and Rs1,400 while the same quantity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was between Rs1,100 to Rs1200. He noted that wheat production had been affected due to rains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The minister noted that an understanding had been reached with the Sindh government on the right of way with regard to gas supply.
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