ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance Hammad Azhar announced the resumption of trade through the Wagah border with India on Wednesday, saying that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet allowed import of cotton, yarn, and 500,000 metric tons sugar from India, keeping in view the best interest of the country.
Conceding controlling rising inflationary pressures as a major challenge for the incumbent regime, Hammad Azhar said that the federal and provincial governments would coordinate and intervene in order to bring down prices in the country.
The minister said that the prices of sugar would come down by 15 to 20 percent as the sweetener was 20 percent cheaper in neighbouring India. He said that private sector can import 500,000 metric tonnes sugar from India. He said that the ECC also allowed import of cotton and yarn till end June 2021. He said that the government allowed import of cotton from India as big players had already imported from Egypt and other parts of the world but the SME sector of textile sector would now be able to import cotton of its requirements from India. He said that people and small industries will take benefit as a result of trade with India. He said the sugar imports from the neighbouring country would help improve the supply position and help check increase in prices of the commodity to benefit people.
To another query why Pakistan unilaterally allowed import without waiting for response, he said that the government took the decision in the best interest of its economy. He said that nations do not make progress without taking tough decisions.
“The parliament is sovereign and whatever suggestion is approved on SBP amendment bill 2021, it will be incorporated into it. We will consider releasing IMF’s technical mission report on the autonomy of SBP,” Federal Minister of Finance Hammad Azhar said in his maiden news briefing here at PID on Wednesday.
The minister said that the ECC also fixed the wheat minimum support price at Rs1,800 per 40kg for the current season. He also announced to reduce petrol prices by Rs1.55 per liter and diesel prices by Rs3 per liter with immediate effect.
When the minister was asked whether the government would introduce targeted subsidies to tame inflationary pressures, he said that the government was working to finalise this gigantic task for introducing targeted subsidies as it was one of the ways for reducing pressures of price hike. When asked that the inflationary pressures were mounting through imported fuel and commodities, he replied that the target subsidies could bring solace in lives of common people of the country.
He said that the government was fully sensitised about increasing price hike so all efforts would be made to bring it down. He said that sometimes tough decision required to be taken but if such harsh measures at all need to be taken they should be in the best interest of Pakistan’s economy.
He said “we will work hard to bring relief. Both the federal and provincial governments will coordinate and intervene in order to tame inflationary pressures” he added. He said that Pakistan raised $2.5 billion through launching of Eurobond and it was subscribed by over $5 billion at the best rates.
Replying to a question about privatisation of Pakistan Steels Mills (PSM), he said the bidding of the PSM would be floated during current year. He said that Pakistan’s offered mark-up rate for generating $2.5 billion through Eurobond was lower than other comparable countries who launched bonds in recent days.
The minister said that the foreign exchange reserves increased by $9 billion and termed it as big success of the government. For moving forward, he said the economy got stabilised and now it would be moved in the desired direction. “We will overcome the challenges on the economic front” he added.
The minister said due to COVID-19, the world, including Pakistan witnessed surge in inflation, however, the government would make all efforts to mitigate its effects on people. “I and my team have full realisation of the fact,” he said, adding the prices of ghee, sugar, and flour had gone up, however, we would try our best to check it and wherever necessary the provincial and federal governments would coordinate to control it.
To another query about FATF requirements and chances to come out from grey list in next June, the minister replied that Pakistan had to implement remaining three points out of total 27 action plan. “We are making efforts and don’t want to make premature judgment” he added.
A journalist asked a question that Asad Umar and Dr Hafeez Shaikh were ousted because of their dedication and hard work so whether you would do your work with similar dedication and hard work, Azhar replied that both had did good work and that would be further extended while weaknesses would be overcome for the betterment of the country. “We value the services rendered by Dr Hafeez Shaikh with hard work and honestly” he added.
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