ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced a Rs10/litre reduction in petrol and diesel prices and also Rs5/unit in the electricity tariff, promising there will be no increase in their prices until the next budget.
In his 40-minute televised address to the nation, he said global oil and commodity prices had already skyrocketed and it was believed they would start coming down but the Ukraine war started. “Now I am afraid that prices will not come down now. In the backdrop of the war, the price of oil will also go up. If 30% of the world's gas comes from there then its price will also increase. We informed Russia that we need 2 million tons of wheat, but now the price of wheat will go up,” he noted.
“The biggest problem in the country at present is petrol and diesel prices. We have to import them from abroad, now oil prices will increase. If the opposition has any solution, then tell us. Even now Pakistan is ranked 25th out of 190 countries in the world where petrol and diesel are the cheapest,” he added.
Comparing prices of petrol in Pakistan with other countries, he said petrol was Rs160 per litre in Pakistan but it was Rs260 per litre in India, Rs185 in Bangladesh and Rs200 per litre in Turkey. “We provide Rs70 billion subsidy every month on it, if withdrawn, the price of petrol will be Rs220 per litre,” he explained.
He said that he had received a summary from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) that petrol and diesel would have to be increased by Rs10 per litre because oil had become more expensive in the world. “Instead of increasing it by Rs10, we have decided to reduce petrol and diesel by Rs10/l. Likewise, 60pc electricity is also made from imported fuel. As soon as gas, coal and oil become expensive abroad or after fuel adjustment charges, the price of electricity increases, but we decided to save our people from it,” he added.
The Prime Minister said, “If we had built dams, Pakistan would have generated low-cost electricity but in 50 years no dam was built in Pakistan. We are building 10 dams in Pakistan and in the next 5 to 10 years all dams will be complete.” He said the government had decided to reduce electricity by Rs5 per unit, which would reduce electricity bills by 20pc to 50pc.
He said that the situation in the world was changing rapidly and it was affecting Pakistan. He added ever since he had joined politics and even before it, he always wanted Pakistan's foreign policy to be independent. “An independent foreign policy means that a nation should formulate a policy for the benefit of its own people and not for the benefit of others and harm your own country. When we took part in the US war on terror, I said from the beginning that we had nothing to do with the war. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11. We first participated in the US war against the Soviet Union and when we participated again in it after 10 years it was first called jihad but when the US came to Afghanistan, then it called it terrorism. I was against it because this foreign policy was not made for the benefit of Pakistanis,” he elaborated.
He lamented that over 80,000 Pakistanis were martyred in the war, 3.5 million people were displaced, tribal areas were destroyed and the country lost more than $150 billion. “However, it was the most shameful aspect in the history of the world that Pakistan was fighting the war of the US but it was bombed by the US itself,” he regretted.
More than 400 drone strikes, he pointed out, were carried out in Pakistan. “Only 10 drone strikes were made in General Musharraf’s rule but in the government of two democratic leaders, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, who should have resisted them, drones struck 400 times in their 10-year rule,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that if there had been an independent foreign policy, the two leaders should have told America that Pakistani children, women and innocent people were dying from its bombing. “The two democratic leaders should have taken a stand on it. Asif Zardari did not even make a statement on it and a prominent American journalist wrote in his book that Asif Zardari told the US Army Chief that he did not care about collateral damage in the drone strikes.”
He urged the nation, “If you want an independent foreign policy in the country, never vote for a party whose money, wealth and property are outside Pakistan.” Citing his recent visits, he said the time would prove that he had great talks in both China and Russia. While explaining his visit to Russia, he said, “We had to go to Russia because we have to import 2 million tons of wheat from Russia and another important issue is that Russia has 30% of the world’s gas. In view of the shortage of gas, we have entered into gas agreements with them and we will import gas from them,” he added.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the economic situation in the country after coming to power in 2018, circular debt, trade deficit, current account deficit and the steps taken by the government for the betterment of the people during the pandemic. He noted the cost of living had increased worldwide due to the virus and added that the highest inflation in 40 years was observed in the United States, the world's strongest economy.
He said Canada had the highest inflation rate in 30 years, Britain had the highest inflation rate since 1992 and Turkey had the highest inflation rate in 20 years. He presented the statistics of the previous governments regarding inflation and said that in the first PPP term, inflation was 13.9%, in the second term, 8.34%, in the third term, inflation rose to 11.6% and 13.6% in the fourth term.
He said that in the first term of the PML-N inflation was 10.08%, in the second term it was 7.2% and in the third term it was 5.04% despite the fact that oil prices were the lowest in the world. The Prime Minister said Pakistan had received record $31 billion in remittances, exports reached $38 billion, tax collection increased by 31% despite the pandemic and crossed the Rs6,000 billion mark.
He said that under the Ehsaas programme, the government used to pay Rs12,000 but now increased it to Rs14,000. He added that it had been decided to provide internship to youths who were graduates and did not have a job. He said, “We are giving 2.6 million scholarships in the federation and provinces and we are spending Rs38 billion for the purpose.”
He also announced incentives for IT sector, including 100% tax exemption for both companies and freelancers; 100% foreign exchange exemption; 100% exemption from capital gain tax for investments in IT startups; Kamyab Pakistan Programme Rs407 billion subsidized loans to be provide in next two years; loans for youth, farmers and for low-cost housing.
He also announced incentives for industries. No question will be asked for industrial investment; revival of sick units through tax benefits; to attract overseas investment (Joint ventures) tax holiday for 5 years; Rs 1 million free medical cover to all citizens by end of March, 2022 (except Sindh).
Ehsaas stipend increased from Rs 12,000 to Rs. 14,000 per month and graduate internship stipend of Rs30,000 per month and 2.6 million scholarships at Rs38 billion allocation.
In the end, he said he knew the conditions were difficult and the government had faced crisis after crisis during its three and a half years. “But in these times, what I and my government think is how to provide relief to people and lessen their burden,” he added.
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