ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday announced “country’s biggest ever” subsidy package worth Rs 120 billion providing 30% discount on ghee, flour and pulses to support 130 million people for ebbing away the impact of inflation from them.
The prime minister, in his address to the nation, said 20 million families would benefit from the subsidy package to be funded jointly by the federal and provincial governments.
Under the package, the beneficiaries would avail a 30% discount on the said three food commodities for next six months. He said the subsidy package was apart from the ongoing different programs under Ehsaas Initiative worth Rs 260 billion affecting 120 million families.
At the start of his speech, the premier said the package would be “the biggest welfare programme in Pakistan’s history”, which he said would take the country towards becoming a welfare state.
He said the PTI government had inherited a difficult economic situation, and thanked Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China for providing the help that saved Pakistan from defaulting.
“We had to approach the IMF, we were stabilising the country for a year and then corona came,” he said, lauding the NCOC for taking data-based decisions that helped Pakistan’s coronavirus fight.
“We were internationally acknowledged for being one of the few countries to deal with Covid-19 in the best manner.”
Fearing unemployment, the premier further said, the government imposed “small and smart” lockdowns instead of completely shutting down the economy. “We especially saved agriculture and construction, which create jobs in urban areas and [increase] exports,” he added.
Recounting the government’s incentives for the construction and agriculture sectors, he said the country’s economic indicators were “positive”.
Prime Minister Imran acknowledged that inflation was a major problem in the country, saying the media and the opposition had the right to criticise the government.
But he said the media “needs to balance and think whether inflation is rising because of our government or due to rise in prices in the international market”.
The prime minister also shed light on the coronavirus situation across the world and said that, unlike other countries, the Pakistani government made strategic decisions related to the imposition of a lockdown and saved factories from closing down.
“We had [allowed] construction industry to operate; we tried to save our exports because if they had stopped, then the dollar would have gone up against the rupee,” he said, adding that due to the government’s policies, rice production had gone up by 13.6%, corn 8%, sugarcane 22%, wheat 8%.
“Our policies prevented the economy from collapsing,” he said.
Speaking about the ongoing inflation in the country, he told the media outlets that while it is their right to criticise the government, they should opt for a balanced approach when reporting on inflation.
Citing the example of Turkey, Germany, China, and the United States, the premier said that after 2008, these countries had also faced historic inflation. “What can we do if inflation is being driven because of global factors?” the premier questioned as he cited the examples of oil and gas prices worldwide.
“Yes, we are facing inflation in the country but you should also look at what the government is doing to alleviate the situation,” he said, adding that due to factors which is not in the hands of the government, petrol prices will have to be increased further.
The premier said that considering that the masses are undergoing a tough time due to the inflation in the country, the government is introducing a package for 20 million families, which will — in turn — benefit 13 million Pakistanis. “This [poverty alleviation] package, which is worth Rs120 billion, will be offered to Pakistani by the federal and provincial governments,” he said.
The premier announced that under the package, citizens will be able to avail a 30% discount on three basic edible items, including ghee, wheat, and pulses.
Opposition reject proposals
Opposition parties have rejected Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new package and said that instead of bluffing people, he should tender resignation. Opposition leaders Bilawal Bhutto, Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and other leaders condemned the proposals of the package.
PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb on Wednesday branded an expected relief package by the government an “eyewash”, adding that the “biggest relief package” for the country will be Prime Minister Imran Khan’s resignation.
Her statement came in the wake of the government’s announcement that a “big package” is to be unveiled today in order to to deal with rising inflation and provide relief to 10 million people directly.
The government has been facing severe criticism from the opposition after the premier approved a Rs10 increase in the price of petroleum products last month. Major opposition parties, including the PML-N and the PPP, have held country-wide rallies and protests over what they termed “unprecedented inflation in the country”.
In her presser today, Aurangzeb said that the prime minister’s resignation was the only solution to rid the country of menaces, including inflation, unemployment and poverty.
She accused the premier of lacking the required competence to run the country. “You have no ability to decide the fate of 220 million Pakistanis. You are here to facilitate the mafia that has good terms with you,” she alleged.
The PML-N leader insisted that the package Imran Khan was is to announce today would be a “cosmetic” one. She said if the prime minister actually intended to provide relief to the masses “then he should revert wheat price to Rs35 per kg and power tariff to Rs11 per unit”.
She said that PM Imran had promised to eliminate corruption within the first 90 days of his government “but it proved to be an eyewash”.
Aurangzeb said the prime minister had also promised to convert the PM House into a university — another promised she said “has not materialised”.
“You should not add to your sins by fooling nation through addresses,” she lamented.
‘Publicise details of accord with TLP’
The PML-N leader also demanded that the government make public the details of its agreement signed with the TLP.
“I condemn the loss of lives of policemen in the incident and how government representatives gave conflicting statements on the matter.”
She said the government “duped” people by not announcing details of the agreement and made off with a terse statement that details would be unveiled at an “appropriate time”.
The government presser should have disclosed in detail the conditions in the accord, because the country remained locked down for four days and people have the right to know about it, she added.
She added that details of the agreement should also be laid down before the parliament for discussion.