ISLAMABAD: While announcing the increase in petroleum products, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Thursday announced that care-taker government would be set-up in next year (2023). He said that the federal government has decided to raise the prices of petroleum products by Rs30 per litre, with the hike set to go into effect at midnight tonight.
After the hike, the price of petrol will be at Rs179.86, diesel at Rs174.15, kerosene oil at Rs155.56 and light diesel at Rs148.31.
The finance minister made the announcement at a press conference in Islamabad and explained that the decision was taken in order to ensure the revival of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
Ismail said the government had no other option but to raise the prices, adding that “we are still bearing a loss of Rs56 per litre on diesel” even under the new pricing.
He was of the view that the government was aware of the political repercussions of the decision, saying “we will face criticism but the state and its interests are important to us and it is necessary for us to save it.”
He said the country could have gone in the “wrong direction” if the steps were not taken. He said the decision was a tough one for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, saying “we cannot let the state sink for the sake of politics.”
The finance minister blamed ex-premier Imran Khan for freezing the petrol prices after “realising that the days of his government were numbered”.
He claimed the price revision was not solely due to the IMF’s pressure, saying “the Fund indeed refused to grant further loan until we raise prices … but we [also] had to take this decision after all.”
Ismail insisted that the prices of essential items will go down whenever the rupee appreciates against the US dollar.
The minister claimed to have held “very good, positive talks with the IMF” as he assured that “more positive talks will follow after the decision we have taken today.”
He expressed hope that a staff-level agreement will be reached with the IMF in days to come.
The price hike comes a day after the government and the IMF failed to reach an agreement on an economic bailout mainly because of the former’s indecision on fuel and electricity subsidies and resultant next year’s budget uncertainties.
Miftah Ismail said that “we would need to have a tight monetary policy and consolidate our fiscal position” after he returned from Doha following the conclusion of the latest week-long round of talks with the International Monetary Fund.
The talks, held in Doha, were aimed at reaching an agreement on policies at the conclusion of the IMF’s seventh review of its $6 billion programme for Pakistan, which has been stalled since early April.
Ismail said the IMF and Pakistan discussed targets for FY23, where, in light of high inflation, declining forex reserves and a large current account deficit, we would need to have a tight monetary policy and consolidate our fiscal position. “Thus government is committed to reducing the budget deficit in FY23,” he added.
The IMF has made the resumption of the programme conditional on the reversal of fuel and energy subsidies introduced by the previous PTI government, which have been criticised and termed unsustainable by many, including the PML-N and others who are part of the incumbent coalition government.
Ismail said the IMF team emphasised the importance of “rolling back” fuel and power subsidies, which were given by the previous administration in contravention of its own agreement with the Fund. “The government is committed to reviving the IMF programme and put Pakistan back on a sustainable growth path.”