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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed on Friday said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led federal government would establish a total of 50,000 new utility stores across the country to provide essential food items to the people at affordable prices.

"As per the government announcement about establishing 50,000 utilities stores across the country, the work has started on it," he said during the question-hour session of the National Assembly on Friday. He said the youth could also apply for loan to set up utility stores under Kamyab Jawan Programme.

He said the youth would be encouraged to implement their workable business plans, so that they could be able to open their own stores. "The government will help and finance them in starting their business," he said.

The minister said the government was taking all necessary measures to control unnecessary increase in the prices of edible and common use items, so that the common man might not face undue inflationary pressure. He said inflation had declined from 14.6 percent in January this year to 8.6 percent in June that year due to proactive policy and administrative measures of the government.

Answering a question, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance and Revenue Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi said the prime minister and his economic team were regularly monitoring the price movement of common use items in consultation with the provincial governments.

He said the government was expanding the network of Sasta Bazaars and the Utility Stores outlets for provision of smooth supply of daily use items. He said the government was taking effective measures to control cartelization and undue profit.

"National Price Monitoring Committee is regularly monitoring the prices and supply of essential items in consultation of federal ministries and provincial governments," he added.

Answering another question, the parliamentary secretary said Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) had set up a network of 482 agriculture lending branches to advance loans to small farmers and had been granting loans to eligible farmers.

He said the ZTBL was an equal opportunity provider for loans to all eligible farmers all over the country, and no one farmer of any district was ignored without any business justification. He said the Bank of Khyber was also extending loans to farmers of the merged districts of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

He said the ZTBL network would also be extended to these areas once land record was compiled there. In a written reply to a question, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s package was to tackle Balance of Payment crisis, while financial package from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank were related to support development projects in education, health, infrastructure, etc, which the government might not be able to finance alone due to revenue constraints.

He said there was no direct impact of the IMF package and other financial packages on daily life of a common man, particularly with reference to hike in the prices of different essential commodities and other services. He said the Covid-19 outbreak had affected Pakistan's economy through various channels.

He said the government undertook immediate measures and announced a fiscal stimulus package of Rs1.24 trillion to provide relief to the common man. He said the IMF's Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) amounting to $1.386 billion to counter the economic impacts of that novel outbreak would also support the government's efforts to mitigate the economic shock, the facility would be used to address declining international reserves and increase social sector spending.

Replying to another question, Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Aliya Hamza said that trade volume between Pakistan and Qatar had been on the rise and had tilted in favour of Pakistan over the past five years. She said Qatar remained the top export destination of Pakistan showing growth of 36 percent in the last fiscal year. She said the bilateral trade volume between Pakistan and Qatar remained US$ 1.82 billion in financial year 2020.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020