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ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday claimed that there was a reduction of Rs10-12 per kg in sugar price during the last 10 days. There was a decline of Rs200 per 40kg in the wheat flour price during the same period as well, according to the government.

The meeting of the federal cabinet, according to Prime Minister's Office, was informed by the Economic Affairs Division that debt relief in the form of deferment of $1.7 to $2 billion debt repayment by G20 countries to Pakistan till December 2020 following coronavirus pandemic would remain effective till June 2021.

Speaking at a news conference along with Minister for Information and Minister for Economic Affairs Division after a cabinet meeting, Hammad Azhar said that after an increase in sugar price a few months ago, the government had taken some measures, and as a first step a legislation was undertaken to increase the amount of fine to Rs5 million per day for delay in crushing with a view to ensuring timely crushing of sugarcane.

As a result, almost all the sugar mills in Punjab started crushing from November 10-15, he said, adding that timely crushing of sugarcane was achieved after a very long time.

Another step the government had taken was to import sugar and 125,000 tons imported sugar was sold at a controlled rate at 5,000 outlets in Punjab at Rs83 per kg, while it was made available at the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) points at Rs68 per kg.

The minister further maintained that after the imported sugar reached the market, a decline of Rs10 to Rs12 per kg in ex-mill rate was reported in the last 10 days.

"We will continue imported sugar supply in Punjab and KP and it would also be made available at USC at Rs68 per kg," said the minister, while adding that the provinces had also been making timely payments to farmers of sugarcane.

'Sugar reform committee' is also working on a permanent basis to reform the sector, he added.

Giving an update on availability of wheat and flour in the country, Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bukhtiar, claimed that after a gradual reduction in wheat flour price was recorded, the per 40kg bag flour price had reduced Rs2,200 from Rs2,400.

The minister further stated that over 25.7 million tons of wheat was required, while production and carry forward stock of last year was of 25.6 million tons. The minister further stated that the Punjab government and Passco released wheat from their stocks in July 2020 to bring down prices, while the Sindh government started releasing wheat stock in October and in November the Sindh government was requested to release 10,000 metric tons of wheat.

He said daily release of wheat by Sindh is of 6,000 tons, and the Sindh government allocated 136,000 metric tons for Karachi for current month but only 27,000 metric tons of this commodity reached flour mills. The prime minister directed that Sindh government should increase the releases to 10,000 per day and remove bottlenecks in supply chains.

The minister further stated that 2.2 million tons shortage of wheat was being met through import, and in the last week of November 295,000 metric tons would be imported, followed by 444,000 in December, in January 455,000 metric tons, in February 390,000, tons and in March 165,000 metric tons.

He said the government has also increased the support price for wheat and fixed the new rate of 1,650 rupees per 40 kilogrammes to give due return to farmers, while the wheat support price during the entire tenure of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was Rs1,300 per 40kg.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz told media about the decisions taken by the federal cabinet, and stated that the meeting gave, in principle, approval to the proposed ordinance aimed at awarding strict punishments to the culprits of rape and gang rape cases as the number of such heinous crimes was rapidly increasing in the country.

The prime minister was upset and had taken strong notice of the incident of rape of a child and her mother in Sindh, the minister said, and added that the proposed Ordinance changed the definition of rape case and also included gang rape in the definition and suggested strict punishments even to the extent of death penalty.

The prime minister directed to the law minister to finalise it at the earliest after further refinement, so that no culprit of rape could escape punishment. The second agenda item was taken up by the federal cabinet with respect to the appointment of parliamentarians on boards of directors of public-sector enterprises on pro bono basis, and the meeting directed the law minister to file a reference in the Supreme Court to get guidance in the light of the Mustafa case.

Faraz added that the federal cabinet also gave approval to establishment of IT parks in Lahore and Peshawar, and on the request of Ameenul Haq and Asad Umar, the meeting decided to open IT parks in Karachi as well.

The minister also thanked the people of G-B for voting for the PTI in the election, and condemned the incidents of arson that took place during the last two days, and stated that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was inciting people on such incidents.

He said that if anyone had any complaint about the election, he or she is free to approach the legal forum, and stated that the PPP's attitude was condemnable. He maintained that G-B elections were held free and fair.

According to the Prime Minister's Office, the cabinet ratified the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Institutional Reforms (CCIR) in its meeting held on October 29, 2020, and gave approval to the appointment of director general, National Archives of Pakistan.

The federal cabinet allowed EAD to sign agreements with 16 countries for debt rescheduling after it informed the federal cabinet that $1.7 to $2 billion rescheduling of debt would now be available to Pakistan till June 2021.

The meeting directed the Ministry of Information to go ahead with coronavirus awareness campaign. The cabinet ratified decisions taken by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet in its meeting held on 16-11-2020, and the CCoE meeting of November 2020.

Replying to a question, the information minister said that all the leaders from the prime minister to the cabinet members have sent condolence messages on the demise of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's mother, and stated that the government has not stopped anyone from Nawaz Sharif to Ishaq Dar and Hussain and Hassan Nawaz from attending the funeral.

The minister said that coronavirus is a serious issue and must be taken seriously as second wave of this deadly virus is very dangerous. He underscored the need for avoiding all activities other than those are related to economy.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020