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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he is fully aware of the price hike in the country but asked people to show some patience, and added that depreciation of rupee has been the major reason for price hike in the country and gradual improvement in the economy and inflows of dollars will help arrest the price hike.

The prime minister was responding to the questions of general public on Monday. He stated that the government is trying to increase exports to strengthen the rupee against the dollar as depreciation of rupee against dollar has fueled inflation in the country. The prime minister blamed his predecessors for keeping the rupee weak as his government inherited historically high trade deficit and current account deficit.

The prime minister said the country is on the right path; however, the issue of inflation will be resolved when there will be more inflows of dollars in the country. “I am fully aware of price hike but people have to show some patience as improvement in economy would help reduce inflation,” he added.

The prime minister was told by a questioner that twice-a-month increase in petroleum prices was stoking inflation in the country and making life of the common man very difficult.

The premier said he was holding weekly meetings on prices of essential commodities and the major reason for rising inflation is depreciation of exchange rate, subsequent to corruption.

As per a US report, every year US$ 10 billion is being taken aboard, he added.

The prime minister said that rupee depreciation was 24.1 percent in 2018-19 (during the ongoing tenure of the present government) while rupee was depreciated by over 25 percent during the PPP government’s tenure.

The prime minister said there was an impact of 17 percent on CPI inflation due to rupee depreciation of 25 percent during the PPP government as opposed to the impact of 7.6 percent on CPI inflation due to 24.1 percent depreciation during the ongoing tenure of the present government.

He said that depreciation of rupee increases the cost of petrol, diesel and electricity and gas.

Additionally, there was an increase in prices of sugar and wheat, he added,

“I will be committing biggest treason to if I give NRO to the opposition,” he said, adding that General Pervez Musharraf’s two ‘NROs’ have caused immense harm to the country because these two parties after coming to power hugely added to the country’s overall debt through massive corruption.

He further stated that in the Broadsheet case the Musharraf government hired a company which identified $100 million worth of Nawaz Sharif’s property abroad but subsequently Musharraf gave an NRO to Nawaz Sharif and the latter and family flew to Saudi Arabia.

The company contended that it identified the property and 20 percent of $100 million identified was given to the company on the order of the London court.

“We want the second NRO given to the Asif Ali Zardari in Surrey Palace should also be exposed,” he said and added the rule of law is a prerequisite for the development and prosperity of the country.

The prime minister said that after the passage of the 18th Amendment “everything is virtually under provinces”. According to him, this amendment has restricted federal government’s domain so much so that it cannot, for example, do “something” for Hyderabad directly.

In reply to a question that “nothing has been done for the youth by the PTI government and that it is difficult to get loans under the Kamyab Jawan programme as loans may be provided in Sialkot only,” the prime minister said there is no political interference in disbursement of loans as banks evaluate and provide loans on the basis of merit.

There is record sale of cement and prices of steel bars have increased because of its shortage, textile industry is operating at full capacity, LSM growth is positive; however, tourism and service sector are facing difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic the prime minister said, adding “as things will improve, more jobs will be available to youth”.

He said: “One [Covid-19] vaccine has reached Pakistan and the government policy is to provide vaccine to the frontline workers first and after them as per the criterion over 60 years or those ailing from disease. There would be no difference between rich and the poor”.

The premier said the objective of “State of Medina” can be achieved through collective efforts and expressed the hope that Pakistan would certainly transform into ‘State of Madina’.

In reply to a question about “18-hour loadshedding” in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), the prime minister said the government has decided to set up a grid station and will also construct small hydro projects adding that the government has also planned two roads that will make the G-B more accessible. The prime minister said that G-B has the advantage of tourism and can be a hub of tourism.

He added that Switzerland, which is half of the G-B, earns as much as US$60 billion through tourism.

“Gilgit-Baltistan is more beautiful than Switzerland,” he added.

The prime minister said that development of Balochistan is not easy because the population is scattered and political setups in the province have also contributed to its under-development because the money was not transferred to the lower level, and there is a need of local government system there.

South Waziristan and Balochistan have been left behind and the government has announced a package to bring them at par with the other parts of the country and would provide these two areas 3G and 4G, the prime minister said.

The government is committed to developing Balochistan but people have to demonstrate some patient because the government does not have the money that is required, he said.

The prime minister said mortgage finance is 0.2 percent in the Pakistan, and it took his government two years to clear the foreclosure law from the court, adding that he personally met banks’ representatives and now they are undergoing necessary training for disbursement of loans for housing projects.

The government is also subsidizing the markup on loans, he added.

On Islamophobia, the prime minister said that all the heads of the Muslim-majority countries would have to raise voice in unison against the publication of sacrilegious material in Western countries and convey to the West that these things were hurting the feelings of Muslims.

“They hide behind freedom of expression, so there is a need that all the Muslim-majority countries should take a stand on it, he added.

On the foreign funding case, the prime minister said the PTI had the addresses of 40,000 donors while opposition was taking funds from “land grabbers”; adding that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should take the foreign funding to a logical conclusion.

On the issue of the Pakistan Cricket Board, the prime minister said that things that worsened during the last 60 years cannot be improved overnight.

“We are trying to make the PIA a professional airline where the ratio of employees to aircraft is very high, there is Rs200 billion debt in the PSM and circular debt is also an issue,” the prime minister said, adding that he has declared a war against land grabbers, and asked those whose lands had been grabbed illegally to register their complaints with the Prime Minister’s portal.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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