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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday directed that immediate steps should be taken to alleviate the burden on the people and the subsidy scheme under Ehsaas Programme should be expanded.

This was stated by Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhary after a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) core committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also chairman of the party.

The meeting was attended by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin via a video link from the US, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar.

The party leaders from Sindh, Punjab and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa also participated in the meeting. Dr Nishtar gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister about the proposed subsidy.

While virtually addressing the media after the meeting, the minister claimed that despite, increase in the prices of petroleum products, the prices of edible items such as pulses, vegetables, sugar, and wheat have declined.

“Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab are ready to become a part of the subsidy scheme. We want that Sindh and Balochistan also become a part of this scheme,” he said, adding that Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir had also expressed an interest.

Chaudhary said that the real issue was being caused by the Sindh government, which was delaying the release of wheat, and this is the reason a 20kg bag of flour is being sold for Rs400 more in Sindh compared to Punjab and KP.

He said that the federal government was pressing the provincial government to increase the amount of wheat released, so that prices would fall.

According to our estimates, he added, the wheat crop will be historic this year, adding that the cotton output was 60pc more than the previous year.

The minister said that sugar prices were coming down and would reduce further once the crushing season begins.

He said that though petrol prices have increased, the prices of pulses, vegetables, sugar and flour were on the downward trend.

“If this trend continues, the public will get some relief on this side considering the increase in petrol prices,” he said.

He said that the entire government was working on tackling inflation and the premier would announce major programmes in this regard in the coming days.

He said that one of the most important issues discussed during the meeting was the local government elections in Punjab, and the prime minister had directed the leadership to launch a public campaign.

The premier also directed party leaders to prepare a schedule for cities and districts in preparation for the local government elections.

The sources said that during the PTI core committee meeting, the government decided to start a direct subsidy programme for the poor. Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran said he is aware of the difficulties being faced by the poor due to inflation.

He said the government is expanding the scope of the Sehat Card, the Kisan Card, and the Ehsaas programme.

He also expressed reservations over the shortage of flour in Sindh.

During the meeting, Nishtar briefed the committee on the Ehsaas Targeted Subsidy Programme.

She said that through this programme, eligible families will receive discounts from grocery stores on specific items.

Contrary to Fawad’s claims, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had on Monday ruled out immediate relief in rising commodity prices, saying it could take at least five months for the abnormal increase in global prices to head towards normalcy.

Pinning the recent price hike in Pakistan on the international market, the planning minister said this spell was not expected to subside before March 2022.

“We hope people get relief soon, but — according to experts — the relief may not be visible immediately and actual improvement may be seen from March,” Umar had said.

Umar said once international commodity prices stabilised and the trend headed towards normalisation, “the government will then be responsible to pass on that relief to the masses.”

He said most experts had predicted a decline in commodity prices from March, while a few felt the reduction in prices could take as long as June to take effect.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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