- Electricity tariff to be reduced by Rs5 per unit
- Till the next budget, the prices of petrol and electricity will not be increased, announces premier while unveiling various measures to tame inflation
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced various measures to boost the economy and tame inflation, saying that petrol prices will be reduced by Rs10, while electricity tariff would be brought down by Rs5 per unit in a wide-ranging address to the nation that covered topics ranging from foreign policy to the PECA Ordinance.
Khan, who began his address talking about Pakistan's foreign policy before moving on to measures to tackle inflation, said the country will also construct 10 dams in a bid to shield the economy from global price fluctuations.
He added that stipend for the Ehsaas programme will be increased from Rs12,000 to Rs14,000.
"Till the budget, the prices of petrol and electricity will not be increased," the PM announced.
Khan said Pakistan's startups and the IT sector have also been incentivised through various tax measures.
"IT sector's startups have been exempted from capital gains tax."
In a bid to promote the industrial sector, the premier said the government will unveil a new policy.
"No question will be asked from those who establish industries in Pakistan," said the PM.
"Overseas Pakistanis investing in the industrial sector through joint ventures will be given a 5-year tax holiday."
Khan added that the government "thought commodity and oil prices will come down, but with the Ukraine crisis, this is unlikely to happen".
"We have hence, decided to reduce petrol and diesel prices."
Foreign policy and PECA Ordinance
The premier had earlier began his speech talking about Pakistan's foreign policy.
"I want to begin with foreign policy as I have just concluded a visit to China and Russia.
"Foreign policy should always be made for the benefit of a country’s people. I want to give the example of a wrong foreign policy choice that we made in the past. When we joined the US war on terror, we made a mistake.
"What was embarrassing was that a country was fighting in support of a country that was bombing it."
Meanwhile, in a bid to address criticism on the recently-promulgated PECA Ordinance 2022, Khan said this was more about 'fake news' than anything else.
"A leader who has never violated any law is not afraid of independent media. We are bringing these amendments because social media is filled with content against our values.
"The PECA ordinance has nothing to do with freedom of journalism," he added.
The PM's address comes at a time when inflation hit a two-year high in Pakistan, clocking in at 13%. Inflation has been a major issue for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government that is now seeing the opposition uniting against high prices in the country.
The opposition is also looking to bring a no-confidence motion against the PTI government.
Ahead of his address, it was reported that the premier would take the nation into confidence on the country’s economic situation and global challenges amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Earlier on Monday, Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that PM Imran would make an "important announcement" in his address to the nation.
The address comes following PM Imran’s official visit to Russia last week. During his two-day visit, the premier met President Vladimir Putin and discussed matters of mutual interest as well as the evolving global situation. He also stressed that the Ukraine-Russia conflict was not in anyone's interest and that developing countries were always hardest hit economically in case of conflict.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also shared that the PM will "make a very big announcement" at 6pm. Speaking to the media, the FM said that the prime minister will talk "openly from the heart", and that people should be ready.
The PM's address to the nation comes at a time when the Russia-Ukraine conflict has escalated, with Putin announcing that his nuclear forces were on alert to what he called "unfriendly" steps by the West.
International tensions are already soaring over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Putin's order caused further alarm.
Moscow has the world's second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country's deterrence forces.
"I order the defence minister and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat service," Putin had said.
"You see that Western countries are not only unfriendly to our country in the economic sphere -- I mean illegitimate sanctions," he added, in a televised address.
"Senior officials of leading NATO countries also allow aggressive statements against our country."
However, Russia and Ukraine met later for their first talks since the outbreak of war last week, with Kyiv demanding an "immediate ceasefire" as the number of refugees fleeing the country hit more than 500,000.
As the delegations arrived for talks on the border between Belarus and Ukraine on day five of Moscow's invasion, the Ukrainian presidency demanded the ceasefire "and the withdrawal of troops" — which Moscow is almost certain to reject.
"I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.