- Decision taken to not burden the consumers, says notification
The government on Saturday decided against increasing petrol prices, rejecting the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority's (Ogra) proposal for a hike in prices, said a notification issued by the Finance Division.
"Prime Minister Shehbaz directed to maintain the prices of petroleum products at the current level so as not to burden the consumers with the hike in prices," read the notification.
Earlier, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb had said that the price of petroleum products will remain unchanged for the first half of May.
The minister said that the premier believes the masses cannot be punished for the incompetence and blunders of the previous government.
"Efforts were underway not to impose a further burden on the inflation hit people," she added.
The move comes days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the government had "agreed that prompt action is needed to reverse the unfunded subsidies which have slowed discussions for the 7th review."
Earlier this week, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had categorically ruled out an increase in the prices of petroleum products before May 1, stressing that the priority right now is to revive the IMF programme, prepare the budget for next year, and stabilise the economy.
"There is no chance that we will raise prices before the 1st (of May)," said Ismail. "If prices are raised on the 1st, there are a lot of considerations including the summary of the regulator – Ogra – and the fact that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will ask me, 'what have you done for the poor-income group?'
"I need to make that plan as well, which hasn't been made yet."
The revival of the IMF programme is crucial for Islamabad. The country's foreign exchange reserves have depleted enormously in recent months. Apart from funding needs, the IMF nod would also pave way for lending from other creditors.
Ismail had earlier also said the government has sought an increase in the size and duration of the IMF's EFF.
Addressing a press conference in Washington, the minister said he and his team had productive talks with the IMF, World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
“We have requested the IMF to extend the EFF programme by a year from 3 to 4 years,” said Ismail, adding that his team received a positive response in this regard. “We have also requested the fund to enhance the overall loan size by $2 billion,” he said.
This is the second time the premier has rejected Ogra's proposal for a price hike.
Earlier in April, PM Shehbaz announced to continue the subsidy for keeping petroleum products prices unchanged with effect from April 16, 2022.
The premier turned down Ogra's recommended increase in the ex-depot price of high-speed diesel (HSD) up to Rs51 per litre.
The regulator had proposed an increase in the price of HSD by Rs51.32 per litre (35.7 percent increase), petrol by Rs21.30 per litre (14.2 percent increase), kerosene oil by Rs36.03 per litre (28.7 percent increase), and light diesel oil (LDO) Rs38.89 per litre (39.9 percent increase).