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Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday decided in principle to provide subsidies on five essential items including wheat flour, sugar, ghee/edible oil, pulses, and rice for the poor-income group during the next fiscal year, APP reported.

The said subsidy will be provided across the country through utility stores.

The development was announced after the PM presided over a high-level meeting. Federal Ministers Miftah Ismail, Makhdoom Murtaza Mahmood, and relevant senior officers were present in the meeting.

The Prime Minister also approved expansion in the network of utility stores in Karachi.

He said that the low number of utility stores in Karachi was not acceptable in any way, adding that a comprehensive plan for raising the number should be presented within two weeks.

PM Shehbaz said as the poor segment required maximum relief, the government was ready to incur every cost for that purpose. Providing relief to the poor on essential items was the foremost priority of the government, he added.

The Prime Minister said that a comprehensive, consolidated, transparent, and digital subsidy system should be formulated under which relief be provided on a priority basis.

Govt announces Rs3 billion subsidy to reduce price of ghee: Marriyum

He also called for the formulation of a strategy to reform the subsidy system in cooperation with the Ministers for Finance, Industries & Production, and Poverty Reduction.

The meeting was briefed in detail about the provision of subsidy through utility stores, targeted subsidy for the poor-income segment, expansion in the number of utility stores across the country, and progress on the program providing cheaper wheat flour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It was told that besides 1,380 franchises, the Utility Stores Corporation was directly running 3,822 stores across the country. Over 300 new stores will be opened in Balochistan, Sindh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Punjab by July 30.

The meeting was told that so far 113 million people have benefitted from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s relief package and got subsidies of Rs60 per kg on wheat flour, Rs21 on sugar, Rs250 on ghee, and Rs15 to Rs20 on pulses and rice. The digital subsidy system was linked with the data of the National Data and Registration Authority (NADRA) and the Ministry of Poverty Reduction.

It was further told that the provision of cheaper wheat flour was being ensured in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through 942 utility stores. Whereas on the special instructions of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, 1,000 new sale points and 200 mobile stores were being added.

Regarding Balochistan, the meeting was told that after the visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the month of Ramazan and under his special direction, the provision of essential items at cheaper rates in the province was being ensured.

Govt jacks up flour rates at utility stores

For that purpose, besides utility stores, mobile stores have also been established in the province to ensure the provision of subsidies in far-flung areas.

Earlier, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb that the government will provide a subsidy worth Rs3 billion to reduce the price of ghee.

In a press conference, she said that the market price of ghee was Rs550 per kg right now but it was being sold at Rs300 per kg in utility stores across the country, which means "a cost of Rs250 per kg is being borne by the government".

She also said that when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) handed over the office to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) back in 2018, the price of ghee was Rs150 per kg.

She also highlighted that a 10 kg wheat bag was available at Rs400 at all utility stories in Pakistan.

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