The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has approved a subsidy of Rs2 billion per month for a period of five months to Utility Stores Corporation for the provision of edible items of daily use to the people at affordable rates.
The decision was taken in a federal cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Briefing the media of the decisions taken at the much-anticipated meeting, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said the Rs10 billion package would help ensure availability of flour, sugar, rice and pulses among other edible items at USC outlets at reasonable rates.
The USC has been further directed that 20 kg flour bag should be sold at Rs800 while pulses at a rate 15 to 20 per cent lower than the market, Radio Pakistan reported.
The decision comes days after the prime minister ordered a reduction in the prices of food items as his government has not only been drawing scathing criticism from the opposition for the rising inflation, poverty and unemployment rates, but some within its own ranks have also been ringing the alarm bells.
The government, the SAPM said, is also devising a long term strategy to keep a check on prices of essential edible items. She said the government’s economic team, the ministry of commerce and other institutions including the Utility Stores Corporation gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister in the meeting.
The cabinet also gave approval to lift a ban on import of sugar to ensure supply of this commodity, said the SAPM, adding that the export of sugar has been banned and a strategy is being devised to remove regulatory duty on it.
Firdous said 4.3 million women are being given Rs2,000 monthly under Ehsaas program. The number will rise to 70 million by the end of year, benefitting 46.9 people, she added.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Imran had vowed that the government would leave no stone unturned in providing relief against inflation to the general public, particularly the poor and salaried class.
He said this while chairing a meeting on the matter of providing relief to the masses, which was attended by PM’s Special Assistant on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar, USC Chairman Zulqiurnain Ali Khan and Managing Director Umer Lodhi, federal secretaries of Finance, Commerce and Social Protection Division, and other senior officers.
Premier Imran said the government could not remain silent on the sufferings of poor people, adding that the ‘big decisions’ taken to curb rising inflation would be announced after the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The PTI government has come under widespread criticism over the alarming increase in inflation.
Pakistan saw the highest inflation reading in nine years with the start of New Year as Consumer Price Index jumped to 14.6% in January due to an increase in food and energy cost, which also made the tight monetary policy ineffective. Last time inflation had been recorded at 15.5% in December 2010.
In a single month, the headline inflation increased by 2%, which was quite alarming at a time when people’s wages were shrinking. This is for the first time in recent years that the headline inflation reading has surpassed the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) key policy rate of 13.25%.