ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz Wednesday said the present government was taking all possible steps to reduce the prices of flour, sugar and other daily use items.
Addressing a press conference here, the minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a review meeting on inflation and prices of daily use items, including flour and sugar, and expressed his dissatisfaction on their prices.
He said the focus of the prime minister’s policies was welfare of the poor and backward classes, who were directly affected by hike in the prices of daily use items, whereas the past rulers made policies for personal gain and elite class.
He said the prime minister was regularly getting briefings on inflation and prices, and he had been issuing directives to the provincial government officials to taking steps for their effective control. The sugar and flour cartels were influential but hey would not be given any concession at the cost of consumers as they were not powerful than the people and the government.
Shibli Faraz said the meeting was informed that a 20-kg flour bag was being sold in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at Rs 900 to 1,150, in Punjab at Rs 860 to 950, in Karachi (Sindh) at up to Rs 1700.
The reason for the highest price of flour in Sindh, he said, was that the provincial government had not issued wheat quota to the flour mills. The disparity in flour price resulted from transportation of wheat from other provinces to Sindh, he added.
The minister said a comprehensive mechanism was being chalked out for ensuring equal price of flour in all the provinces. Advisor to the PM on Finance Hafeez Sheikh, Provincial Food Minister Aleem Khan and relevant food secretaries were working out a plan of action.
He said the government would reduce the prices of essential goods at any cost. Following the report of the Sugar Commission, the sugar prices were increased to pressurise the government, but it would not bow to any pressure from the sugar cartel.
Since the past rulers owned sugar mills so they formulated policies for their own interest at the cost of farmers and consumers, he added.
Shibli Faraz said it was a matter of satisfaction that even during the difficult times of corona pandemic, the supply of daily use items remained stable. Both public and private sectors were importing sugar to reduce its prices in the market. The Federal Government in collaboration with the provincial governments was introducing a new law to ensure timely start of the sugarcane crushing. Under the new law, the sugar mill that delayed crushing, would be fined Rs 5 million a day, which was presently Rs 20,000 for the entire season.
The government was also keeping a close eye on the elements trying to stockpile sugar, who would be taken to task. There were indications that some people were hoarding sugar in Karachi, he added.
Replying to the questions of media persons, the minister said there was no doubt that institutions not the individuals ran the country, but in the past, the institutions were paralyzed ,degraded and made dysfunctional.
The mafias were very strong and had great clout to use the institutions for their own benefit, he added.
He said in the case of sugar crisis, the related institutions were being investigated. He pointed out that the coronavirus was a global issue but it was unfortunate that the Sindh government played politics on the issue despite the fact all the decisions to deal with the pandemic were made with consensus.
Unlike other provinces, the relics of the past still prevailed in Sindh, who would hopefully be erased by the people in the next elections, the minister added.
Shibli Faraz said the objective of import of wheat and sugar was to improve their supplies in order to bring down prices, which would ultimately provide relief to the masses. The government’s target was that the sugar price must come down by at least Rs 20-25 per kilogram.
To a question about subsidies to the Utility Stores Corporation, the minister contended that the Punjab government was providing Rs 6 billion subsidies per month and everyone, the rich or the poor, was benefiting from the relief.
However, he added, that by utilizing the Ehsaas Programme data, targeted subsidy would be given only to provide relief to the deserving persons.
The minister said emphatically that the back of hoarders and profiteers would have to be broken to provide cheap flour and sugar to the people and it was the prime concern of Prime Minister Imran Khan, as he still expressed his dissatisfaction over the commodities rates, though some of them had come down in recent days.—APP