ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be the first breakthrough between negotiators of the government and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the two sides agreed on Wednesday to form a judicial commission to probe sugar price hikes.
The PML-N team was also provided the list of people who got their bank loans written off using their political clout.
The two sides are also learnt to have discussed PML-N’s 10-point agenda, including the persistent energy crisis.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said that an effective mechanism was being worked out to control prices of daily use items, adding that it would soon be finalised.
He said that the meeting also discussed the recent hike in sugar prices and both sides had agreed to set up a judicial commission, headed by a high court or Supreme Court judge, adding that the matter of the commission’s composition would be finalised “in a day or two”.
In response to a question, he said that the matter of a new accountability bill was also discussed, adding that it was agreed that a meeting to discuss differences over the matter would be held next week and there was a possibility of progress in this regard.
Referring to the appointment of the chief election commissioner, he said that the two sides had agreed to discuss the issue of forming a parliamentary committee in this regard, adding that the matter would also be finalised soon. Terming the progress in Wednesday’s meeting substantial, the finance minister said that the two sides were trying to arrive at a consensus on all issues.
Meanwhile, PML-N’s chief negotiator Senator Ishaq Dar told reporters that his party had been informed about bank loans worth Rs281 billion written off since 1970, adding that, of the total, as much as Rs66 billion was owed by the private sector.
He said that the meeting had told the State Bank governor to provide details about loan write-offs of public sector entities, which were later privatised.
He said that if we include those loans too, the total amount would far exceed the numbers quoted during the meeting.
He pointed out that the Punjab government had reduced its Rs30 billion expenditure by Rs6 billion and said that several provincial departments were also being merged.
Referring to loan write-offs, Senator Dar said that the list was in two parts, one containing details of loans written off between 1971 and 2002 and the second between 2003 and 2009.
Meanwhile, State Bank Governor Shahid Hafiz Kardar told reporters after the meeting that 48 per cent of the loans had been waived by private foreign banks.
Kardar further said that “95 per cent of the written off loans because of political considerations did not exceed Rs500,000.”
Commenting on the current economic situation, he said that the fiscal deficit during the first six months was 2.9 per cent and the government had so far borrowed Rs155 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2011.
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