LAHORE: Although the Punjab cabinet has finally approved a subsidy worth billions of rupees for the Ramazan Package 2019, all officials concerned are reluctant to disclose the exact quantum of the subsidy.
The decision to keep mum on the actual amount has led to speculation that the provincial government failed to match the subsidy grant of Rs11 billion issued by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Industries Department Secretary Tahir Khursheed claimed that the volume of the subsidy would be much higher than previous years as the government had decided to provide maximum relief to common citizens. However, he dodged a question about the exact volume by stating that since a major chunk would go to flour procurement and the provincial Food Department, the numbers are yet to be compiled.
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Officials at the Punjab Chief Minister’s Secretariat, as well as the provincial finance and the food departments, also expressed their ignorance about the exact volume of Ramazan subsidy.
Punjab Information Minister Syed Samsam Ali Bukhari highlighted, in a news conference on Wednesday, that a decision had been made in the Punjab cabinet meeting to provide a subsidy worth billions of rupees under the Ramazan package. He also avoided quoting a clear figure of its volume.
He highlighted that the government decided to establish 309 Ramazan bazaars and over 2,000 dastarkhawns across Punjab during the holy month.
The minister said the monitoring of essential commodities’ prices would be ensured and indiscriminate action would be taken against hoarders. He indicated that a significant reduction would be witnessed in the advertisement of Ramazan bazaars. “Taxpayers’ money will be utilised to facilitate the masses.”
The provincial cabinet, with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar in the chair, approved that the government would provide Rs80 subsidy on a 10-kilogramme wheat flour bag, which would be sold for Rs290 in Ramazan bazaars. Similarly, sugar would be sold at Rs55 a kilogramme.
Ramazan bazaars will start from the last week of Sha’ban. The meeting also decided to increase the number of price control magistrates to 968 across Punjab and they would use a mobile app to monitor prices in different markets across the province.
The chief minister ordered authorities concerned to ensure strict monitoring of steps taken under Ramazan Package.
Buzdar also directed the authorities concerned to initiate indiscriminate action against hoarders and illegal profiteers and made it clear that the administration should initiate strict action against those responsible for creating artificial price-hike.
He said effective measures should be taken to stabilise sugar prices and line departments should ensure it in collaboration with sugar mills association. The government will go to every extent to give substantial relief to the common man and hoarding and price-hike will not be allowed during Ramazan.
The meeting also approved a decrease in the length of service from four to three years to regularise contract employees. The decision would be equally implemented in all departments in Punjab.
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The meeting also approved technical allowances to engineers of different provincial departments who are registered with Pakistan Engineering Council. It was decided to increase the minimum wage of skilled and unskilled workers along with the approval of Punjab Growth Strategy 2023.
The annual audit and performance report for 2015-16 of the Punjab Judicial Academy was presented before the meeting and the cabinet decided to table it before the provincial assembly.
The meeting approved an amendment to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Rules 1984 to set up a registration authority. The meeting approved the draft of amendments to the Punjab Health Foundation Act 2018. Under the changes, the scope of PHF will be increased and the chairman will be elected from board members to make it a vibrant organisation.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2019.