ISLAMABAD: In order to pass minimum burden on to the masses, the federal cabinet has deferred the decision to increase prices of petroleum products and has sent the summary of reviewing the taxes on POL products to the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet.
The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had recommended an increase of 15 per cent in the prices of POL products, following fluctuations in the international oil prices.
"When the PTI government came to power, the price of petroleum in the international market was $53 per barrel, which is now $77,” said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan while addressing the media after attending the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
She was accompanied by Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda.
“Oil prices have increased globally due to a difference between demand and supply in the wake of sanctions imposed by the US on Iran,” said the special assistant, adding that the impact of the increase would be felt dearly by the public.
“There are two ways to do this – either allow the deficit to expand or increase the POL prices as recommended by Ogra,” said Awan.
Ogra had recommended increasing the petrol price by Rs14 per litre.
"This is the reason why the PM, keeping in view the difficulties and reservations of the masses, has decided to send the matter to the ECC so that the matter could be examined further," she added.
Awan disclosed that the cabinet was taken into confidence regarding introducing a local government system in Punjab based on the successful Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa model.
“The new LG system will devolve the powers at grassroots level and empower local people,” she added.
The special assistant said the government was introducing five bills regarding legal aid, formation of justice authority, women inheritance and dowry, and women rights bill. “Amendments are being made to the code of civil procedure,” she added.
On providing protection to whistleblowers, Awan said a whistleblower protection bill would also be introduced shortly.
“It will provide 20 per cent incentives to the persons who will inform about corruption, abuse of authority and misuse of power,” said Awan. “The name of the person will be kept confidential.”
She further said an anti-corporal punishment bill would also be tabled soon in parliament to discourage physical punishment and abuse at schools while a Zainab alert bill would also be introduced to stop any kind of child abuse.
To a question, she said, “These are public welfare bills.”
Expressing optimism that opposition would support the government in the passage of the bills, she said, “A Zainab alert bill is being introduced to put a check on sexual misconduct against children while the other bill aims at controlling use of canes and other means of physical punishment by teachers.”
Awan said the country's circular debt touched Rs1,300 billion, due to which the government decided to hold an audit to ascertain the ones who were responsible for the issue.
“The investigation details will be presented in the next session,” she added.
Taking a jibe at the previous government, Awan said, “The former rulers made claims of good governance in Punjab. However, during the tenure of the former government, the country's fiscal deficit exceeded Rs10,000 billion, while checks amounting to Rs100 billion have bounced.”
On the other side, the current government saved Rs100 billion through austerity drives, she added.
On the upcoming holy month of Ramazan, Awan said, “The federal cabinet has decided to observe office timings during Ramazan from 10am to 4pm to ensure maximum relief to the faithful, observing fast without compromising their productivity and a special Ramazan package would also be announced in next few days.
“A special committee has been assigned the task to prepare a special Ramazan package to provide maximum relief to the masses. The committee will also make sure that no load shedding is carried out during the holy month.”
She said the cabinet members congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan on his successful China visit and fully endorsed the important agreements and MoUs signed on socio-economic development, free trade and agriculture.
She said the cabinet expressed confidence that their positive impact would eventually ensure relief to the common man.
“Sehat Insaf Card will be provided to all families of erstwhile Fata people and their distribution is already under way in all districts on a daily basis. So far 39,000 families have received these cards,” she said, adding that the cabinet also discussed the steps taken so far for promotion of the tourism sector in the country and to transform it into a major industry.
She said those nations, which had made rapid progress, formulated tourist-friendly policies and under the prime minister's vision, Pakistan had also opened up its policies to make it a hub of tourism.
“It will also boost hospitality, food and transport industries and create tens of thousands of jobs for the youth,” she added.
She congratulated Vawda for the upcoming groundbreaking of Mohmand Dam on May 2, saying politicians made plans for a few years to cash in during the next elections, but Imran Khan planned for the benefit and welfare of the next generation.
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