PTI govt defers decision to hike PTV licence fee

Performance of govt’s media team comes under criticism during cabinet meeting


Rizwan Ghilzai July 21, 2020
The state-run broadcaster charges a monthly fee of Rs35 from electricity consumers. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The federal cabinet on Tuesday put off a proposal to charge Rs65 more from the public every month for the PTV licence fee after some ministers expressed their reservations over the move.

A cabinet meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, focused on a nine-point agenda which included the coronavirus situation in the country and measures to revive the economy.

During the meeting, federal ministers Fawad Chaudhry, Murad Saeed and Faisal Vawda opposed the proposal to increase the PTV licence fee from Rs35 to R100. They were of the view that it was necessary to take the public into confidence before going ahead with the move. They suggested that people should first be informed that PTV was incurring a loss of Rs14 billion before increase the fee. The prime minister agreed and delayed the decision.

PTV has been unable to submit a business plan for two years. The budget for 110 private TV channels is Rs38 billion against Rs22 billion for PTV alone.

Other decisions made during the meeting included informing the nation about the two-year performance of the PTI-led government.
It was also decided that the government would pay the outstanding dues of the print and electronic media in two to three weeks.

The performance of the government’s media team also came under criticism during the meeting. Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda maintained that the government’s narrative was not being presented effectively.
He noted that the launching the construction of dams was an extraordinary achievement by the government but these efforts could not garner the appreciation they deserved.

“Government spokespersons seem to be more interested in self-promotion than the government’s narrative,” he added.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi agreed with Vawda, noting that turning “non-issues into issues” only weakened the government’s narrative.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz told the participants of the meeting that those who were criticising the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had damaged national institutions themselves when they were in power.
The cabinet was informed that the electricity supply situation in Karachi would improve in a day or two and there would be a reduction in unannounced power cuts.

The participants of the meeting also reviewed the supply and prices of wheat and flour.
They were informed that that the import of wheat was allowed to ensure that there was no demand and supply gap. It was decided that hoarders would be taken to task to ensure smooth supply of wheat and availability of flour at affordable rates.

The cabinet approved the Treasury Single Account Rules, 2020, which was introduced to streamline the utilisation of government funds. In the past every ministry and division had their own accounts and funds were not utilised properly.

It also gave the nod to amendments to Anti-Money Laundering Bill, 2020 and the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 to control money laundering and terror financing to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force. The cabinet also approved the National Health Emergency Response Act, 2020 to meet future health emergencies.
Addressing a news conference after the meeting, Information Minister Shibli said the proposal for increasing the PTV fee was deferred by the cabinet till next week.

He added that the state-run TV was facing problems in paying its 3,000 pensioners.
“The previous governments have brought the PTV to the verge of collapse. The present government wants to revive its past glory. The restructuring of PTV has been approved but funds are needed to replace its obsolete equipment as the process of production has almost come to a halt.”

The minister said the cabinet has appreciated PM Imran’s decision to make it mandatory for public-office holders to declare their assets to ensure transparency and to increase people’s confidence in their representatives.
“It’s a historic step as no such tradition has existed in Pakistan in the past.”

Shibli said the governments in the past had focused on costly power projects and the credit for kicking off the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam went to the PTI government.

“It’s a project that would benefit the coming generations of the country by meeting the needs of power and water.
Shibli said the prime minister had issued instructions for the early payment of media houses’ outstanding dues.
“The prime minister particularly asked why media dues had not been fully cleared so far and given a week to the ministries to do it so that media employees can get their salaries,” he added. A comprehensive system is being worked out that will be backed by law to ensure the timely payment of salaries to journalists.”

Regarding the availability of wheat, Shibli said the government had allowed the public and private sector to import the commodity to avoid any shortage.
“The cabinet has directed the relevant ministries to take every step to stabilise the prices of wheat and flour,” he added.

“The Sindh government will be requested to waive off excise duty on the import of wheat.”
He said the federating units worked together during the coronavirus outbreak. “The National Command and Operation Centre overcame this problem and time had proved that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s strategy to save lives and livelihood has proved very effective.”

The minister said there was need to maintain keeping social distancing and following standard operating procedures on Eidul Azha so that the spread of the coronavirus pandemic could be further controlled.
Shibli maintained that in the cases of fake pilot licences and the declaration of assets by special assistants, the opposition had painted positive moves the government in a negative light.

(With input from APP)

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