Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Monday ruled out the removal of fuel and power subsidies ahead of the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Addressing the media, the finance minister also said the country will hear "good news" soon ahead of his departure today to Doha where the incumbent government will start another round of policy-level talks with the monetary fund.
In response to a question regarding the conditions stipulated by the IMF during Shaukat Tarin’s tenure as finance minister, Miftah commented that the incumbent government will refuse to raise the prices of fuel and levy higher taxes on commodities.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Nawaz Sharif have outrightly refused to increase the prices of fuel," said the finance minister.
Pakistan has committed to the IMF that it will withdraw the energy subsidy. However, the government has not yet increased the prices of petroleum products due to the fear of political backlash.
In order to provide relief to the consumers, the former government announced a relief package on February 28, 2022. It slashed prices of petrol and high-speed diesel by Rs10 per litre each and said that the prices would be kept unchanged till the next fiscal year’s budget.
As a cap has been placed on oil prices, the petroleum levy and general sales tax (GST) have been brought down to zero for petrol and diesel.
During the media talk, the finance minister lambasted the narrative of the ousted Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and blamed them for the current state of the economy.
He also blamed former prime minister Imran Khan’s call to protest as a deterrent to the financial watchdog’s ability to hold talks within the country. However, he stated that he would be in communication with party leaders and would not return without a deal.
Referring to a recent comment by Tarin, he said the PTI's narrative that "we were the best government" continues to damage the country.
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Miftah added that while the PTI speaks about grand conspiracies, Pakistan’s allies stand by the current government. “If these [conspiracies] were true, China would not be our friend, but Bilawal’s visit was a success.”
The minister further criticized former PM Khan’s earlier remarks stating that he did not care to talk about the price of “potatoes and tomatoes”.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has come to power because he has vowed to keep a check on prices,” Miftah said adding, “Imran Khan was in power for four years and sugar prices didn’t come down, he did nothing to help the consumers.”
The finance minister also accused the PTI government of major corruption, including former Chief Minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar. “Buzdar sold 16 licenses for cement in Punjab, one cannot grant more than two because of the environmental damage from limestone mining.”
He further added that the ousted premier had skimmed money from mega projects including the Rawalpindi Ring-road and the Billion Tree Tsunami projects.
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Miftah urged the opposition to “stop lying” and admit that the PTI’s tenure saw “20 million people fall below the poverty line” and exorbitant taxes were levied on necessary hospital equipment such as X-ray machines and ventilators. “Who is to answer?” he asked.
In response to a question regarding electric and gas load-shedding in Karachi, the minister agreed that excess load-shedding negatively affected industry. He urged businessmen to meet with Musadik Malik during his trip to Karachi so the PML-N leader can provide relief as best as possible.
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