Miftah on defensive after Nawaz opposes petrol price hike

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Claims not a single paisa of new taxes or levies added; Says economic situation improving in Pakistan

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday distanced themselves from the Shahbaz Sharif government’s decision to hike the prices of petroleum products as Finance Minister Miftah Ismail put up a strong defence of the decision.

In separate statements, both the key political leaders criticised the government for increasing the prices which were hiked on Monday despite a massive appreciation in rupee value and a decline in international oil prices.

Expressing concern over the development, former president Asif Ali Zardari said the PPP is a part of the government and supports it, but there must be consultations on such decisions.

“We are all here in this government to give relief to the people and that should be our top priority. We are with the prime minister and will meet him soon and talk about the economic team,” he added.

On Monday, the government cranked up the price of petrol by Rs6.72 per litre for the next fortnight. “In the wake of fluctuations in petroleum prices in the international market and exchange rate variations, the government has decided to revise the existing prices or petroleum products to pass on the impact to the consumers,” the statement released by the Finance Division read.

The government’s decision invited a lot of criticism from the public. Citizens are of the view that the prices of petroleum products are on a downward slope all over the world and yet their prices are being increased in Pakistan.

As people vented out their views on the government’s decision, a user on Twitter tagged Maryam Nawaz and requested her to “speak to Mian Nawaz Sharif to take notice of the increase in the price of petrol.”

Replying to the user, Maryam wrote: “Mian Sahib strongly opposed this decision. He even said that I cannot burden the people with [payment of] one more penny.”

She said her father stressed that he was not on board but if the government was bound by some constraint, it should go ahead with the increase. Maryam said the PML-N supremo disowned the POL increase decision and left the meeting.

Earlier, after the government issued the notification of the new POL prices, Maryam, too, rejected the federal government’s decision.

Reacting to a Twitter user, Maryam noted: “I stand by the people of Pakistan. I cannot support this decision.”

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail went on the defensive on Tuesday, a day after the government raised the price of petrol for the next fortnight, saying that while he was an “easy target” the revision does not include any new taxes.

In response to a tweet by a journalist, he argued that the government had not imposed new taxes on petroleum products.

“The increase or decrease in prices is according to the purchasing by Pakistan State Oil (PSO),” he said.

The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) takes the average Platt prices, adds freight and the premium paid by PSO on top of these prices, and multiplies that by the exchange rate, he said.

“In addition, it also ‘trues up’ the previous fortnight’s cost by taking into account the rupees paid by PSO at the actual exchange rate, as opposed to the average used to estimate the previous fortnight’s cost.

“We have not added any new tax or levy to the price. The price of petrol has gone up (and diesel has gone down) because the cost paid by PSO in the previous fortnight was more than the cost estimated by Ogra and also because the premium paid by PSO on petrol increased and [the] premium paid on diesel remained unchanged,” Ismail said.

 

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