Need for urgent relief

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ACCORDING to reports, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to unveil a big relief package for the people to compensate for the ever-rising inflation.

The PM, while chairing a meeting of PML(N), pointed out that the economic policies of the previous government had brought Pakistan to the verge of default but the coalition government took drastic measures to prevent the crisis.

He emphasized the need for adequate relief to the masses and directed the ministries concerned to formulate proposals for the purpose.

There is no let up in the price-hike and, therefore, an elected government cannot keep its eyes close to the plight of the masses and that too when elections are approaching fast.

It is officially acknowledged that inflation stands at about 30% and as per estimation of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) there would be no price stability in the coming year as well for understandable reasons.

However, given the resource position and the continued pressure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is to be seen what kind of relief the government would finally be able to provide to the inflation-ridden people.

The ability of the government to provide any major relief is in doubt as it could not pass on the due relief to the consumers after significant reduction in the prices of oil in the international market.

There were expectations that the government would allow a relief of Rs.30 to 40 per litre but it gave a relief of just Rs.10 a litre and at the same time PDL on diesel has been increased.

It is also perplexing that neither industry nor the transport sector is passing on the relief to the end consumer because of the peculiar nature of political set-up in the country where the federal government finds it difficult to implement its policies and programmes effectively.

The Prime Minister’s direction to give priority to the youth in the proposed relief package is a step in the right direction as unemployment has assumed alarming proportions due to economic crisis, lack of developmental activities and stagnant local and foreign investment.

It is also pertinent to point out that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had committed to focus on exchange rate and price stability but there is no visible movement towards that end.

In fact, people might be happy without any relief if the Government brings an end to devaluation of rupee and makes prices of goods and services predictable.