PM Shehbaz unveils Rs28bn relief package to protect poor from inflation

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Defends hike in fuel price to avoid bankruptcy; Blames Imran for destroying country’s economy; Says diplomatic rebuilding process has started

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday that his government was launching a new relief package of Rs28 billion per month “to protect the poor from the burden of petrol and diesel price hike”.

In his first address to the nation — a day after his government removed fuel subsidies and increased the price of petrol by Rs30 — he said it was because of the previous government that he had to take the “difficult decision” to increase fuel prices with a “heavy heart”.

Under the relief package, the premier said, 14 million poor families, comprising 85 million people, would being given Rs2000 per family.

He said this was in addition to the monetary assistance being given to them under the Benazir Income Support Programme. “This relief package will be added in the next budget,” the premier said. He further said that he had directed Utility Stores to set the price of 10kg sack of flour at Rs400. PM Shehbaz said his government’s move to increase fuel prices was necessary to avoid Pakistan from facing bankruptcy.

“The previous government is deliberately concealing facts. I want to remind them that you entered into a deal with IMF, not us. You accepted their harsh terms, not us. You pushed the

country into an economic mess, not us.” He termed the PTI government’s decision to grant fuel subsidy a “trap” for the upcoming government.

“Petroleum prices are increasing worldwide but they [PTI government] subsidised fuel despite knowing that the treasury cannot bear its burden.”

PM Shehbaz recalled that he had proposed a “charter of economy” nearly four years ago but “my proposal was rejected with disdain”.

He said the charter was imperative so that no government could use the economy for the sake of politics, adding that he would reach out to all political parties for dialogue on the matter.

He said the previous government’s tenure also proved costly for Pakistan on the diplomatic front.

“A most trusted friendly country — the one that supported us in all difficult circumstances — was made upset. But we have started the rebuilding process,” the premier said in an apparent reference to the United States.

He also recalled that the incumbent government reversed all measures taken by the ex-government that curbed the freedom of speech, including scrapping a proposal for the controversial Pakistan Media Development Authority.

The premier said he took charge of the government at a time when the country was facing a myriad of crises. “We knew the remedial measures will take much effort and time to yield results, but we still took up the reins for the sake of the country.”

Without naming former PM Imran Khan, he said lies were spoken to the nation about a “foreign conspiracy” to further “political goals”. He went on to say that “this man hurt diplomatic relations of Pakistan for his personal interests.”

 

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