Urgent need for relief

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PRIME Minister Shehbaz Sharif has maintained that the country is out of risk of default due to difficult decisions taken by the coalition government.

Talking to a delegation of Jefferies, a leading global investment banking and capital markets firm on Tuesday, he said the government is taking all possible steps to further strengthen the national economy and is striving with priority measures to reduce price hike and provide relief to the masses.

The Government might have strong reasons to believe that the country was out of risk of default but the ground situation is not so encouraging as reports appearing in the national media paint a different picture of the financial position of the country.

No doubt, the country received $500 million, as proudly announced by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which would help ease some pressure on the Government that has to pay $1billion of international bonds in the first week of December.

The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) on Tuesday approved, among other things, Rs.47 billion as election expenditure in accordance with the estimates prepared by the Election Commission of Pakistan for conducting general election next year.

However, it is also a fact that the Finance Division is not even releasing essential funds to ministries and departments to pay salary and pension while some sectors are making a hue and cry over non-clearance of imports due to shortage of foreign exchange.

Pakistan Poultry Association has been issuing warnings for the last several days that there would be a serious shortage of poultry products due to non-release of Soyabean at Karachi port.

Though the Government is in denial , latest media reports also suggest the country is likely to face a shortage of POL products as the import of essential chemicals — required by the refineries to process the crude oil — is in jeopardy due to the ongoing US dollar liquidity crisis.

There is already back-breaking inflation and it is understood shortage of essential commodities would push up prices further to the disadvantage of the ordinary citizen.

The Government has been promising relief and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is on record having pledged to focus on exchange rate stabilization and price stability but so far nothing is in sight.

In the backdrop of the evolving political situation, there are apprehensions that the Government is left with not much time to take tangible measures for the provision of relief to the people.