LAHORE                     -              Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday admitted his government’s negligence in failing to control the prices of sugar and wheat flour while attributing hike in prices of edible oil and other essential commodities to depreciation of rupee and the trade imbalance with foreign countries.

“I admit that the hike in the prices of essentials like wheat flour and sugar was caused due to government’s negligence. However, depreciation of rupee against dollar was the reason behind soaring prices of edible oil and other imported commodities”, he maintained while addressing a ceremony held for distribution of Sehat Insaf Cards at Governor House Lahore.

Prime minister assured the nation that his government would penalize those who siphoned off money from the system by creating artificial shortage of wheat flour and sugar. “Now we have some information about such elements and further investigation was underway to identify the culprits”, he said, adding that government was putting in place a system to forestall such a situation in future.

Further explaining the reason behind skyrocketing prices of edible oils and other commodities, the prime minister said that it happened due to devaluation of rupee against the dollar and the huge gap in country’s imports and exports.

“At present, our imports [which also include essential commodities] stand at $60 billion as against $20 billion worth of exports. We are facing a trade deficit of $40 billion”, he explained, adding that his government was trying to bridge this gap.

He went on to say: “When the rupee falls, the prices of imported commodities will rise”. Khan also ridiculed the news channels whose reporters according to him would prompt people to talk about the price hike and all the bad things about the country.

“Holding mikes in their hands, they talk to the innocent people and ask if there is a hike in the prices [of essential commodities. They reply in the affirmative. Then, they would ask where did the Naya Pakistan go? All this is being done in a planned manner”, he moaned.

Pledging to make Pakistan a social welfare state, the prime minister said he had never said to make Pakistan an Asian tiger. “I had in fact promised to make Pakistan a great nation on the pattern of the State of Madina”, he said.

He noted that humanity was the cardinal principle for the state of Madina. “It means that sate takes the responsibility to look after the downtrodden”, he added.

Talking about the motivation behind building the Shaukat Khanum Hospital, the premier said that it was the sign of frustration he saw on the face of a laborer at Mayo Hospital who was told he would have to buy yet more medicines for his ailing brother suffering from cancer. “I can never forget his face. He would work during the day and spend the nights with his brother at the hospital. This completely changed the course of my life. Had I not seen the face of that man, I would have never made the cancer hospital. And maybe, I would never have entered politics. It was after that incident that I dedicated my life working for the people after my cricketing career”, he stated.

Imran Khan also said that the State of Madina did not come into being in a short span of time. “It was a long journey [spreading over years]. For the first three to four years, the State of Madina faced great hardships. Then the things changed to the better and it changed the course of history”, he observed.

The prime minister termed the distribution of health cards just another step in that journey.

He said that health card scheme early initiated in KPK proved to be a success story. “It was for first time that PTI returned to power in KPK for the second time with two-third majority”, he said.  

Admitting government’s limitations to build public hospitals, the premier said that his government had waived off all duties on the import of medical equipment. “It is because we want to encourage the private sector to build hospitals. The health card holders will also get free treatment at private hospitals”, he said, adding that five million families had been provided with health cards in Punjab province.

“For the first time, I saw a social welfare state in great Britain where the people get free education and health facilities at state’s expense”, he said, adding that Pakistan was also heading in this direction.