ISLAMABAD - Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz yesterday said Prime Minister Imran Khan has prioritized to bring ease in people’s lives with reduced inflation.

Talking to media here along with Finance Minister Dr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the information minister said that abundant wheat is available in the country as there is no shortage of wheat and flour.

He said the PM has prioritized to make ease in people’s lives and endeavours are being made with positive steps to keep control on inflation in the country.

Commenting on the available stocks of wheat, the information minister said that 4.2 million tons wheat stock is available in the country while additional 1.9 million tons wheat will soon reach Pakistan from abroad. He said that sugar is being sold in the country at Rs83/kg in markets, while sugar is available at Rs.68/kg at Utility Stores all over the country. He said the government is devising a mechanism to keep check on inflation with measures to permanently control the inflation.

Later, the PM office said in a statement that the federal cabinet has approved Prime Minister’s Package for Rabi Crops, especially wheat. According to the package, 1000 rupees per 50 kilogrammes bag will be given as subsidy on fertilizers.

The cabinet also approved granting legal powers to district and session judges in 19 districts of the country to check smuggling. It granted approval to the procedure for appointment of chief executives in all government departments and companies.

The Prime Minister, on the occasion, directed to ensure a transparent and merit-based procedure for these appointments. The federal cabinet has also given approval of the appointment of Chairperson of National Commission for Human Rights and its members. The Cabinet has also given approval of the appointment of Chairman National Medical and Dental Board under the Pakistan Medical Commission Act 2020.

The prime minister told the cabinet members that a mechanism has been formulated to resolve problems of National Assembly members being faced in their respective constituencies.

He said action will be taken against district administration and officers of the departments concerned for failing in timely redressal of complaints.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh yesterday claimed that Pakistan’s public debt has not increased by single penny during the current fiscal year mainly due to the reduction in expenditures and increase in tax collection.

Addressing a press conference along with Information Minister Shibli Faraz, the Adviser said that Pakistan’s loan has not increased in the first four months (July to October) of the current fiscal year, as it remained on Rs36.4 trillion. He claimed there is pickup in economy as Large Scale Manufacturing sector has shown growth of 5 percent in first quarter of the 2020-21 after a long time. He said that Pakistani currency is stable and improved its value while reserves held by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) are $13 billion.

Pakistan’s economy has picked up as indicated by the performance of both external as well as internal economic sectors. “Good news are coming about economy,” the advisor said.

Talking about the fiscal side, Hafeez Shaikh said that tax collection has recorded at Rs1340 billion in July to October period of 2020-21, which are more than the target and collection made in the same period of the previous fiscal year. Tax refunds have recorded at Rs128 billion in the first four months of the current financial year as compared to Rs50 billion in the same period of last year. He claimed that primary budget is in surplus due to the reduction in expenditures and increase in tax collection.

The Adviser informed that the government is not borrowing from the SBP, not approving the supplementary grants, reducing expenditures of President, Prime Minister Office and cabinet and freezing defence expenditures, which all resulted in primary budget in surplus. He said that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has increased by 10 percent to $733 million in July to October period of the current fiscal year.

He informed that the government had announced construction package and Kamyab Jawan Programme to boost the economic activities.

The construction sector is witnessing a big boom that had helped trigger the economic activities in the country. Under PSDP, he said allocation had been increased and new projects were being initiated specially in the far flung areas.

“Our stock market is proving to be one of the world’s most attractive one as the world investors are observing that the investment in PSX will be fruitful due to the increased economic activity in Pakistan,” he added.

Hafeez Shaikh said that the government is providing subsidy on electricity and gas and providing loans at reduced rates for jobs creation in the country. He said that profits of big industries and banking sectors had shown increase.

He claimed that wheat prices are reducing in the country due to imported wheat. The government is releasing 40,000 tons of wheat on daily basis to the flour mills to ensure sufficient availability of wheat flour in the market. Talking about International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said that its mission would arrive in Pakistan in next few weeks. He said that IMF is asking Pakistan to improve tax collection and power sector of the country.

The Adviser to the PM said that Pakistan’s external sector has improved. The country’s current account is in surplus of $792 million in four months (July to October) of the current fiscal year, which was in deficit of around $20 billion in 2018 when the government took charge.

Hafeez Shaikh said that country’s was in crisis when the incumbent government took charge in 2018 and Pakistan approached IMF for bailout package. He claimed that economic situation has improved before Covid-19 as tax collection was increasing, primary budget was in deficit, expenditures were in control and exports were increasing. He said that government had announced economic stimulus package worth of Rs1.24 trillion to help the people and business community.