ISLAMABAD - Hinting at further cut in the prices of petroleum products next month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government wanted to pass on its benefits to the masses as this decrease would help check inflation and lower prices of all commodities.

“The government will further reduce the prices of petroleum products next month, which would eventually help check inflation and provide relief to the masses,” the prime minister said after chairing a high-level meeting on energy here on Wednesday.

The prime minister also referred to cut in prices of petroleum products last month, which had eased inflationary pressures on the masses, and said the government wanted to give maximum relief to the people. “We will announce a reasonable cut in the prices of petroleum products this time as well,” he maintained.

After decreasing the prices of petroleum products last month, Premier Sharif had asked all the provincial governments to ensure that the relief should pass on to the masses. He also wrote a letter to all the four chief ministers in this connection. But the provincial governments failed to take effective measures. Even public transporters did not comply with the decision of cut in the fares commensurate with the decrease in the prices of petroleum products.

On the other hand, the federal government did not reduce the prices of petroleum products in proportionate to its reduction of around 25 percent in international market and for that matter the ruling PML-N came under criticism from its political opponents as well as the people having a critical eye on the economic activities going on in the country.

Sources in the government informed The Nation that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was perturbed over this dismal state of affairs. Even the Punjab government could not fully pass on the relief to the masses as the transporters did not reduce their fares in proportionate to the reduction in the prices of petroleum products while there was minimal or zero impact of the relief on the prices of other commodities.

The sources further said the federal government, which is under tremendous pressure from the agitation campaign of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, wanted to bring ease in the lives of the poverty-stricken masses. But in the absence of monitoring and effective price-control mechanism, the relief of reduction in the prices of petroleum products could not have trickle-down effect.

The sources further said that once again the petroleum products had seen all-time low in the international market and the PML-N government wanted to take full benefit of it. A senior party leader termed it a blessing in disguise to turn the tide of masses in their favour by providing to them relief. Prime Minister Sharif had already tasked his economic team to work out a plan in consultation with the provincial governments under which the people at grass-roots level could get the real benefit of further decrease in the prices of petroleum products.

Earlier, chairing a meeting on energy, Prime Minister termed the recent signing of billions of dollars agreements with China a “game-changer” and said the establishment of powerhouses and factories would prove historic in terms of elimination of loadshedding.

“Those staging sit-in may not want to see end to loadshedding, but I am committed to doing it and we will address this problem in our tenure,” he added.

The prime minister said he had stated time and again that there was no quick-fix of the years-old energy problem. “We are heading fast to address this issue, and once the problem is solved, it will be a great service to the nation,” he asserted.

Nawaz Sharif said it was very unfortunate that due to the sit-ins, the Chinese president had to postpone his planned visit to Pakistan. But on the invitation of the Chinese president, he visited China to sign agreements worth billions of dollars.

During his visit, the Chinese president had promised to visit Pakistan, he said, adding he had very close personal relations with the Chinese president like Pak-China friendship.

Referring to the fall in rice prices in the international market, the prime minister said it had also affected Pakistan’s Basmati rice growers. Agriculture, he said, was the backbone of the country’s economy and the government was taking steps to provide support to this important sector.

He said lowering the prices of agricultural inputs and ensuring better return to growers for their products was on the agenda of his government.

The prime minister said he had directed the ministers for finance and food security to take immediate measures to support the farmers, particularly the rice growers.