Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Saturday that the government’s relief package, which was announced by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif a day earlier, would help protect the poor people from the “storm of inflation” left by the previous PTI government and the recent hike in fuel prices.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he shared the criteria for availing the ‘Sasta Petrol, Sasta Diesel’ relief package. Women, whose household income was less than Rs40,000 per month, could text their CNIC (computerised national identity card) numbers on 786 or call that number to receive Rs2,000, he said.

“We cannot provide complete relief as we do not have the resources, but we will do all we can.”

The relief amount would be incorporated in the upcoming budget which would be presented in the National Assembly next month, Ismail added.

The minister said the government would also augment the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), adding that when the government reduced fuel prices in line with international rates, it would also reduce the increased relief payments.

He clarified that the relief package was not limited to motorcycle owners but included anyone whose monthly household income was below Rs40,000. People who were already BISP beneficiaries need not send their details on 786 since they would automatically receive the amount, he added.

Sharing details, Ismail said that under the relief package, 14 million households would receive the amount. “A sum of Rs2,000 will be given in June and it will cost the government Rs28 billion. Besides 3.3 million BISP beneficiaries, this [package] covers 6.7 million households with poverty scores less than 37.

“This money will be given to the poorest families,” he said. “We have the data and phone numbers of BISP recipients, we will start giving them the money from June 1.”

However, the money would only be given to the women of the household, he said.

He said that the money given through the relief package amounted to five percent of the income of a household earning less than Rs40,000 monthly and 8 percent of the income of a household earning Rs31,333 or less monthly.

The previous PTI government was giving subsidies to the rich while the incumbent government was targeting it towards the poor, Ismail said.

He said that according to the PTI government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), all subsidies were to be removed, the tax levy increased to Rs30 and a sales tax imposed, which would raise the price of diesel to Rs300 per litre and petrol to Rs276 per litre.

“We are not going by this formula,” he insisted.

To a question, Ismail said he did not know whether fuel prices would be increased again on June 1. “I don’t think it will be appropriate to raise the prices again in a few days since we have already increased them on the 26th but I am not sure.”

He also said he had not received a summary to increase power tariffs.


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