Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Monday a major relief package for the inflation-stricken masses by reducing the prices of fuel, electricity and taking other measures which also include exempting IT sector from all taxes.
“We are anticipating that oil prices will not go down amid Ukraine crisis… so instead of increasing their prices we have decided to slash petrol and diesel by Rs10 per litre,” the premier announced in a 40-minute address to the nation in which he discussed country’s foreign policy, Ukraine crisis, inflation and other issues.
Regretting that no new dams were built during the last 50 years, the prime minister said the PTI government has to increase electricity prices owing to the fuel adjustment charges.
“We are building 10 new dams that will be completed in the next 5 to 10 years… and domestic electricity prices will not be affected by the global inflation”
But, despite this, he said the government is also reducing the prices of electricity by Rs5 per unit which will ultimately reduce the bills of the masses “from 20 to 60 per cent”.
“We have also decided that till the next budget we will not increase the prices [of petrol, diesel and electricity].”
“The students who have graduated and are unemployed, we will give them internships so that they can earn. We will grant scholarships to students who want to pursue higher education.”
Moreover, the premier while terming the IT sector as future of the country said that freelancers as well as companies associated with the IT sector have been exempted from all taxes.
He also announced 100 percent exemption from capital gain tax for investments in start-ups.
PM Imran went said that under new industrial policy which he said he will unveil on Tuesday in Lahore, will allow investors to establish industries in Pakistan without disclosing their sources of income.
To enhance purchase power of consumers, the prime minister announced to increase Ehsaas Kafalat stipend by 17 percent to Rs14,000. Eight million poor families will benefit from this facility.
Likewise, under the Kamyab Jawan programme country’s youth and farmers would be given interest-free loans while deserving people would be given subsidised loans to build their homes.
FOREIGN POLICY: “I always wanted that Pakistan pursue independent foreign policy that should be in the country’s interest,” PM Imran said at the beginning of his address.
The premier said when Pakistan joined the US war on terror during former military ruler Pervez Musharraf era, the country paid heavy price in terms of economic and human losses.
“I always pleaded that [Pakistan] had nothing to do with the US war in Afghanistan.”
PM Imran, while referring to the past governments of the PPP and the PML-N, said: “Both the democratic governments remained tight-lipped when the US was carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan… even [former president] Zardari told one US official that ‘we did not care about collateral damage’.”
The prime minister told the nation that the leaders having assets and offshore accounts could never take decisions in nation’s interest and advised the people against voting such leaders.
PM Imran said his recent visit to Russia was aimed at strengthening economic ties with Moscow. “We are planning to import two million tons of wheat as well as gas from Moscow.”
He also briefly discussed his visit to China where he attended Beijing Olympics saying the result of the visit will be visible with the start of the CPEC second phase.
PECA: About the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PECA) law, the prime minister said it was enacted in 2016, and the incumbent government had only made amendments to it.
“A head of state who has not been involved in any corruption is not scared of the media,” the prime minister said, turning down notions that the government was attempting to muzzle the media.
The prime minister said a “majority” of news stories being published and aired in the mainstream media were anti-government, adding that the government aimed at tackling social media through PECA.
He said some journalists resorted to mudslinging when it came to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, accusing that the funds raised by the hospital were used to fund the PTI.
“There are journalists who accept bribe and publish filth [against the government],” he said, claiming that the type of news stories published in Pakistani media cannot be “reported in any other democracy of the world”.
Good journalism is an asset for society and only criticism helps governments improve, but resorting to mudslinging and saying filthy things about women should be stopped, he added.
ECONOMY: Regarding Pakistan’s economy, he said that when the PTI government came into power, it inherited an economy with the biggest current account deficit in the country’s history.
He said the government had to face the “toughest” economic situation to rectify the economy and to top it all off, it also had to deal with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that inflation in the country is because of a hike in international prices, adding that since Pakistan is not isolated from the global economy, it too had to bear the impact of inflation.
He also cited the example of the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, saying that all these countries were also facing “historic” inflation in decades.
Quoting The Economist magazine, the premier said that during the last three years when that entire world was battling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan was ranked among the top three countries that smoothly sailed through the COVID-19 challenge in terms of economy.
“Even the World Bank praised our policies [of smart lockdowns],” the prime minister said.
Addressing the allegations regarding historic high inflation, the premier shared a breakdown of inflation during the previous government’s tenure comparing the rates during the PTI-led government.
He said that during the four years of PTI the inflation cumulative inflation rate stands at 8.5 percent.
During PPP’s first tenure (1971-77), overall inflation soared at a rate of 13.97 percent in the seven-year period. Meanwhile, in their second tenure (1988-89), the country witnessed 8.34 percent inflation in the two years the party ruled.
The premier said that from 1994-96, the inflation in the county increased by 11.69 percent; while during PPP’s fourth tenure (2008-12) inflation rate was recorded at 13.69 percent.
PM Imran said that during Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N’s first tenure (1990-93), the inflation rate stood at 10.08 percent.
During its second term (1997-99) and in the third (2013-17), the inflation rate stood at 7.25 percent and 5.05 percent, respectively.
The prime minister said the incumbent government was praised by the World Bank (WB), the World Economic Forum (WEF), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“If our government was so inept, as dubbed by the opposition, then why would world institutions praise us. Even Bill Gates, when he came to Pakistan, also applauded the government,” he said.
He said the WB had termed Ehsaas Programme among the top four programmes across the globe that worked for providing relief to the people.
The prime minister said Pakistan recorded a historic tax recovery during the previous fiscal year, which was also a 31 percent increase in the tax collection.
“During the pandemic, no other country could have imagined breaking tax collection targets like we did, as we recovered more than 6,000 billion worth of taxes.”