Oil price hike impact passed to masses to avert loan burden: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the government was compelled to pass on the impact of oil prices to consumers to avert additional debt burden on the country.

Speaking to a private television channel during his visit to North Waziristan on Wednesday, which was aired on Friday night, Prime Minister Khan said the country could not afford more loans to keep petroleum prices at the minimum benchmark.

He said devaluation of rupee had impacted prices of petroleum products, pulses, ghee and other imported items, which gave rise to inflation.

“The value of dollar surged from Rs107 to Rs160 during the current government’s term that had also pushed the prices up,” he added.

The prime minister pointed out the exorbitant contracts signed by the previous government with power producing companies.

“The incumbent government could not take such measures as it would further burden the country with debt,” he said.

To a question, Mr Khan said after merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, people of the tribal districts would see a positive change vis-à-vis development of their area under the provincial government’s mega development package.

Asked about the UK-based assets recovery firm, Broadsheet, the prime minister said it had nothing to do with the present government as Gen Pervez Musharraf had signed the contract and backtracked unilaterally by giving NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) to Nawaz Sharif.

“The government has formed a ministerial committee, also comprising judges and lawyers, to probe the case and suggest a way forward to retrieve public money stacked abroad. The government had to pay Broadsheet or face a daily markup of 5,000 pounds,” he said.

Prime Minister Khan also called for an open hearing of the foreign funding case against the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI).

He said open hearing of the case, be it by the Supreme Court or the Election Commission of Pakistan, should be held.

“PTI’s whole funding was legal with complete record of donors, contrary to the opposition parties, which were unable to name their financiers,” he said.

“Would I have called for an open hearing if I was frightened,” he questioned, adding that the allegations of Israeli or Indian funding by an anti-PTI individual were ill-intentioned and mala fide.

Mr Khan said in the past, the opposition had its own handpicked chief election commissioner.

“Now as the incumbent government had appointed the new Election Commission chief with the consultation of the opposition, people should now know whether Israel or India funded PTI or not,” he added.

Ravi Urban project

PM Khan said the Ravi Urban Development Project was significant for economic and social uplift of Lahore and would generate jobs.

“The completion of the project will not only increase economic activity, but also create employment opportunities through quality construction on unused land,” he said.

He was speaking in a meeting on Friday which discussed progress on projects, including Ravi Urban Development, Central Business District, Walton Airport relocation and provision of affordable housing to the people of adjoining small towns.

The meeting was attended by Special Assistant Dr Shahbaz Gill, Naya Pakistan Housing Authority Chairman retired Lt Gen Anwar Ali Haider and senior officials.

Provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht, Adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Dr Salman Shah, Special Assistant to CM Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Ravi Urban Development Authority Chairman Rashid Aziz participated through video-link.

The meeting was informed that negotiations with consultants and design issues in the Ravi City project had entered their final stage. It was also updated on the waste water plant and steps being taken to organise an investors’ conference in the near future.

The participants were briefed about the progress on land acquisition under the project.

Regarding the Central Business District project and the relocation of Walton Airport, the meeting was informed that commercial, retail and residential zoning of the project was in line with international standards.

The proposed projects under which affordable houses for the low income group would be constructed in the vicinity of small towns of Punjab were also discussed.

PM Khan directed the relevant authorities to set timelines and initiate the project at the earliest in view of its usefulness for the poor and low income groups.

The low-cost three-to-five marla housing project will initially cover 25 to 27 districts of the province and will gradually be expanded to 87 other areas.

The Punjab government will arrange land and capital in the initial phase and provide subsidy under mortgage financing in the next phase.

Published in Dawn.