Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday said that “come what may”, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government would announce various measures to be taken by the federal cabinet, in its upcoming meeting, to reduce the prices of basic food items.
In a tweet, the premier said: “I understand the difficulties ordinary people [including] salaried class are confronting and have decided, come what may, my govt will be announcing various measures that will be taken to reduce prices of basic food items for the common man in cabinet on Tuesday.”
In a subsequent tweet, the premier shared that all the relevant government agencies have begun an “in-depth probe” into the hike in flour and sugar prices.
“The nation should rest assured that all those responsible will be held accountable and penalised,” he added.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics last week reported that the inflation rate had risen to 14.6 per cent in January from 12.6 per cent in the previous month, scaling the highest level in 12 years.
Inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), edged up 1.97pc over the previous month. Last time, the highest inflation in the country was recorded at 17pc in the year 2007-08.
The data released showed that higher food prices, particularly of wheat and flour, pulses, sugar, gur and edible oil, were the largest driver of overall inflation in January.
Taking notice of widespread criticism of the government over unprecedented inflation in the country, Prime Minister Imran on Saturday had directed members of his economic team to take immediate steps to bring down the prices of basic food commodities — especially wheat, wheat flour, sugar, rice and pulses — within a fortnight, sources had said.
One of the participants of the meeting quoted the prime minister as saying that if a government could not provide relief and basic commodities to the masses, it had no right to stay in power.
In the meeting at the premier’s Banigala residence , the sources said, the participants including — Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar, SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Development Zulfi Bukhari, senior PTI leaders Jahangir Tareen and Shahbaz Gill and the chairman of the Utility Stores Corporation — reviewed the demand and supply position of the basic food items.
They said the prime minister had categorically told the economic team that he wanted to see the prices of essential commodities coming down quickly and that he wanted results in just 15 days.
Prime Minister Imran was of the opinion that inflation was the result of “corruption and plundering” of the previous governments. The premier lauded the performance of the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) and said it did a remarkable job during the flour crisis as its sales increased by 800 per cent. He underlined the need for improving the corporation’s infrastructure and assured provision of more funds to it in order to ensure availability of basic food items.