Talking to the media on Sunday, Finance Minister Mr. Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said that controlling prices of necessities, and not allowing them to rise, “a challenge” for the government.
The incumbent government, like every other, is trying to stabilize GDP, while keeping inflation in check. Mr. Sheikh said that reducing the taxes on imported goods as well is, “a challenge for [the PTI government]”, although they are still doing it to “help the weaker middle class” get them at a subsidized rate.
Commenting on the fiscal situation of Pakistan he said that when the government came to power, “the fiscal deficit was $20 billion.” This means that the government’s expenditure was $20 billion higher than the revenue. He informed that exports were almost nonexistent in the previous government’s regime.
However, he said, that the deficit has turned to surplus under this government. A part of it can be attributed to the global environment, where the Pakistani industry (especially textile) was operating while the other major global competitors. This ended up giving us an absolute advantage in terms of increased exports, increasing the government’s revenue.
Commenting on the government’s social welfare initiative, Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, he said that it helped the most vulnerable during the pandemic. According to the finance minister, the budget for this program was increased by the government from Rs100 billion to Rs 200 billion.
“The prime minister’s first priority is to stop the rise in prices,” he highlighted but also added that it had been “a challenge” for the PTI government.
Previously Imran Khan himself had made such a statement saying, the government will use “all resources at the state’s disposal” to bring down food prices. This came when the food prices were high in the winter of 2020.
Starting Monday in coming week, our govt will use all the resources at the disposal of the state to bring down food prices. We are already examining causes of the price hikes: whether there is a genuine supply shortage or simply hoarding by mafias; smuggling, if any;— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 10, 2020
This point from the finance minister can be the government’s response to severe criticism seen in the National Assembly on Friday, where Qaiser Sheikh of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) highlighted in a motion that the devaluation of the currency has led to increasing prices of goods that are necessities, including the petroleum products.
He said indirect taxes such as petroleum levy are affecting the poor segments of society. He asked the government to promote small and medium enterprises as per its commitment.