Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Thursday said the nation, especially the traders’ community, should adopt austerity measures as a cultural norm to reduce wastage of fuel and electricity amid soaring economic challenges.
The Defence Minister in a joint press conference flanked by Minister of State for Petroleum Division Senator Musadik Masood Malik, Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira, and Minister for Communications and Postal Services Maulana Asad Mehmood urged the nation to support the government for achieving normalcy through hard economic decisions.
Asif said the traders must accept the new timings of closure decided by the federal cabinet to reduce electricity consumption and fuel usage which would benefit the common masses.
“We can control the price hike through internal measures, such as austerity. However, at the national level neither the previous governments nor the societal factions adopted austerity to control unnecessary expenses”, he added.
The Minister while commenting on general behavior towards commodity usage said the public style of oil, water, gas and other consumptions fall under wastage.
“We need a collective response and approach to address the prevailing economic issues. Rest assured that the government will play it’s role in protecting the masses and will take every possible step to ensure relief,” he underlined.
The Minister beseeched the masses to adopt austerity as it was the only solution at the moment amid limited available resources.
The families and individuals after decline in income adopt austerity and it should become part of our culture, the minister said, adding, “The least earning families are bearing the burden of economic crunch. It may not be felt in capital but is more conspicuous deep inside the country”.
He assured the media that under the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif the coalition government was taking the responsibility to reduce inflation and impacts of the economic issues.
The Defence Minister pointed out that if Ukraine-Russia war ended then the fuel prices would nose down and which would benefit our economy. “We have limited resources and are also a nuclear power which is the deterrence that helped us survive all crises”.
Asif while lambasting the fuel hoarders said the profiteers who exploit economic crisis and problems of the poor started stockpiling amid decision of fuel price hike.
“The tanker and petrol pump mafia don’t resist squeezing the poor masses and make them bare naked through their unbridled amassing of fuel”, he said. He queried, “Are these people sympathetic with the nation? No, they are not. They must not exploit public in distress.”
He said the political capital would recover but the national reserves and poor people’s problems, leaving them empty handed, might not recover. “We are fully aware of the problems faced by people and are hopeful that this crisis will reverse in the future.”
The Defence Minister added that there were dozens of companies in the public sector that were not privatized due to previous regimes incompetence as they were incurring US$2.5 billion losses like discos, sui southern etc. going into 90% losses. “These public companies should be governed by private partners and this bleeding of resources must stop which is going for over past four decades. However, its employees should be given a handsome golden handshake so that they may live a suitable life after privatization without any economic loss”, he suggested.
Petroleum Minister Senator Musadik Malik while highlighting the ills of PTI government’s agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told the media that the previous government laid land mines through subsides on fuel and left the country in depleting economic situation.
He added that the decision to increase fuel prices was a difficult decision taken with a heavy heart by the government after many deliberations and discussions.
The decision of PTI government to limit fuel prices till June had a certain condition mentioned in the agreement which the nation should read on the website of IMF, he said.
“Imran Khan had decided that there will be no increase in fuel prices further which had no ratification in any official document and was only a political proclamation”.
If we had delayed price increase for a month than it might cost Rs100 to 120 billion a month to the national exchequer.
“The total defence budget is of Rs1,536 billion whereas this fuel subsidy cost is between Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 billion which has been announced by the ousted prime minister Imran Khan”.
Malik said the entire countries public sector development programme (PSDP) was of Rs727 billion, the federal government expenditure much criticised by the critics was only Rs550 billion and the BISP relief was of Rs360 billion given by the current government.
He added that it was easy for us to shrug our shoulders by claiming it as the decision of the previous government but the government took the responsibility to fix the economic issues.
“40% Pakistanis (80 million people) earning Rs35,000 to 40,000 will be given BISP Relief funding of Rs2,000 as an assistance,” the minister remarked.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira said that it was the need of the hour to change national habits to save the energy and come out from the current crisis of Power and Gas.
He said that people should follow simplicity and austerity in their life style. Without the support of people the government could not survive so it was the major responsibility of all stakeholders to adopt simple ways in their life to cope with current crisis, he added.
“Only political powers could address the longstanding issues of the state and lead the county to the path of development for a bright future of the masses.”
The government was taking hard decisions because national exchequer could not afford more subsidies, he added.
The adviser also thanked the people who had accepted these hard decisions for the sake of the country.
Kaira mentioned that there was no option with the incumbent regime to follow the agreement of former government with IMF.
The incumbent government has decided to provide subsidy only to low-income segments adding that the trend of subsidy for all had been changed.
Kaira also appealed the traders to support the government’s decision for early market closures to save the energy for others and overcome this issue.
Federal Minister for Communications Asad Mehmood suggested that a national commission should be formulated to probe powers behind former Prime Minister Imran Khan to take over the country and left the state in various crises.
He said that the government was taking emergency decision and permanent solution to boost the national economy.
The minister said that all political forces of the government, stakeholders and expert were on-board to do joint efforts for the bright future of the country.
He said a large number of the country’s population was living below the line of poverty amid a weak economy.