Tuesday December 14, 2021

Ready To Provide Electronic Voting Machines To ECP: Fawad Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Tuesday said the sugar sector reforms committee would be releasing its comprehensive report on Tuesday to get suggestions of all the relevant stakeholders to reform the sector.

“One of the main proposals of the comprehensive report being released on Tuesday has called for deregulating the sugar sector. It also suggests ending the government’s role in price fixation and subsidy [on the sweetener], and [said] only the crushing season would be enforced by the government,” he said while highlighting the new sugar policy contours in a media briefing after the Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

As of now, he said the policy was being sent for public debate spanning over three weeks so that all the stakeholders could review the document and gave their suggestions.

The report was prepared by the committee formed by the government to reform the sugar sector.

Fawad said the federal cabinet was informed that Ministry of Science and Technology was ready to provide electronic voting machines to ECP.

He said Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should issue tender in line with its conditions for procuring electronic voting machines (EVMs).

He said the matters related to Gwadar discussed and it was decided that two federal ministers including Minister for Planning Asad Umar and Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal would visit Gwadar on behalf of the prime minister and listen to the grievances of the residents.

He said the ministers would prepare a comprehensive report of the issue and present it to the prime minister.

He said Rs700 billion package for south Balochistan had been announced but if still the problems of the people of Gwadar were not resolved, there was need to rethink the whole strategy.

He said more spending were being made on the Gwadar clean drinking water than Islamabad.

Fawad said it was welcome development that sensitive price index had registered decline during past three weeks and and it had been observed that prices of essential items were falling.

He said except for Sindh where the provincial government did not cooperate with federation on ration and health cards, the people of Pakistan would get big relief in medical treatment and purchase of essential commodities.

He said from January, the government would bear the health expenditures of lower and middle class people.

He said SPI was showing that tomato and chicken prices came down whereas prices of sugar and wheat prices remained stable.

He said during past two decades agricultural sector was ruined and now Pakistan was forced to import pulses from New Zealand and Australia.

The minister said it was very unfortunate that Pakistan was facing imported inflation.
Fawad said in comparison with the other regional counties Pakistan was the cheapest one.

He said except tea, all essential commodities in Pakistan were available at cheaper rates than India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

He said introduction of health and ration card initiatives would also help bring down inflation as the people would be able to spend the saved money on other items.

He said prices of commodities in Hyderabad and Karachi were still higher than the other cities.

Fawad asked the media to send their teams to analyze on ground situation in Lahore and Karachi and themselves make judgment on prices of essential items.

He said the Sindh government took some measures to improve the situation but still there was need to take further steps.

He said sugar was being sold at Rs97 per kg whereas it was available at Rs90 in rest of the country.

He urged the Sindh government to take more measures to curb inflation as 40 per cent impact on sensitive price index came from Karachi thereby increasing inflation across the country.

The minister said energy and industries ministries handled the issue of urea fertilizer very efficiently and despite shortage of natural gas, they continued supply to fertilizer factories and even now urea was available at Rs1,700 per bag though its price in the international market was Rs 10000 per bag.

He said due to prudent policy of the government, a record 34 million metric tonne fertilizer production was achieved.

As regards the shortage of gas in the country, he said there was a need to understand that the burden of 28 percent population was incurred by 78 percent of people.

The gas being provided in the cities was subsidized, which eventually burdened those 78 percent who were deprived of the commodity and still relying on coal, liquefied petroleum gas, and other resources for heating purposes.

This model was not sustainable, he said while pointing to nine percent yearly depletion of the gas.

He said there was a need to restructure the gas sector due to a massive shortage of the commodity was feared in the future. About 78 percent population, which was deprived of the gas had full right on the commodity as of those who were availing the facility on subsidized rate, he added.

Fawad said the prices of urea witnessed an uptick in the past due to the non-availability of DAP price of which spiked in the international market.

About 70 percent of DAP was imported by the country, he added.
He said there had been a decline in the prices of urea, which brought its average price to Rs1,834. The major reason for a 10 percent decline in prices was the ending of the sowing season.

The minister said Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan briefed the Federal Cabinet on a new variant of the Coronavirus—Omicron.

It was fortunate that 25 percent of the population was fully vaccinated, he said, urging some 20 million, partially vaccinated to take a second jab of the coronavirus vaccines to improve their immunity against the virus.

Fawad said the Federal Cabinet approved change in two way air route between Pakistan and Tajikistan. A Kazakh airline company SCAT had been allowed to start its operations in Pakistan.

He said the forum had accorded approval for amending the agreement between Pakistan and Iraq for air travel. It also gave one year extension to the State Bank of Pakistan for allowing people to change old currency notes worth Rs10, Rs50 and Rs 1,000.

He said the Cabinet had relaxed visa policy for Afghanistan to reduce 30-day duration for availing visa to 15-day.

He said the government had relaxed terms and conditions fro Pakistan NGOs wanting to work in Afghanistan so they could start helping the people of war-torn country.

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