Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said that his predecessor Imran Khan had “set a trap” for his government by decreasing the prices of petroleum products after assessing that the no-confidence vote against him was going to succeed.
“Last night, the government increased the prices of petroleum products with a heavy heart,” Shehbaz said while addressing a ceremony regarding the inauguration of Gwadar East Bay Expressway.
Lashing out at the former government, the prime minister said that it only provided relief to the people after realising that the vote of no-confidence was going to succeed. “They never provided subsidies on wheat and sugar, prices of which affect poor people the most,” he added.
Shehbaz said that his government tried to manage the petrol price initially but admitted that the government was in no position to continue the subsidies on petroleum products.
“We have very limited gas reserves and most of them are depleting… we’re 98 per cent dependent [from outside] to meet our energy needs,” he said while giving reasons for the price hike, adding that the government was forced to take the drastic measure as it had no other option.
The premier said that the government provided Rs2,000 relief to 80 million people. “This money can be used for any purpose i.e. to purchase petrol, wheat etc. We have not limited it to any one commodity,” he added.
Urging the elites to come forward and help out the poor to mitigate the effects of inflation, Shehbaz vowed that the government will take a lead and will also adopt austerity measures.
“I have called a meeting tomorrow. The austerity measures will be implemented on all government officials and it starts with me,” he added.
He said that as a nation, we have to take these drastic steps so that Pakistan can be put back on track for prosperity and progress.
Talking about Gwadar and the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, Shehbaz said that the East Bay link will connect Gwadar to Karachi, adding that the government was aware of the needs of people living in the small port town.
“For 3,200 families living here, China is providing solar panels. Our security agencies are providing excellent security to Chinese residing here as well,” he added.
He admitted that the pace of work in Gwadar has been slow and not satisfactory. “Today, we examined all the development work here. I must admit the pace of development is not satisfactory. Gwadar airport could not be made operational yet. In 2017-2018, we inaugurated it.”
He said that despite being funded by China 100 per cent, the slow progress on the airport project was regrettable.
Shehbaz also regretted that the people of Gwadar could not be provided sufficient drinkable water yet. “Desalination plants should have been built long ago and drinkable water should have been in every household by now.”
He informed that many heavy ships cannot come to Gwadar port as it needed drilling in some locations. “The negligence from the former government halted the process. I have tasked Ahsan Iqbal to take this matter on war footing,” he added.
PM Shehbaz also announced including 0.5 million families from Balochistan in Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and added that all poor families from Gwadar will be covered under it.
He said that the local fishermen in the city needed new boat engines, announcing that the government would give them 2,000 engines free of cost via balloting.
He further said that funds for Gwadar University will be provided in the upcoming budget.