ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday had a heated debate on the fixation of support price for the upcoming crop of wheat as ministers offered a divided opinion over the issue.
The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, discussed the overall political and economic situation of the country.
According to a source, at least four cabinet ministers strongly supported fixing wheat support price at Rs1,800 but the rest of the cabinet wanted to keep the support price minimum as raising the wheat price would lead to skyrocketing prices.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Nadeem Afzal Chan supported the idea for raising the price of wheat to Rs1,800 and said that if the support price of wheat did not increase, wheat production would decline next year.
Federal Minister Sheikh Rasheed opposed fixing the price, as this could lead to skyrocketing prices in two months.
He further said that the mafia was behind the increase in the support price of wheat and the country could not afford to bear more inflation.
During the debate, the prime minister said that he would take steps to ensure that there was no crisis in wheat and flour and would take concrete steps to reduce inflation.
The cabinet also decided not to hold any more public meetings due to the spread of coronavirus.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar said that the government would be held responsible if the coronavirus pandemic got out of control and said the government should lead by example.
Defence Minister Pervez Khattak suggested that the government may be allowed to hold a public meeting on the opening of the Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) which was a landmark step to push China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The source said that the federal cabinet agreed with Asad Umar’s proposal to cancel the meetings. Due to cabinet concerns, Rashakai’s meeting is also likely to be cancelled.
Furthermore, the cabinet members opined that the subsidy is only the right of the poorest people and backward areas.
SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on the rationalisation of subsidies and grants, including a comparative overview of revenues and expenditure, subsidies and grants for the last 13 years.
The SAPM said that at present most of the sectors of the economy including energy, agriculture, industry and other sectors are being given subsidies and grants which is putting an undue burden on the national exchequer. At present, the total volume of subsidies and grants is 4.5 per cent of GDP, he added.
The premier directed that a mechanism of targeted subsidy should be devised which would benefit the poor and backward areas in particular.
It is a great achievement of the present government that the deposits of government institutions in the scheduled banks have been transferred to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), which has resulted in significant savings, he added.
He also directed that a detailed review of all the sectors in which targeted subsidy could be given to the poor and backward areas and a comprehensive plan with a period of implementation be presented.
The cabinet approved the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) to be given the status of registrar under Geographical Indication (GI) registration.
This approval has been given to give a distinct identity to Pakistan’s products and products in the world. Pakistan’s speciality products including basmati rice, canoe, mango, ajrak, cutlery, etc. are linked to the geographical identity of the country and thanks to them, Pakistan’s exports have a unique identity.
Meanwhile, the summary for nominations of the board of directors for Saindak Metals Limited and re-organization of the Pharmacy Council of Pakistan were put on hold.