Govt opts to import wheat

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) held here on Monday under the chair of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has allowed import of 0.3 million tonnes of wheat to decrease the local wheat price and meet the domestic requirement. Under the decision, the wheat would be imported by the private sector by withdrawing regulatory duty to the extent of the approved quantity. The ECC further decided that the wheat to be imported under the ECC decision would be allowed in the country until 31st March 2020 to ensure that the local wheat to be available from the start of April was picked up at the right price from the market. The ECC also issued instruction for the immediate release of stocks held by the PASSCO and the provincial departments. Besides the import of wheat, the ECC approved a proposal by the Ministry of Industries and Production to reduce the GIDC on gas consumed by the fertilizer manufacturers from Rs 405 to Rs 5 per bag so that this benefit could be passed on to the farmers. ECC also allowed the raising of Rs 200 billion on the request of Ministry of Energy (Power Division) from the Islamic Banks as fresh facility through Power Holding Limited by way of issuance of Pakistan Energy Sukuk-II against assets of the Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Pervaiz Rasheed criticized government for exporting more than 0.6 million tonnes of wheat and said that wheat, sugar and dollar crises benefitted owners of planes and kitchens. Senator Muzaffar Shah demanded investigation to reveal culprits behind the flour crises. Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Siraj ul Haq said that government has even increased price of death certificate. He was pointing to an earlier statement by PM Imran Khan in which he said that peace can only be found in grave. Responding to criticism by opposition parties, government senator Mohsin Aziz acknowledged suffering of public due to flour crises and claimed that situation will significantly improve in next two days. Chairman Senate summons Minister for Food Security on Tuesday (tomorrow) to answer questions regarding present crises of flour shortage. Members of the Senate on Monday lambasted the government for the wheat shortage and rising prices of essential commodities in the country, while also condemning a federal minister’s remarks on the issue, which they said made “a mockery of the people of Pakistan”. “This issue concerns the people of Pakistan,” said Senator Sirajul Haq, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, during Monday’s session. “Pakistan is an agricultural economy,” he said, adding that it is the eighth-largest wheat producing country in the world. “Despite this, the people of Pakistan are desperate for roti [bread],” lamented Haq. “What is cruel is that a federal minister, standing among people, says that people eat more bread in November and December, which has caused the [wheat] shortage,” said Haq. “Do these people have hearts of stone?” he questioned, adding that the minister had made a joke out of the people of Pakistan. Haq was referring to Federal Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid’s remarks at a press conference on Saturday, where he was asked about the wheat shortage. “In November and December, people eat more bread than usual,” Rashid had said, eliciting laughter from the room. “It’s not a joke, a study backs my claims,” he had added. During the Senate session, Haq and other senators censured the government for Rashid’s remarks. “The world is making fun of us, saying people have walked on the moon and in Pakistan, people are waiting in lines for a bag of wheat.” Haq’s comments were echoed by Senator Usman Kakar of the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party, who questioned who was responsible for the crisis.