Govt is going to sign 3-year deal with IMF: PM

Shehbaz Sharif announces Rs50b relief package for 25 million domestic power consumers using upto 200 units per month. Says IMF taken on board with regard to relief package. Federal govt has slashed this amount from its development budget. Taxes worth Rs1200 billion being evaded on Karachi Port: PM.

ISLAMABAD  -   Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday announced Rs 50 billion package to provide a relief of upto Rs 7 per unit to around 25 million domestic power consumers, falling in the protected category for three months till September.

“Today, an amount of Rs 50 billion has been allocated to provide a relief of Rs 4-7 per unit as a concession to our protected category consumers using up to 200 units a month for three months period from July to September. This will benefit around 25 million domestic power consumers which constitute around 94% of the total consumer base,” the prime minister said addressing a ceremony held to discuss the prevailing issues related to electricity bills and reforms in the power sector.

He said that the federal government had slashed the said amount from its development budget to realise its commitment to public relief, contrary to the hollow claims of the previous governments. He also assured the people of further relief as the government got a fiscal space consequent to its ongoing measures of taxing the elite class, expanding the tax net, closing the non-performing entities and plugging the holes, causing financial leakages.

He told the gathering of federal ministers and senior government officers that during its previous 16-month stint, the coalition government saved the country from default by putting its politics at stake.

Referring to the PTI-led government in the past, the prime minister recalled the tall claims of eliminating corruption within 90 days and repatriating $300 billion from abroad. Instead, he said the sugar and wheat scams surfaced and the 190 million pounds coming from the UK through the NCA could not land in the national kitty as was supposed to be done. Similarly, the same government announced a sudden decrease in oil prices causing loss to the national kitty, just for political gains, at a time when the prices were skyrocketing in the global market.

The prime minister said that under the leadership of Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the incumbent government took responsibility for public service and would collectively face the challenges to put the country on track to progress. He said the government was going to sign a three-year programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and had also taken it on board about the relief announced for the domestic power consumers.

He said on Monday, the federal and Balochistan provincial governments had reached an agreement to solarise around 28,000 tube-wells in the province to save annual Rs80-90 billion as the consumers were defaulting payment of power bills.

During the last decade, around Rs 500 billion went down the drain this way, therefore the government decided to disconnect their power connection and solarise all the said tube-wells costing Rs 55 billion to be borne by the federal and provincial governments with 70/30 proportion respectively.

“The same model will be launched in other provinces as around a million tube-wells are being run on imported oil having a financial implication of $3.5 billion on foreign exchange,” he said and told the participants that a business model was being prepared in this regard.

Prime Minister Shehbaz said in the annual budget, new taxes have been imposed on the real estate sector to generate around Rs100 billion and that the salaried class was justified to protest the tax burden. The time has come for the elite class to pay back to the country, he remarked.

Mentioning the $5 billion being spent annually on freight of import and export, he said the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation was running a fleet of only 12 ships against an annual budget of Rs 5 billion, contrary to hundreds of ships in the fleet of other countries like Bangladesh.

“In the future, there is only one way of getting relief - save billions and trillions going to corruption,” he remarked. He also highlighted that the taxes worth Rs1200 billion were being evaded on Karachi Port, in addition to another Rs2700 billion worth of tax claims pending with the courts.  

“These are the challenges and parasites which are eating up the country. If we have to make the country prosper, we will have to get rid of loans and begging. The only way is to make efforts and make the elite class pay back to the country,” he added and also called for exploiting the immense potential in agriculture, information technology, mining and mineral sectors.

‘Priority measures for economic revival’

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also said Tuesday that the government was taking effective measures for economic revival by carrying out the digitisation of the economy including the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), and privatisation of the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

The prime minister, in a meeting with a delegation led by British Educationist and former Head of British Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit Sir Michael Bayldon Barber, said the decades-old ties between Pakistan and the United Kingdom were getting stronger with the passage of time.

He said that Pakistan greatly valued its relations with the UK as being a valued partner, adding the UK was assisting Pakistan in multiple sectors for which the government was grateful to them.

The prime minister reiterated the resolve to further strengthen the bilateral relation.

He told the delegation that the government was pursuing a policy of downsizing and abolishing the low-performing entities to reduce its expenditures.

The prime minister said that the government was taking measures to boost exports and tax base as the country had immense potential for exports related to information technology and agriculture.

During the briefing, the delegation members were told that a task management system had been established to examine the performance of the federal ministries.

Sir Michael Barber appreciated the government’s economic revival plan and said that it was moving in the right direction in its endeavours for economic reforms.

The delegation head expressed the hope that under the prime minister’s leadership, Pakistan would soon get rid of economic challenges and assured UK’s cooperation in all sectors.

Federal ministers Ahad Khan Cheema, Muhammad Aurangzeb and Rana Tanveer Hussain, Minister of State Shaza Fatima Khawaja, PM’s Coordinator Rana Ehsan Afzal, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Jahanzeb Khan and relevant senior officers attended the meeting.

The world must recognise Pakistan hosting huge refugee population: PM

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday urged the international community to recognise the burden being shouldered by Pakistan while hosting such a large refugee population and demonstrate collective responsibility.

The prime minister, in a meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi at the PM House, reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to address the protection and safety needs of people in vulnerable situations and underscored that the international community needed to be mindful of the socio-economic challenges and security threats being faced by Pakistan in this regard, according to a PM Office press release.

While recalling Pakistan’s longstanding partnership with UNHCR, the prime minister appreciated the UN agency’s support to Pakistan in hosting Afghan refugees for over four decades. He noted that despite numerous challenges, Pakistan had hosted Afghan refugees with exemplary respect and dignity.

He sought UNHCR’s support in mobilizing adequate resources to supplement Pakistan’s efforts in this regard and urged the UN body to play its role in promoting durable solutions to address the situation of Afghan refugees, including through safe and dignified return and reintegration in their homeland, as well as third-country relocation.

The UN High Commissioner expressed gratitude for Pakistan’s generosity and hospitality in hosting millions of Afghan refugees for the past many decades and assured that UNHCR would continue to work closely with Pakistan to fulfill the basic needs of the Afghan refugees.

UN High Commissioner Grandi is on a three-day official visit to Pakistan from July 7-9, 2024.

Wrapping up a three-day visit, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has called for a bolstering of efforts towards longer-term solutions for Afghans in Pakistan, and support for their host communities.

Grandi visited Peshawar and Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, meeting with Afghan refugees in urban settings as well as in a refugee village. People he met shared a message of anxiety regarding their situation, but also of their desire to contribute to their communities in Pakistan, as well as eventually in Afghanistan.

In Islamabad, Grandi met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Amir Muqam, along with senior officials from the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.

During his discussions, the High Commissioner called for the timely extension of the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards, a critical identity document held by over 1.3 million Afghan refugees. Grandi expressed appreciation that the “Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan” had been suspended and sought assurances that it would remain on hold. He called for Pakistan’s proud tradition of hospitality towards those Afghans with international protection needs to continue.

Recognizing the challenges facing the country and the admirable generosity of the Government of Pakistan over 45 years of hosting Afghan refugees, Grandi called for an urgent reset of the aid model towards solutions and responsibility sharing, including fostering new partnerships and developing innovative approaches to addressing the protracted displacement situation.

“We need to seize this opportunity to accelerate solutions, and have a bigger, broader vision for the Afghan people in Pakistan,” he noted.

The High Commissioner offered to work towards a dialogue later this year, which will bring together key stakeholders (including government representatives, development actors, and the private sector) to develop a package of solutions that benefits both the Afghan population living in Pakistan and the host country itself.

Grandi also committed to redoubling efforts aimed at creating conditions conducive for returns to Afghanistan including from the perspective of material conditions, access to services, job opportunities, as well as rights – paving the way for sustainable voluntary returns in the future.

In the meantime, as Pakistan continues to host some 3 million Afghans, all solutions need to be explored in addition to voluntary repatriation, including third country resettlement and longer-term solutions within Pakistan.