Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a total subsidy of Rs. 10 billion—with Rs. 2 billion to be disbursed every month over the next five months—for the Utility Stores Corporation to ensure the provision of basic commodities at affordable rates.
The proposed package aims at providing flour, sugar, rice and pulses at affordable price in Utility Stores across Pakistan, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan told journalists in Islamabad. She said the Utility Stores had been directed to sell 20kg flour bags at Rs. 800, as well as pulses at 15-20 percent below-market rates.
Apprising media about the decisions taken by the cabinet on Tuesday, Awan said the government would soon devise a strategy to keep a check on prices of essential edible items. She said a multi-pronged strategy had been decided to curb rising inflation in various sectors. The cabinet has approved importing sugar to ensure its supply in the open market, she said, adding exports had been banned. A day earlier, the Economic Coordination Committee had said the country had sufficient sugar stocks for now, and importing the commodity was not yet necessary.
According to Awan, the government also hopes to open 2,000 ‘Youth Stores’ across Pakistan under the umbrella of the Kamyab Jawan Youth Program, which provides interest-free loans for new business ventures. This initiative would provide direct employment to 400,000 youth, while indirectly benefiting 800,000 more, she claimed. In addition, she said, 12 new cash-and-carry Utility Stores would be opened in the country’s biggest cities to ensure the common man had access to affordable edible items.
Under the cabinet’s plans to curb inflation, the Utility Stores would also provide basic commodities at the subsidized rates to “NanBais” and small tuck shops, said the adviser to the P.M. She said five duty free zones would be created along the Afghan border to stop illegal smuggling of basic commodities.
Detailing the government’s ongoing welfare projects, Awan said 4.3 million women were being given Rs. 2,000/month under the Ehsaas Program. In addition, she said, 20,000 women would benefit from the Ehsaas Nutrition Program, while the government planned to open 100 more langer khanas this year.
Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan had issued directions during the cabinet meeting to devise a mechanism to reduce the prices of gas and electricity in phase-wise manner to reduce the burden of inflation on people. She claimed a report on what had caused inflation would soon be shared with the media and general public.
According to the special assistant, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza briefed the cabinet about ongoing initiatives to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan. He also updated the prime minister on the situation of Pakistani students stranded in China since the outbreak.