Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday said he has ordered relevant ministries to ensure the global reduction in the prices of fuel products is passed down to the common citizenry as a “relief” measure amidst rampant inflation.
“I have ordered the ministries of petroleum and finance to pass on the reduction in the prices of POL [petroleum, oil and lubricant] products in the international market to people,” he wrote in a posting on Twitter. “They have faced economic difficulties and the relief is their right,” he added.
In subsequent Twitter posts, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said the decision to pass on the full extent of the price drop to the public had been taken in a meeting between the prime minister and senior officials of the relevant ministries and the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.
Speaking with a private broadcaster on Tuesday evening, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said a summary to reduce petroleum prices would be forwarded to the prime minister on Wednesday (tomorrow) for necessary action. “After receiving the summary from the petroleum division, we will try to send it to the P.M. House,” he said, stressing the incumbent government “sincerely” wished to pass on the benefit of lower global petroleum prices to people without any delay.
In the past week, the international prices of Brent crude have dropped below $100 per barrel, with observers crediting the development on a strengthening dollar; lower demand from China amidst COVID-related lockdowns; and mounting fears of a new global recession. It is unclear how much of this reduction would be passed onto Pakistani consumers, but experts say it could range from Rs. 15-30/liter. The timing of the global price drop would also likely prove beneficial to the incumbent government, as it prepares to contest by-elections on 20 seats of the Punjab Assembly on July 17, which could provoke either relief or crisis for the PMLN-led provincial government.
The PMLN-led coalition government at the center has come under heavy criticism due to the massive increase in petroleum prices under its tenure since the end of May. Withdrawing unfunded subsidies announced by ousted prime minister Imran Khan, the government has raised the prices of petrol by Rs. 99/liter; high-speed diesel Rs. 132.39; kerosene Rs. 111.95; and light diesel oil Rs. 100.59 in less than two months, triggering further inflation and calls for relief for the most impoverished.