- Explanations weaken government’s stand
The two reports by FIA regarding the sugar and wheat crises raise more questions than they answer. Despite this the government’s propaganda machinery wants the whole country to be grateful to the Prime Minister for displaying resolve to punish those responsible for price hikes regardless of their political affiliations.
A prominent PTI leader and co-industrialists have been accused of exporting sugar, benefitting from subsidies and profiteering from rise in the domestic price of sugar. Similar allegations have been leveled against those who exported wheat and received subsidies. The opposition had accused the government of giving a free hand to the mafia in its ranks. Facing a tough time from the opposition and trying to prove it had nothing to do with the export or the rise in prices, the government ordered the FIA to investigate the issue.
Neither sugar nor wheat could have been exported without the government’s permission. So why blame exporters? SAPM Firdous Ashiq Awan has conceded that the Prime Minister had allowed the export of surplus stocks of sugar to support sugarcane growers with a condition that there will be no shortage of the commodity. Earlier Mr Jahangir Tarin had told media that the decision to export surplus sugar was taken by a committee presided over by the then Finance Minister Asad Umar and that the rise in the sugar price was caused by the government’s populist decision to enhance the sugarcane rate beyond a reasonable limit. The sugar price being lower in the international market it could not have been exported without the government’s subsidy.
The FIA report has held the governments of all the four provinces and federal agency Passco responsible for failing to meet the wheat procurement targets, thus causing wheat shortage. Former Punjab Food Minster Samiullah Chaudhry maintains that the decision to export wheat despite the shortage was made at a high-level meeting chaired by then Federal Finance Minister Asad Umar. The decision was subsequently endorsed by the Punjab cabinet presided over by CM Usman Buzdar, overruling Mr Chaudhry who opposed it
Conclusion: The Prime Minister, his former Finance Minister and the Punjab Chief Minister have to blame themselves for the consequences of their own decisions instead of looking for scapegoats.