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Sharif unveils relief package to counter soaring petrol prices and cost of living

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday announced a relief package worth Rs28 billion on petrol purchases for 14 million poor families to counter the rising cost of living inflation, a day after his government jacked up prices of petroleum products by Rs30 a litre.

In his maiden address to the nation after becoming the prime minister, Sharif said every family registered with the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) will get a monthly relief of Rs2,000 on petrol purchases, saying that about one-third of the population, or 85 million people, will benefit from the measures.

“We took the tough decision to increase the fuel prices as global [petroleum] prices are rising […] the previous government provided subsidies on fuel for political gains,” he added.

“This tough decision is an important step to steer the country out of crisis and stabilise.”

The prime minister said the government took the difficult decision of raising the prices of petroleum products to save Pakistan’s economy from a precarious situation and economic default.

The premier said the stipend will be given to the deserving families through Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). In addition, the government-run utility stores across the country have been directed to sell a 10kg flour bag at Rs400, he informed.

Shehbaz Sharif blamed former prime minister Imran Khan’s government for destroying the country’s economy, saying that the last PTI regime accepted the tough conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which, he said made the lives of the masses miserable.

The Premier said that Imran Khan was ousted from power on public demand and through democratic means. “The people of Pakistan demanded to get rid of the incompetent and corrupt rulers. That is why we accepted the challenge.”

He added: “We are ready to make tough decisions and we will take all those decisions necessary for the prosperity of the country.”

Recalling the last tenure of the PML-N, PM Shehbaz said his party built several developmental projects and ended load-shedding from the country.

Earlier, Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb had earlier said the PM would announce the coalition government’s policy decisions on important issues faced by the nation. Pakistan Television (PTV) broadcasted the address at 9:00 pm.

The announcement came after the federal government increased petroleum product prices by Rs30 per litre, or up to one-fourth of their existing prices, paving the way for reaching a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund by June 12.

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail made the decision public in an unscheduled news conference after Prime Minister Shehbaz gave him the go-ahead in a party meeting.

PM WOOS JAPANESE INVESTORS

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Friday while underscoring his government’s efforts for creating business-friendly opportunities, invited new Japanese companies to avail themselves of such opportunities and invest in Pakistan.

The prime minister, in a meeting with Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan Mitsuhiro Wada here, assured that the government would extend all possible facilitation to Japanese investors.

Conveying Pakistan’s firm resolve to elevate this relationship to new heights, the prime minister emphasized the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation, especially in the areas of trade, development, education, IT, climate change, and infrastructure.

During the course of their conversation, views were exchanged on further strengthening the existing Pakistan-Japan bilateral relationship.

The prime minister recalled that the year 2022 was being observed as the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

He also appreciated that the special events being organized to commemorate this landmark occasion were a reflection of the special relationship that Pakistan enjoyed with Japan.

The prime minister was deeply appreciative of JICA’s ongoing programmes and meaningful contribution to supporting socio-economic and development sectors in Pakistan.

Ambassador Wada recalled Japan’s longstanding bilateral cooperation with Pakistan in diverse fields and expressed his government’s commitment to working together for the achievement of shared goals and objectives.

The ambassador also conveyed Japan’s appreciation for Pakistan’s facilitation in the post-15 August 2021 evacuation of Japanese nationals from Afghanistan, following the takeover of the Taliban.

While underlining the need to maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges, the prime minister extended a cordial invitation to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to undertake a visit to Pakistan, at an early date.

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