Monday Feb 17, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday issued directives to the government to take effective action against the smuggling and hoarding of basic food items.
PM Imran presided over a high-level meeting attended by senior ministers and advisors. The meeting focused on steps to be taken to bring down prices of essential food items. Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar, National Food Security Minister Khusro Bakhtiyar, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, and the prime minister's special assistants Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Abdul Razzaq Dawood attended the meeting.
The prime minister sought recommendations on how to reduce prices of basic food items and ensure stability in them. "Bringing about stability in prices of basic food items and reducing them as much as possible is the government's top-most priority," said PM Imran during the meeting.
He urged the government to pay special attention to taking steps against smuggling and hoarding of essential food items. PM Imran told his government to review measures on how to reduce wheat prices so a formal announcement in this regard could be made soon.
The government decided to purchase wheat in double the quantity of its previous target to bring about stability in its price and to bridge the gap between its demand and supply. It was also decided during the meeting that prices of sugar will be fixed by the sugar advisory board by having it evaluated by a third party.
It was decided during the meeting that concrete and effective steps will be taken to stop wheat, onions, tomatoes and other food items from being smuggled abroad. The government decided it will forward a proposal to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to bring down the tax levied on basic food items.
Last month, prices of wheat and sugar skyrocketed across the country after it was found that the staple food items had disappeared from markets. An investigation found out that senior government officials were involved in hoarding wheat which created the artificial crisis.
PM Imran announced a "grand operation" against those found guilty of hoarding and smuggling basic food items. Last week the government announced a Rs15 billion package for utility stores to provide relief to the masses.
On Saturday, the prime minister admitted that the wheat and sugar crisis had originated as a result of his government's negligence.
"This was our [government] negligence, I admit this," he said. "I am telling you this today, we are conducting an investigation into this [wheat and sugar crisis] and we are slowly getting to know who is involved. I promise you, whoever is involved in the crisis, we will not leave that person," he had said at an event in Lahore.