Govt subsidising purchases of basic items to help weaker middle class: Hafeez Shaikh

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh speaks during a press briefing in Islamabad, Pakistan. The News/Files

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said Sunday the PTI government was subsidising the purchase of essential goods to “help the weaker middle class”.

Talking to media here in the federal capital, Shaikh termed the efforts employed to not allow essential goods’ prices to rise was “a challenge” for the PTI regime. Reducing the taxes on imported goods, too, is “a challenge for us”, he added.

Shaikh said that “when [Prime Minister] Imran Khan’s government came into power, the fiscal deficit was $20 billion”. Exports under the preceding leadership of the PML-N were zero, he noted.

The finance minister mentioned that a $20-billion external deficit has now been turned into a surplus. The environment created due to the coronavirus pandemic also boosted Pakistan’s exports, he added.

As the pandemic hit, the PTI regime introduced a policy to help the vulnerable group of the Pakistani people experiencing economic hardship through the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, the budget of which Sheikh said was increased by the government from Rs100 billion to Rs200 billion.

“The prime minister’s first priority is to stop the rise in prices,” he underscored but noted that it was “a challenge” for the PTI government as was reducing the taxes on imported goods.

Talking about the Senate elections, he said he wished for the polls to be transparent. “Political parties are contesting the Senate elections and the polls should not be made personal,” he stressed.

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