Miftah Ismail again defends hike in petrol price

Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said that this time around, the federal government has not imposed any new tax on petroleum products in the mid-August price hike, which he said was “unavoidable”. He said the POL prices will not be subsidised and the burden will be passed on to the consumers under the IMF deal.

The finance minister supported the August 15 decision to ramp up the petrol price. The price hike was unavoidable under the IMF deal as the government pledged that it would not subsidise petroleum products, he said.

The finance minister set aside criticism directed towards him, saying, “It was the government’s decision to jack up the POL prices. It happened with Shehbaz Sharif signing it. Accordingly, criticising me is not based on facts.”

“The government imposed a levy — Rs20 on petrol and Rs10 on diesel — on August 1st. But no tax was imposed on petroleum products. Only the cost of petroleum products has been taken into account in the new prices,” he said.

The PML-N minister remained non-committal about the party supremo Nawaz Sharif walking away from the meeting related to petroleum products. “This was a private meeting of our party, not a government meeting. Hence, I will not dilate on it,” he said. “I accept Mian Sahib’s point that the people are burdened. However, if diesel and petrol prices slump [in the international market], we also cut them in Pakistan as well.”

Replying to a question regarding politics on the petrol price, Miftah said Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif have taken up steps against their politics while deciding about the POL prices and similarly, the PPP, MQM and JUI-F preferred national interest over their political capital.

He said that the country is out of default risk now and the Pakistani rupee is the world’s best-performing currency in the last 15 days.

“Whether the government stays or goes is not my decision but one thing I can assure is that we are going to control inflation as we have already brought stability in the country’s economy,” he said.

He added that petrol is more expensive in Bangladesh and India than it is in Pakistan.

Miftah said it was his mistake to impose a fixed tax on traders. Last year, the government received Rs5.75 billion rupees from traders and this year, the government will collect Rs27 billion. He also vowed to quit office if he fails to garner Rs27 billion from traders.

Reacting to a question, the minister said, “I and [Railways and Aviation Minister] Saad Rafique did have a disagreement over the PIA’s Roosevelt Hotel [in Manhattan, New York City]. No final decision has been taken regarding Roosevelt Hotel.”

He said, “It is not necessary for Miftah Ismail to be the finance minister. People better than me can come to do the job.”

Miftah Ismail also shared a piece of advice: “We should learn to live within our means as the world is fed up with us seeking loans.”

Summing up the price hike situation, Miftah said, “It’s the decision of Shehbaz Sharif alone whether a hotel or an airline is put on sale or not. Again, it is Shehbaz Sharif who decides to raise or slash the POL prices.”

“It is not for Miftah Ismail to decide it. I just have recommendations,” he added.

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