No more burden on poor masses: Time for elite to sacrifice: PM

Says PTI govt set trap for incumbent govt by reducing petroleum pricesVows short-term steps to cut inflation, poverty ahead of next polls

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday said that having increased the petroleum prices again with a heavy heart, the government believes that any more burden on the poor masses would be unjust and it is time for the elite class to make sacrifices.

“I have called a meeting tomorrow… The billionaire elite should come forward and make sacrifices for the poor masses and provide their resources through austerity… This will start from me, ministers, advisors, federal and provincial secretaries, and government officers,” the prime minister said. Addressing the inauguration ceremony of Eastbay Expressway and groundbreaking of seven more development projects for Gwadar, he said the elite would have to play their part in that noble cause.

“This is their duty. I will ensure that they shower their resources on the poor and bear strict measures,” he remarked. A component of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the six-lane Eastbay Expressway would connect Gwadar Port with Makran Coastal Highway, also providing a link to Karachi. The prime minister told the gathering that the government tried to avert the burden of oil price hike, but it was done with a heavy heart as 90% of the country’s needs were met through imported oil.

He said that foreseeing the success of the vote of no-confidence against it, the previous regime reduced the POL prices to trap the incumbent government. He questioned how the government could provide subsidy on imported oil through loans. He said the government had announced a relief package of Rs2,000 for each family under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) to mitigate the impact of the oil price hike. The prime minister, who earlier unveiled the plaques of projects, expressed dissatisfaction over the slow pace of work.

He broke ground for the Gwadar Seawater Desalination Plant by China Aid, Jingtal Gwadar Private Limited, Hangmei Lubricant Plant, Hangeng Agricultural Industrial Park, Gwadar Expo Center and Gwadar Fertilizer Plant, besides distribution of 3,000 solar panels. He also took an overview of the development projects, including the under-construction Gwadar Airport, which is being built using Chinese grant and faces a delay in completion.

Shehbaz said the Eastbay Expressway would also provide a link to Karachi to ease the transportation of goods. A desalination plant would be installed and a hospital has been built for the people of Gwadar, he said while noting that 3,200 solar panels would be distributed among the families there. He said instead of wasting billions on water reservoirs, a desalination plant should have been installed to cope with the water needs of Gwadar. The prime minister said that in order to prevent any more delay in the projects, he had directed strict adherence to the timelines.

He assured that due to the silting, the depth of Gwadar sea port was reducing and ordered dredging to allow heavy ships. He suggested a G2G model for installation of the desalination plant and called for initiating talks with the Chinese side without any delay. Proposing a model to address the issue of power supply to Gwadar, he said the government should award a contract to any private company to provide solar panels to the households, and bank loans should be arranged for them. Proposing a second model, the prime minister said a solar plant of 100-150 megawatt should be installed in Gwadar to provide off-grid power supply to the people.

Shehbaz Sharif also announced that in the first phase, the federal government would provide 2,000 boat engines to the fishermen through balloting. It would also allocate funds for the establishment of a university in Gwadar to ensure its timely completion. The prime minister said the federal government would enroll another 500,000 poor people as beneficiaries of the BISP, with 100% cover to the poor people of Gwadar.

Also, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the next general election in the country will be held within 15 months and his goal, meanwhile, would be to address the challenges of inflation and poverty. “My vision is to rebuild Pakistan and try my best to decrease poverty and cut the budget of government sector to ensure austerity,” he said in an interview with Turkish state-television TRT, during his three-day official visit to Ankara. PM Sharif said his government would take short-term measures ahead of the elections to address the problems faced by the general public.