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Bureaucrats not following orders, complain ministers


ISLAMABAD:

The federal cabinet on Tuesday had a prolonged discussion on the rising inflation in the country wherein the ministers allegedly accused the bureaucracy of not following the government’s orders to control price hike of commodities and called for identifying those who misled the cabinet by presenting wrong figures on wheat and sugar stocks.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who chaired the session, reiterated that he would not rest until the inflation was brought under control.

Sources said that both the food minister and the food secretary disagreed with the allegations.

Federal Minister for National Food Security Fakhar Imam told the premier that he along with the food security secretary took charge of the ministry in April and were not responsible for the decisions made in February, adding that he was still at the PM’s disposal if he was not satisfied with his performance.

The cabinet agreed to import wheat and sugar after detailed briefings by the Ministry of National Food Security, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industries and Production on the current stock of the commodities and their future requirements.

During the discussion, a special package for the farmers to cover the cost of production of essential commodities as well as a subsidy of Rs32 billion on fertilisers came under discussion.

The premier directed the food ministry to formulate a comprehensive package for the cultivators.

The food ministry informed the cabinet that the availability of 1.5 million metric tonnes of wheat would be ensured in the country by January 31, 2021.

On sugar import, the production ministry stated that 266,939 metric tonnes of commodity was currently available in the country.

The ministry noted that the private sector had already imported 99,639 metric tonnes of sugar and another 52,951 metric tonnes would be available in November.

The cabinet was told that the required 300,000 metric tonnes of sugar would be available by November 30, 2020.

Following the briefings, the premier directed that a systematic and coordinated approach should be devised to assess the needs of wheat and sugar in a timely manner, adding that the difficulties in import should be rectified so that there was no shortage of both the commodities in the country.

The prime minister also stressed on the need to ensure the quality of imported wheat.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet strongly condemned French President Emmanuel Macron for hurting the feelings of Muslims by allowing display of blasphemous sketches on government buildings and noted that the sentiments of the nation would be fully expressed at every forum, including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

At the outset of the meeting, the prime minister took a stern notice of the issue and observed that blasphemy was intolerable and unacceptable for any Muslim.

The cabinet decided to convey the concerns of the Pakistani nation and the Ummah to the world using the OIC platform.

After deliberating on the availability of wheat and sugar, the Ministry of Railways gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on the restructuring of Pakistan Railways.

The cabinet was apprised that a comprehensive plan was being prepared to make the railways a profitable and independent entity and that the reorganisation was in line with the Supreme Court’s directives and had been endorsed by the finance and law ministries as well as the Establishment Division.

PM Imran expressed the hope that the plan would help in timely completion of ML-1 project and directed the authorities concerned to complete the process of restructuring within the stipulated period.

On the other agenda items, the cabinet was informed that currently a total of 129 posts of CEOs and managing directors were vacant in the federal government of which 33 posts were unfilled due to merger process between different agencies.

The premier asked all the ministries to fill the vacancies within three months and sought a report on those posts which remain empty due to any reason in the next meeting.

Among other things, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on basic economic indicators, saying that the current account balance had increased from July to August in the current financial year to 1.2% of the GDP, which was a positive economic development.

He maintained that exports had increased by 27% over the corresponding period last year, adding that the value of the rupee was stabilising.

The minister said that from July to August, Rs1,004 billion had been collected in taxes, which exceeded the target and that the largescale manufacturing sector recorded a growth of 3.7% over the same period last year.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Law briefed the cabinet about reforms in the Pakistan Penal Code and other laws.

The cabinet directed the law ministry to submit the draft of reforms to the Cabinet Committee on Legal Reforms.

The body approved the proposed amendments to the International Civil Aviation Convention by the Ministry of Aviation and allowed four inspection companies to inspect the quality of wheat on behalf of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan before importing the commodity.

The cabinet also approved the export of cattle to the Gulf countries.

It also sanctioned the appointment of the Ministry of Aviation secretary as Civil Aviation Authority additional director general until December 31, 2020.

However, as per the directions of the Supreme Court, necessary amendments had been made in the relevant law and an advertisement was issued to solicit candidates from the private sector. This process will be completed within two weeks.

The cabinet approved the requests for mutual legal assistance received by the Pakistan government from the governments of Peru, Hungary and Colombia.

In the meanwhile, the cabinet referred the matter of issuing policy directives under the Telecommunications Act, 1996, to the Cabinet Committee on Legal Reforms. It will take a decision after receiving the recommendations of the committee.

In addition, the cabinet endorsed the decisions taken at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy on October 15, 2020; partially endorsed the decisions taken at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee on October 19, 2020 and approved the inclusion of the Minister of Industries and Production in the Cabinet Committee on Energy.

It also approved the formation of the National Medical and Dental Academic Board under the Pakistan Medical Commission Act 2020.

The body sanctioned a reduction in the sentences of prisoners on the auspicious occasion of Eid Miladun Nabi.



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