Islamabad: Cash-strapped Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed the authorities to take major steps in the budget for the welfare of poor and middle class, in an effort to make it people-friendly ahead of general elections which are expected in October.
“Despite economic challenges, special measures should be taken for the protection of vulnerable sections of society,” he said while chairing a meeting on Monday to finalise measures to provide relief to the poor and middle classes of society.
Pakistan, currently in the throes of a major political as well as economic crisis, is grappling with high external debt, a weak local currency and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The inflation level rose by a whopping 36.4 per cent in the year in April, driven mainly by food prices. This is the highest in South Asia, and up from 35.4 per cent in March, according to the country’s statistics bureau.
The budget 2023-24 is expected to be presented in the parliament on June 9 and the government is trying to make it people-friendly ahead of general elections which are expected in October.
Sharif said that maximum relief should be given to the public by utilizing the available resources in the best possible manner, according to an official statement.
He ordered that a comprehensive plan should be devised for giving direct subsidies to the farmers.
The government would also assist the deserving farmers in converting tubewells to solar energy, as it would decrease the fuel import bill and bring down the per acre production cost of farmers, he added.
The prime minister said that the government immediately brought down the prices of petroleum products when the prices in the international market came down.
He instructed that the impact of the reduction of petroleum prices should be transferred to the common man, adding the scope of the Benazir Income Support Programme should be expanded to ensure the inclusion of needy persons. It should be ensured that no needy widow was left out of the Benazir Income Support Programme.
He said deserving students should be equipped with higher education and technical skills. For this purpose, the government was ensuring the establishment of an Education Endowment Fund, he said.
Sharif said his government always kept on priority the provision of education, skills, laptops and jobs for the youth.
The government would equip the youth with skills according to international standards and contemporary demands, he added.
He said the scope of the Prime Minister Youth Loan Programme would be enhanced and the youth would be given loans for businesses on easy conditions.
Sharif said the exports of the information technology sector would be raised by facilitating the youth in the IT sector. The youth would be given facilities so that they could get training for freelancing and technical education and get self-employed, he said.
He said all facilities would be provided for the progress of small and medium enterprises.
Federal ministers Khawaja Asif, Ishaq Dar and Ahsan Iqbal, Advisor to the PM Ahad Cheema, Minister of State Dr Musadiq Malik, Special Assistants Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan and officers concerned attended the meeting.