Private sector not to import wheat: Shehbaz

Muhammad Anis
Friday, Oct 21, 2022

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Thursday feared a reduction in wheat production in the coming season owing to the post-flood situation and rejected permission for import of any commodity by the private sector. He was chairing a review meeting of the National Flood Response and Coordination Centre (NFRCC) here.

Shehbaz maintained the government would not allow the provincial governments to import wheat at high prices. “Even a dollar can’t be wasted in the current situation. By importing wheat at cheaper rates, the federal government will supply the same to the provinces as per their requirements,” he said.

The premier called for rising above politics while providing relief to farmers affected by the recent devastating floods countrywide. He said the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments should keep politics aside and accept the federal government’s scheme of providing wheat seed to the affected farmers.

Shehbaz offered the two provinces to collaborate with the federal government under the scheme, which will ensure funding for wheat seed with 50 percent contribution from both sides. “The Sindh and Balochistan governments have already agreed with the wheat scheme, while the Punjab and KP governments have refused to cooperate and have instead indulged in politics on the matter,” Shehbaz regretted.

The premier said if his offer was not acceptable to the two provinces, they should not twist facts. The prime minister was informed that the ‘Post Disaster Need Assessment’, compiled by the federal government in collaboration with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, other donor agencies and provincial governments, would be presented to him on October 24.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told the National Assembly two days back that as per the initial estimates, the country suffered losses of $32 billion due to the flood. “A comprehensive plan for rehabilitation of flood-affected people is in progress,” the meeting was informed.

The prime minister said though the NDMA was disbursing Rs880 million compensation money and relief goods, including food, water, medicines and mosquito nets, among the flood-affected families across the country, a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation of flood-affected people was in progress. He said China was sending ‘winter tents’ of good quality for the flood-struck people to help them cope with the upcoming harsh season.

The meeting was informed that under the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), an amount of Rs25,000 was being given to each affected family. So far, Rs66.22 billion has been disbursed among 2.6 million households with people in Sindh at the highest number of 1.8 million families, KP 315,000 families and Balochistan 240,000 families.

Chairman NDMA told the meeting that tents had been distributed among the flood-hit people of Sindh (123,000), Balochistan (100,000) and KP (64,000) tents. Also, 1,500,000 mosquito nets in Sindh and 500,000 in Balochistan had been distributed besides other supplies, including boats and water pumps, for dewatering.

The meeting was informed that the NDMA, on part of the federal government, had provided Rs1 million each to the families of deceased and in this regard Rs890 million had been disbursed.

Meanwhile, launching the ‘Youth Development Initiatives’ here, Shehbaz said the government was ready to talk to ‘him’ for the sake of national interest. “You did not want to shake hands with the opposition in the last four years but now you are saying you are ready to meet. Isn’t it double standard?” Shehbaz said.

The initiative has been launched by the Ministry of Planning and Development and Special Initiatives, HEC and PIDE to enhance the skills of youth across the country. Shehbaz maintained that national interest should always be given priority saying he was ready to sacrifice his political interests not for once but for hundreds of thousands of time.

“It were the coalition partners who used their political capital to save the country from default and were always ready to sacrifice for national interest,” he said. However, Shehbaz said it was not the proper way for somebody to say that nothing was more important than themselves. “Now he says he is ready to meet us. We are also ready for national interest despite the fact that in the last four years, he did not shake hands with us,” said the premier.

He regretted that instead of launching the youth development programme, Imran divided the nation and continued calling the opposition leaders dacoits and thieves. He observed that one of the major challenges facing the country was development of youth and the incumbent government would accept the same wholeheartedly.“Let us equip our youth with skills, give them laptops, equip them IT and latest technology and diploma certificates and then the nation will move forward,” he said, adding youth made a major chunk of country’s population and the government will have to further expand such initiatives to equip them with modern education and skills.

These initiatives include 2,000 internships for young engineers, 20 under-developed districts transformation programme, 250 mini sports complexes initiative, Pakistan Innovation Fund and 75 National Top Talent Scholarships Programme.