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ECC decides not to increase gas prices

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis can breathe a sigh of relief as the Economic Coordination Committee Monday decided not to increase the price of gas immediately.

This was shared by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who briefed the media following a meeting of the committee.

The ECC meeting was chaired by Finance Minister Asad Umar in Islamabad.

The ECC concluded that additional discussions will be held with all stake holders on the matter and the price of gas will be set after getting suggestions from users.

The Information Minister said that increase in liquefied petroleum gas will be reduced, and the provinces will be directed to launch crackdown on those who have increased prices of LPG. He said LPG prices were increased by 70 percent.

“In 2013, Sui Northern and Sui Southern Gas Pipe Lines were not in loss even of a single rupee, however during previous five years, total loss of SSGPL and SNGPL surged to over Rs 156 billion mainly due to increase in gas theft,” he added.

He asked former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and former finance minister Ishaq Dar to clarify that how the loss accumulated to Rs 156 billion.

“We are trying to develop a new system of subsidy in such a manner that increase in gas prices does not affect the poor lot but the affluent could contribute to reduce deficit of this sector,” the Information Minister said.

Fawad said only 40 percent population use the Sui gas facility while others rely on cylinder gas. The minister said the gas related agreements made by the previous government were against the reality.

“We are trying to formulate a comprehensive system to minimize burden on the poor by providing maximum relief to them,” he added.

The meeting also decided to to import 1,00,000 tons of urea fertilizer to provide relief to farmers, added the information minister.

Fawad said that this year, total demand of urea fertilizer in the country was 5.833 million tons against previous year’s demand of 5.862 million tons.

He said the government would have to pay a subsidy of Rs960 on each imported urea bag as its retail price in Pakistan was Rs1615 per bag while imported urea would cost Rs2,575 per bag.

He pronounced that despite strained economic condition, the government has decided not to put extra monetary burden on the farmers. Fawad maintained that no such step will be taken that will result into the loss of farmers. He asserted that the system of subsidy will also be devised.

It was also decided in the meeting to provide special protection to the export industry.

In the previous meeting, the ECC decided to take stringent actions against defaulters and power thieves.

It concluded to disconnect electricity connections of consumers who fail to pay bills for three months and to install prepaid electricity meters. It was also ascertained that an operational and financial audit of energy sector will be conducted.

The ECC has issued directives to run fertilizer factories to fulfill the needs at local level.

Moreover, the minister assured to launch a crackdown against the 70 percent hike on the price of a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder.

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