Islamabad: Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said the oil prices in Pakistan are lowest in the world. He said we have brought down the Petroleum Development Levy to two percent.
The Minister responding to Bilawal Bhutto and Shahbaz Sharif speeches on the budget in the National Assembly today. He said that the figures given by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on poverty and unemployment are full of contradictions. He reminded the PPP Chairman that the inflation rate in their era was much higher than the present 8.50 percent.
Hammad Azhar said the country’s economy has entered into the growth phase with foreign exchange reserves standing at six years high and current account deficit in surplus. Referring to the bumper crops of wheat and sugarcane and maize, he said the benefit of this directly reached the farmers as we ensured that they get the due price of their produce.
The Minister for Energy said we have a comprehensive plan to address the capacity payments in the power sector. He said the present government enhanced the capacity of power transmission system and one hundred billion rupees have been set aside in the budget to further improve it.
As Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar began his speech in the National Assembly on Friday in response to the opposition’s severe criticism of the budget, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif began making his way out of the assembly, prompting the minister to challenge him to stay and hear him out.
Azhar was speaking after Bilawal delivered a stinging speech on the floor of the House, saying that the government’s four per cent growth number was a “lie” and that it had abandoned the common man by bringing about unprecedented levels of inflation.
“If you are not cowards then remain in your seats and listen to what I have to say. If you have the strength to hear the truth, then listen to what I have to say,” Azhar said, but the PML-N president did not react and exited the house.
A few minutes later, Bilawal followed suit.
Azhar began his speech today by hitting back at Bilawal, saying that “those who have never worked a day in their life or taken any responsibility are telling us how to run the economy and the country.”
He said the stains left behind by corruption “could not be erased by speaking in English”.
“They said to us that this is a government of ‘puppets’. Do they want a government of convicts? Do they want a government in which people are known not by their names but by the dirtiest scandals in the history of this country?”
He said that the PTI had come into power after being elected, adding that it had not “threatened or bribed its way into government”.
Responding to Bilawal’s arguments on inflation and economic growth, Azhar said:
“I looked at the data to see why he [Bilawal] was so hurt talking about 4pc economic growth. Turns out that in their [PPP’s] five years of governance, there was not a single year where they achieved 4pc growth.”
He said that Bilawal had talked about the BISP – the PPP’s flagship income support programme – when the chairperson of the said programme had recently been declared a proclaimed offender.
“Some people were only getting stipends [from BISP] due to their affiliation with the PPP,” Azhar said.
The minister said Bilawal had contradicted his own claims. “He said that poverty and unemployment has increased, but didn’t give any figures. Then he cited an institution and said that according to them, poverty rates have fallen in three provinces.”
“[Bilawal] said that the price of petrol has been increased. In my opinion, such statements are made by those who have achieved nothing in their life […] right now Pakistan has the world’s lowest oil prices,” according to the minister.
Azhar then turned his attention towards Sindh, where the PPP has been ruling since 2008.
“Bilawal asked us how we are able to visit our constituencies. But we are not the ones with rising dog bite cases or an HIV/AIDS outbreak,” the minister said, in an apparent reference to the situation in Larkana, which is reeling from an HIV outbreak, and from where Bilawal has been elected to the NA.
Azhar said some people in the opposition say that despite corruption, there is also progressive work being done. “If corruption had anything to do with development, Sindh would have progressed beyond California.”
If someone wants to see the destruction that corruption brings, then go and look at the state of Sindh, the minister said. “You will see how corrupt rulers ruin the lives and the futures of people. Sindh is a living example of this.”
Recounting his government’s achievements, Azhar said the first two years of the PTI government were spent on stabilising the economy, while the focus now was on growth. The minister said foreign exchange reserves were the highest they had been in six years while the current account deficit was in surplus.
He added that the country had also witnessed bumper crops of wheat, sugarcane and maize, the direct benefit of which was going to the farmers.
He concluded by saying that the PTI was laying the foundation for “Riyasat-i-Madina” under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan.