Friday, January 28, 2011

Control price hike or face Tunisia-like situation

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday warned the government to control the rising prices of items of daily use or get ready to face a “Tunisia” like revolution that will sweep everything with it.

As the debate on skyrocketing prices of essential items of daily use commenced, interestingly no member of the economic team of the government was present in the house.

PML-N legislator Rana Tanveer-ul-Hasan, who kicked off the debate, demanded rightsizing of the National Assembly itself, arguing that after the number of MNAs was increased to 342, expenditure had increased tremendously. However, he did not elaborate what kind of right sizing in the NA was needed.

He warned that if efforts to control the prices were not made or were made half-heartedly, the situation could go out of control. He demanded abolition of monopolies and letting atmosphere of fair competition prevail. “This could be an effective step to control the prices,” he said.

Rana Tanveer suggested that the government should take visible checks to reduce the prices and stop printing currency notes to meet the government expenses. Raja Asad Khan of the PML-N came down hard on the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), saying that instead of spending Rs70 billion on such a project to get cheap publicity, the government should construct a dam in the name of Benazir Bhutto to provide cheap electricity to the people.

He was of the view that economic policies of the government should be for the benefit of the masses. No loans should be taken from foreign donors. He warned that if the prices were not controlled, the situation could take the shape of a revolution in which case, the rulers will not be able to escape the fury of the people.

Fauzia Wahab did not see any gloomy picture of the economy, saying that the economic indicators prove that the economy is moving in the right direction. She said that agriculture sector showed a growth of Rs300 billion during a year while textile exports fetched $1.5 billion on monthly basis and $10 billion were received through remittances.

She held terrorism responsible for all the economic ills of Pakistan and said that till terrorism was brought under control, stability in economy would remain a far cry. She said terrorists were getting bails from the judiciary and the conviction rate in Pakistan was 20 percent, which is very low as compared with other parts of the world where conviction rate is 80 percent.

However, Raza Hayat Hiraj of PML-Q did not agree with Fauzia Wahab’s thinking and asked if the economic situation was not that bad, then why the government was approaching the opposition for joint efforts for the stabilization of economy. “If the economic picture is rosy, then why did the government take a loan of $13 billion from the IMF?” he questioned.

He suggested that all the party heads should sit down to find out the causes of the price hike to formulate a joint economic strategy. Chief Whip of PML-N Sheikh Aftab stressed the need for good governance and questioned as to why reputed professionals were not being inducted to run huge public sector enterprises to make them profitable.

Obviously referring to the 10-point agenda of the PML-N, Sheikh Aftab said that it was for the first time that instead of embarrassing the government by leg pulling, the opposition was facilitating it to improve its governance.

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