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PTI to give people-friendly budget : Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan

Lahore : Briefing media persons about the decisions of Federal Cabinet meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan said the prime minister had already assigned targets to his
economic team led by Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Sheikh in order to
create a people-friendly budget.

She said it was stressed in the meeting that the ministers should
ensure their presence during sessions of the National Assembly and
Senate, and focus on resolution of people’s problems.

The prime minister, she said, “believes that democracy means serving
the masses, empowering them and resolving their problems.”
Firdous said in the past democracy was weakened by corruption and
certain individuals became stronger.

The prime minister, however, had a clear vision of keeping national interest supreme at all costs, she added. She said the drugs prices would be brought down to realistic level in near future after consultation with all the stakeholders. Special Assistant to the PM on National Health Services Dr Zafarullah Mirza briefed the cabinet on his findings regarding increase in the drug prices.

A meeting with the representatives of pharmaceutical companies and
other stakeholders would be held soon to bring down the prices of
medicines, so that the people could easily bear their treatment
charges, she added.

The additional amount charged by the pharmaceutical companies, she
said, would be recovered by the government, and deposited with the
Pakistan Baitul Maal and utilized to provide free treatment to poor
patients of various diseases. The existing FTA could not cater to the
interests of local industry and it had rather negative impacts on it.
However, due to successful diplomacy of the prime minister, China had
agreed to sign the new FTA on the pattern of one it had signed with
ASEAN countries on much better terms, she added.

She said Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood apprised the federal
cabinet that 450 Pakistani businessmen would visit China to look for
business opportunities that would translate into more production, job
opportunities and poverty reduction in the country.
Firdous said the cabinet was briefed on inflation and rising prices of
essential items. The cabinet decided to have check on the prices of
essential items during the holy month of Ramadan and keep an eye on
hoarders and cartels.

The inflation during the last eight months of the incumbent
government, she said, was less as compared to that during the same
periods of previous two regimes. However, a comprehensive mechanism
was being evolved to reduce the margin of profit of the middlemen.

Firdous said the cabinet also discussed the LNG (liquefied natural
gas) agreements signed by the previous government, which were very
expensive and not in the interest of Pakistan. The new LNG agreements
would be transparent, based on competitive pricing as the national
interest would be kept supreme.

Replying to questions of media persons, Firdous said the recent
reshuffle in the Federal Cabinet was taken to improve its performance.
A balanced cabinet comprising elected and technocrat members was a
norm all over the world.

To a question, she said Turkey, Russia, China and India were doing
trade with Iran through agreements, and Pakistan would also take a
decision to have trade with Iran keeping its own interest supreme.
She said if the government was not worried about the hike in drug
prices, the prime minister would not have removed his close aide from
the post of health minister.

To a question about the proposed asset declaration scheme, she said it
would be finalized by the new economic team and then presented to
relevant forum for approval soon.

Firdous said the government would take steps for provision of relief
to the working journalists and an interim wage board award would be
announced soon for the media workers.

Replying to a question, she said the government was ready to talk to
the opposition if it stopped making the parliament a ‘political
arena’.

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