Centre asks Gilgit-Baltistan to rationalise wheat value – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Amid criticism over the distribution of free wheat flour in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the federal authorities has known as upon the Gilgit-Baltistan administration to urgently rationalise the price of subsidised wheat for residents in a phased, focused method and cost the prosperous individuals market charges to make sure a sustainable provide.

The GB’s elected authorities has not too long ago made a dedication to extend flour costs, that are greater than ten instances decrease within the mountainous area than these in the remainder of the nation.

About Rs8 billion wheat subsidy earmarked for Gilgit-Baltistan on this yr’s federal price range has already been exhausted in opposition to the availability of about 90,000 tonnes early this yr, as costs went up amid costly imports.

The finance ministry has been essential of the massive value hole and rising subsidy account amid fiscal opinions with the Worldwide Financial Fund. The ministry has been attempting to both clip or include subsidies whereas the political authorities tends to appease the inhabitants forward of basic elections.

Area has already exhausted its Rs8bn annual subsidy as flour sells for Rs12.5 per kg

The finance ministry final week conceded at a gathering of the Financial Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cupboard to offer Rs2.9bn extra subsidy to cowl the availability price of 25,000 tonnes to Gilgit-Baltistan for under two months — March and April — to keep away from any difficulties to the area’s individuals throughout Ramazan due to provide shortages.

The committee, nevertheless, set a situation that the GB authorities and the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan should attain a consensus on rationalising wheat costs inside a month.

Wheat provide to GB on subsidised charges has been occurring because the Seventies. This was necessitated because of exorbitant costs of wheat flour within the space because the staple was sparsely cultivated within the area and transportation was too expensive because of underdeveloped infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the distinction between the costs of GB’s subsidised wheat and the unsubsidised one offered in the remainder of the nation has considerably widened over time, because the flour sale value in Gilgit-Baltistan has not been enhanced for fairly a while.

A file seen by Daybreak reveals that flour at the moment sells for Rs12.5 per kg in Gilgit-Baltistan in opposition to Rs140 or extra throughout the nation.

The federal authorities supplies Gilgit-Baltistan with about 160,000 tonnes of wheat per yr. With the purse in hand, the finance division offers the go-ahead to the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Companies Company (Passco) for wheat provides in a fashion that subsidy ought to keep inside the budgetary allocation.

Throughout the present monetary yr, Rs8 billion was allotted for wheat procurement for GB, however the quantity has been totally utilised with round 90,000 tonnes of provides because of the excessive price of imported wheat and elevated transport costs.

Because of this, provides are held up and wheat costs in Gilgit-Baltistan’s shadow market have elevated considerably.

In view of the scenario, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed the Kashmir affairs and GB ministry to current the case to the finance ministry, which raised considerations concerning the low sale value of wheat and the untargeted subsidy that reached the wealthy and the poor alike.

The matter was, due to this fact, positioned earlier than the ECC, which advisable political engagement to pave the way in which for broader consensus on sensible flour costs. Accordingly, the consultant management of the area was engaged by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the prime minister’s adviser on Kashmir Affairs and GB, Qamar Zaman Kaira, to develop a consensus on the difficulty.

In a March 1 assembly, Gilgit-Baltistan’s chief minister agreed that the area’s authorities would shortly announce a plan to extend the sale value steadily. He additionally shared a plan to incentivise wheat cultivation within the area together with the reassurance to obtain the native wheat on the official assist value.

In a latest assembly of the Financial Coordination Committee, Gilgit-Baltistan’s finance secretary reported that the area’s cupboard had thought of the proposal to have a focused wheat subsidy and measures have been being taken to move on the precise price to the prosperous segments of society. Nevertheless, the GB authorities has but to make a proper announcement on this regard.

The ECC was knowledgeable final week that the Gilgit-Baltistan authorities would announce its plan within the coming days, however with the arrival of Ramazan, each passing day was pushing up wheat flour costs within the open market and any delay in wheat provide would irritate individuals’s miseries.

Subsequently, the committee allowed an extra subsidy of Rs2.9bn for 25,000 tonnes of wheat for March and April. It requested Passco to produce wheat to Gilgit-Baltistan instantly and directed the Nationwide Logistics Cell to get engaged for transport at discounted charges.

In the meantime, the GB authorities’s sure funds for the following yr could also be partially diverted to wheat subsidy this yr, given the tight federal kitty. Within the interim, the Gilgit-Baltistan authorities would appropriately elevate wheat costs and encourage native wheat cultivation with the assure to obtain it on the assist value for future wants.

Revealed in Daybreak, March twenty seventh, 2023

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