Firdous says drugs prices will be brought down to realistic level after consultation with all stakeholders Says new and better FTA will be signed with China during PM’s visit
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday directed his cabinet members to introduce policies in public interest and improve their performance in order to resolve the issues faced by the people.
Briefing the media about the decisions of the federal cabinet meeting, Special Assistant to 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 the 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 democracy in the past 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 a realistic level in the near future after consultation with all stakeholders. She said Special Assistant to 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 pharmaceutical companies, she said, would be recovered by the government, and deposited with the Pakistan Baitul Maal and utilised to provide free treatment to poor patients. 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.
Firdous said the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China was also discussed in the cabinet. A new, better Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would be signed with China during the visit in order to protect the local industry, she said, and added that 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 has agreed to sign the new FTA on the pattern of the one it had signed with ASEAN countries on much better terms,” she added.
She said Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razzak Dawood informed 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 also briefed on inflation and rising prices of essential items. The cabinet decided to have a check on the prices of essential items during the holy month of Ramazan and keep an eye on hoarders and cartels, she said. Inflation during the last eight months of the incumbent government, she said, was less as compared to that during the same periods of the previous two regimes. “However, a comprehensive mechanism is being evolved to reduce the margin of profit of the middlemen.” She said the provinces had also been asked to fulfil their responsibility of controlling prices of items of daily use.
Firdous said the cabinet also discussed the liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreements signed by the previous government, which were very expensive and not in the interest of Pakistan. “The new LNG agreements will be transparent and based on competitive pricing, as national interest will be kept supreme.”
She said the cabinet endorsed the policies of Prime Minister Imran Khan and his vision of corruption-free democracy, which was meant only to empower the common people and solve their problems.
The special assistant said the cabinet members congratulated the prime minister on his successful visit to Iran, which was extremely important in the present regional scenario. She said the premier in his speech there gave a way forward for regional peace, stability and economic connectivity. She thanked the Iranian leadership for supporting Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue. Pakistan had to increase its trade with immediate neighbours to reap the benefits of bilateral ties, she said, and added that the visit also proved successful in removing the misunderstandings between the two brotherly countries.
To some queries, Firdous said the recent reshuffle in the federal cabinet was done to improve its performance. A balanced cabinet consisting of elected representatives and technocrat members was a norm all over the world, she said. To a question, she said Turkey, Russia, China and India were engaged in trade with Iran through agreements, and Pakistan would also make a decision to have trade with Iran keeping its own interest supreme. To another question about the proposed asset declaration scheme, she said it would soon be finalised by the new economic team and then presented to relevant forums for approval. Firdous said the government would take steps for provision of relief to working journalists and an interim wage board award would be announced soon for 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