KARACHI: The government should focus on ensuring gas supply in the country instead of beating about the bush, former finance minister Miftah Ismail said on Monday, slamming Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar.
Ismail’s remarks came in reference to Azhar’s tweet posted on November 19, where the minister had challenged Geo News anchor Shahzeb Khanzada to debate about the country’s LNG and gas issues.
“I would like to challenge Shahzeb Khanzada to debate LNG and gas issues with me, moderated by a neutral anchor and with independent experts. Let the people see the facts without persistent interrupting, volume controls, teleprompters, etc,” he wrote.
“Hammad Azhar bhai, stop arguing, as winning arguments does not ensure gas supply in the country,” he said as he addressed a press conference in Karachi.
Giving recommendations to improve the current situation, he gave three suggestions to the federal ministers:
- Ensure gas supply to domestic and industrial consumers;
- Install LNG terminals and pipelines; and
- Do not increase the rate of LNG.
Staff-level agreement with IMF
Going forward, Ismail said that after the government strikes a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), inflation in the country would witness a surge. After the IMF agreement, the State Bank of Pakistan has become autonomous, he said.
Ismail said the government had not granted the status of the viceroy to the central bank’s governor, Reza Baqir, however, “they have granted him everything else”.
“Imran Khan’s speeches are nice, but they have pushed 220 million people into poverty,” the former finance minister said.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Shaukat Tarin had said another round of energy inflation is on cards as basic electricity prices will be increased in the coming months.
SBP hikes policy rate
The former finance minister said by raising the monetary policy rate by 150 basis points, the government had increased its expenditure by Rs400 billion.
In line with market expectations, the SBP had last week announced an increase of 150 basis points in its benchmark policy rate in a bid to contain runaway inflation, which threatens to destabilise the economy.
The central bank had said the decision to increase the interest rate to 8.75% has been taken because of risks related to inflation.
Ismail said during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s term, the country has seen “historic” inflation. “Poverty and unemployment are increasing in the country […] they have snatched the capital of businessmen as well.”