ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin here on Friday reiterated that the government was absorbing the impact of the decade’s highest price-hike at the international level to provide relief to people through various measures including direct food subsidy to the poor. Addressing a news conference, along with Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Farrukh Habib, the federal minister said that the Covid-19 pandemic had triggered price hikes all across the globe, adding that since Pakistan was an importer of some essential commodities, hence it was impacted too. However, he added that the government did not pass on all this impact to people. Talking about the hike in petrol price, the minister said that Pakistan was at 17th number among the countries providing the commodity at the lowest prices, adding that the majority of the other 16 countries having lowest prices than Pakistan was oil-producing countries. He said that petrol prices in the country were even lower than in regional countries, as it was being sold at Rs127 per liter in Pakistan whereas its price in India was Rs235 per liter and Rs195 per liter in Bangladesh. He said that the government wanted to reduce prices as it had already slashed the petroleum development levy from Rs30 in 2018 to just Rs2.5 per liter. He said, that the government had budgeted Rs600 billion from the petroleum levy, which could be affected as the prime minister wanted to provide relief to people. The minister said that it was very unfortunate that no proper attention was given to the agricultural sector for the last three decades and resultantly, the country had become a net importer of wheat, sugar, pulses, and ghee and was directly affected by world inflation. He said despite all this, the government had taken measures to provide relief to people, particularly the poor. The government had to buy sugar at higher rates, but it would be available around Rs90 per kilogram likewise, ghee prices that witnessed around 80-90 percent hike in the international market and were available at Rs350 in Pakistan, would come down to below Rs 300 per KG. He said that the government would also provide direct food subsidies to 12.5 million families which constitute around 44 percent of the total population. The subsidy would be provided on flour, sugar, ghee, and pulses. He said the government was also evolving a mechanism to minimize the role of the middle man, which he said was one of the major causes of inflation adding that the provinces have also been asked to reestablish provincial price administrators to control prices. The minister said that the economy of the country was growing as the revenues have witnessed over 38 percent increase and exceeded the target by Rs186 billion. This means the economy was growing, he said, and expected that it would grow by 5 percent during the current fiscal year, and resultantly it would have a trickledown effect. He said that the major sectors of the economy including agriculture, industry, and services sector were witnessing growth. He said that Kamyab Pakistan Programme would also be launched soon under which farmers would be provided an interest-free loan of Rs150,000 per crop, Rs200,000 interest-free loans on mechanization whereas the urban households would be provided Rs500,000 per family to start businesses. In addition, the government was also providing loans up to Rs2 million at 2 percent interest loans for the construction of houses whereas as health-cards were being provided to facilitate people. He said that the prime minister was very concerned about the welfare of the common people. Regarding debts, the minister said that the debt-to-GDP ratio came down by 4 percent last year, expecting that it would come further down during the current year. To a question, the minister said that the government would sincerely negotiate with International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said that we had promised to collect revenues of RS5.8 trillion and the collection numbers till date show that the target would be exceeded. He said there were certain challenges faced in the power sector, however, added that enhancing tariff rates, as advised by the IMF, was not a solution to the issue, so we would like IMF to provide space in this matter.