ISLAMABAD: PTI’s National Organiser and Deputy Leader in Parliament today stated that while the PMLN Kissan package was long overdue it was more cosmetic than offering substantive relief.
He said even this package only came in the wake of PTI’s Kissan conferences and demands for relief to the besieged farmers. Qureshi said the package was symptomatic of the PMLN’s mindset which seeks high visibility short term projects but fails to address long term issues and interests of the people.
Qureshi made clear that the present package has ignored the real needs of the farmers and tried to play to the gallery at a time when local body elections are to be held in Punjab and Sindh.
He pointed out that two major demands of the farmers – the introduction of support price index and removal of GST on agricultural inputs – remained unaddressed. Nor are there any incentive to remove the stagnation in agricultural growth in Pakistan – with average growth in last 5 years remaining under 3%.
This has bolsterd the cycle of poverty in the country especially in the rural areas. The farmer of Pakistan has never been such badly hit and economically burdened as he is currently. Qureshi said that it was extremely worrying that the lease price of agricultural land is on a declining trend.
Qureshi stated that due to the sharp rise in the cost of production, all major crops like cotton, paddy, maize and potato are uneconomical at the current market prices.
The PTI leader said that the Rs 341 billion Kissan package is a notional figure which fails to provide direct relief to the farmer and only details the presumptive impact of the same.
While the cash support subsidy of Rs 5000 per acre for cotton and paddy farmers is a welcome move which can directly benefit the farmer, Qureshi reminded that a similar announcement was made last year in respect of paddy farmers but the government failed to implement it, as admitted by the federal minister Sikandar Bosan on a TV show.
The current package also lacks details as to how this relief will be provided. Furthermore, the Rs 5000 subsidy is ill timed as it is being announced in the second quarter of the fiscal year when the financial budget has already been passed. The subsidy cost has to be shared between the provincial and federal government and it is unclear as to whether the provincial governments have the resources available at their disposable at this stage of the fiscal year.
Giving further details, Qureshi said that the subsidy provided for the phosphatic fertiliser is inadequate, as it has been reduced by only Rs 500, whereas as the international prices have declined by 40%. Consequently the cost reduction should have been Rs 1500 per bag and not Rs 500 only.
Again, the Government has promised a reduction of Rs 200 per bag on the price of urea fertiliser without reaching an agreement with pertinent Urea processing plant manufacturers. It is unclear as to how the Government will implement this reduction of the price per bag of urea fertiliser when price of gas, which is a major component in the urea processing, remains increased.
Qureshi also reminded that the crop insurance scheme announced in the Kissan package is not a new initiative as it has been introduced prior to this and failed to benefit the farmers. The terms and conditions of such insurance schemes are so stringent and cumbersome that the farmer is not attracted to it.
Qureshi demanded that the government must announce at the end of the financial year, figures for the number of farmers who utilised this scheme.
The introduction of collateral free loans is again a welcome initiative but it is open to misuse, as proven via past experience, and yet the government has introduced no safeguards for preventing abuse.
The reduction of mark up on agricultural loans by 2% again lacks any agreement with the SBP. Also, providing further agricultural loans is increasing the burden on the already financially indebted and burdened farmer and does not resolve matters.
Qureshi said that the primary objective should be to make the ordinary farmer economically viable and reduce the cost of production.
The current condition of the farmers cannot be attributed solely to an international drop in food prices but is also due to the government’s failure to undertake research and measures to increase cost of production per acre and mitigate the impact of drop in international prices.
The announcement of reduction of GST, custom duty etc on agricultural machinery from 43% to 9% again lacks clarity as the farmers are unsure as to whether it is applicable to tractors, harvesters or locally manufactured agricultural machinery that is primarily used by the farmers.
The announcement in respect of recognition for need of additional resources for enhancing water storage capacity is correct and much needed. However, the problem lies in its implementation. The matter has remained on the agenda for many years but successive Governments have failed to give water scarcity the priority it deserves. If the water scarcity issue remains unresolved, its impact will be worse than the electricity /energy crisis.
Unfortunately for a government that focuses on high profile gimmicky projects like Metro Bus, long term projects that would resolve water scarcity do not fit into its thinking.
Finally Qureshi declared that the major exploitation of the farmer takes place due to the archaic and out dated agricultural marketing structure, whereby the middle man abuses the farmer. No effort has been made vis a vis the Kissan package to address this pivotal issue and to introduce an infrastructure in place. DNA