Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Tuesday in an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson said that he does not know where former premier Imran Khan gets his numbers from, refuting Khan’s claims that Russia has not offered a 30 per cent discount on oil or wheat.
“Let’s be clear. I don’t know where Khan gets these numbers from,” said Miftah.
“Khan just makes it up as he goes along. He is the guy who was saying we (PDM) were brought in through an American conspiracy. And now he has come up with this new thing. If Russia was selling him cheap wheat and oil, then why didn’t he buy it? He did not,” said Miftah.
Difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil
Miftah said that Western sanctions have made importing oil from Moscow impossible despite the Pakistani government’s request to buy wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
“Russia has not offered us any oil either. It is difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil,” said the finance minister.
Raising oil prices was ‘a trap for us‘
Talking about talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Miftah said, “We have had talks with the IMF in Doha recently. We are talking to the IMF and particularly the IMF is looking at the budget that I am going to present in early June and after that, I am hoping that we will reach an agreement with the Fund.”
He said the IMF was looking for Pakistan to reverse the subsidies on oil, petrol and diesel in particular “that the previous government had given”.
Miftah added that the IMF also wanted Islamabad to reverse electric tariff subsidies that the previous government had done.
“Then it is looking at the budget that I will present. So, I am pretty confident that we should be able to get an agreement with the Fund but there would be some austerity in the budget, some measures to increase taxation in the next budget.”
The minister said that raising oil prices by the previous government was “a trap for us”.
“Imran Khan in the last days of his government did a few things to violate all these agreements with the IMF, including giving these unsustainably high subsidies. And he knew we could not sustain this.”
“And when we came to power, he is now going city to city, trying to rally the people with his theories about conspiracies and all that for putting a lot of political pressure on us.”
The new government, he said, was finding it difficult to raise the prices right away, but it took a very important step last week.
Moscow had not even responded to the previous government’s letter
Ismail said that Moscow had not even responded to the previous government’s letter seeking to buy oil at a discounted price from Russia.
“The two sides had talked about it, but since Russia is under sanctions, and they have not yet responded to the request sent by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, there was no movement on this front.”
However, he said Islamabad had approached both Ukraine and Russia, “whichever country is willing to sell us wheat we would be happy to buy it”.
Former Energy Minister Hammad Azhar said, “Miftah sahib is claiming on national tv that no letter or proof exists of Russian oil talks. And who he should speak to. Russia was enthusiastic on selling discounted oil to us and he should have spoken to Energy Minister of Russia.”
Miftah responded to Hammad Azhar’s tweet: “Bhai please listen to my interview again. I did say your govt wrote a letter. But I said no response ever came.”
He added, “I didn’t say that you waited more than a month after IK’s visit to write the letter & then too when you knew you’d lose the VNC & that it was only done for politics.”
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