7 Jan 2011

Pakistan scraps 9% fuel price rise

7:56 am on 7 January 2011

An unpopular increase in fuel prices in Pakistan has been reversed, as the country's prime minister attempts to keep his government in power.

Opposition parties had put pressure on Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani over a 9% rise in the cost of fuel, which had come into effect on 1 January.

One of Mr Gilani's main coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced at the weekend that it was leaving the government in protest at the fuel policy, leaving the government without a majority in parliament.

The leader of the MQM, Faisal Subzwari, says although his party appreciates the change of policy, it will not rejoin the government.

Starting in 2008, Pakistan linked its domestic oil prices to international oil prices.

The decision to reverse the price hike means the government will have to provide a fuel subsidy, increasing its spending and further widening its budget deficit, analysts say.

A senior Petroleum Ministry official told Reuters that the reversal would cost the government about 5 billion rupees monthly.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) criticised the subsidies on Thursday and said the money could be better spent on social programmes.