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Pakistan

Web Desk
March 24, 2020

PM Imran allocates Rs200bn relief package for daily-wagers amid coronavirus outbreak

Pakistan

Web Desk
Tue, Mar 24, 2020
Geo News/Screengrab via The News

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced that the government has allocated Rs200 billion for labourers as the industries are facing hurdles due to coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing a press conference along side his senior ministers and advisors he said that the coronavirus pandemic was not the real danger, rather the decisions that people took fearing the COVID-19 threat.

The impact that comes after a complete lockdown is imposed might create more panic than the coronavirus itself.

A lockdown had been imposed right after the National Security Committee's meeting and the next step is curfew, he said, adding that the country could not cope with it.

'We take decisions keeping in mind the elite class'

"We take decisions keeping in mind the elite class, we do not think about the underprivileged," the premier added, reiterating that good facilities were available only for the elite, while the poor had to suffer.

"If a person living in Defence [Housing Authority (DHA)] is put under a curfew, they will be happy as they have hoarded food items, but what about the person who lives in katchi abadis [squatter settlements and slums]?"

"We have not thought about the impact that will prevail after imposing a curfew. I would have imposed a curfew if we were France or Italy," he said. "But I have to look after the poor people in my country."

The premier said that lockdowns have already come into effect throughout the country but the government is in touch with all the chief secretaries and deputy commissioners to review the after-effects of such measures.

Citing one example, he said that it was found that the supply of pulses was affected due to the Karachi port being shut and it was estimated that supply would be drastically impacted in a week's time so the port was opened.

He said that a stimulus package was debated upon today to safeguard against damage to the economy.

Highlighting the main points of the package, PM Imran said: 

• Labour will be given Rs200 billion. We will also discuss with the provinces and businesses to accommodate the labourers so they are not rendered jobless.

• Export and industry - We will give them Rs100 billion worth of tax refunds — which are usually delayed and given — so they may spend this on their labour as well. Interest payments have also been deferred.

• Small and medium industries -  Rs100 billion have been set aside for these industries and their interest payments deferred as well. They will be able to make use of concessional loans as well, with low interest rates. Farmers will also be able to enjoy lower input costs.

• Low-income families - A sum of Rs150 billion set aside for families most impacted, spread across the next four months. They will be given Rs3,000 monthly. Provinces will be asked to join in and assist the federal government.

•  Expansion of Panah Gah - In the wake of the pandemic, there has been a rush on existing shelters so their numbers and capabilities need to be expanded. The government will work to enforce measures so that people are screened before being let in.

• Utility stores - To ensure consistent availability of goods, the government has set aside Rs50bn. The government will also budget for wheat procurement worth Rs280bn, so the farmers can also earn and the village areas do not face a financial crunch.

• Petrol and diesel - Petrol, diesel, kerosene and light diesel will see their prices slashed by Rs15.

• Electricity and gas - Seventy five per cent of the population are said to use 300 units or less of electricity. These households will be able to pay their bills with a deferred payment plan, over the next three months. Similarly, 81% of gas consumers incur a bill of Rs2,000 per month. They will also be able to pay in instalments over the next three months.

• Medical workers, equipment - A sum of Rs50bn set aside for the purchase of equipment and all necessary facilitation of medical workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the virus.

• Food items - Taxes on these will either be abolished or reduced.

The prime minister also said that a special sum of Rs100bn had been kept for the express purpose of use in an emergency to counter the after effects of the lockdowns.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will also be granted Rs25bn to procure kits, equipment, and other items from other countries.

"In addition, a separate package is being prepared for the construction industry, the likes of which Pakistan has never before seen," said the premier.

"Construction is a sector which provides employment as well as facilitates other industries and aids in wealth creation."

Pakistani media freer than Western counterparts

"The media in Pakistan enjoys more freedom than media in the western countries," the premier said, adding: "The sort of allegations that the local media puts on a person, it [media] would not survive in the western countries as their law are that strict he said."

"We were under pressure due to the students in Wuhan, China. I was in contact with the Chinese President myself and not a single patient came in from their."  

“We were in touch with Iran as well, they couldn’t deal with coronavirus like China did,” he said, adding that due to the problems Tehran was facing the situation at Taftan worsened.

The Pakistan government planned efficiently against coronavirus with its available resources and we are doing better than other countries who are more financially stable than us, the premier noted.