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March 25, 2020

Imran announces Rs1.2trn stimulus package to arrest economic slide

Top Story

March 25, 2020

Ag Agencies

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Tuesday a massive 1.2 trillion-rupee relief package aimed at supporting the underprivileged as well as buttressing sectors of the economy that have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision comes as the country grapples with the contagion that has infected 958 people. Punjab reported its first Covid-19-related death, taking the total fatalities in the nation to seven.

Speaking to reporters about the stimulus package, the Prime Minister said the government has decided to allocate Rs200 billion for the labour class, “which has been hit hard in these difficult times”.

To help the industrial sector and especially the export sector, it was decided to release tax refunds amounting to Rs100 billion, as well as deferring of interest payments, he added.

For small and medium industries, and the agriculture sector, another amount of Rs100 billion was set aside with deferred interest payments, the Prime Minister said, adding concessional loans would also be extended to the sectors. “The government wants to bring down the input costs for the farmers,” he said.

Other packages, he said, included an additional Rs50 billion for the government-run Utility Stores, Rs280 billion for wheat procurement, and slashing of petrol and diesel prices by Rs15 per litre for which the government would have to bear the burden of Rs75 billion.

Another Rs100 billion was allocated separately for the coronavirus emergency situation, he added. A sum of Rs50 billion was also allocated for medical staff. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would get Rs25 billion for purchase and procurement of safety kits, the Premier said.

Khan said for the vulnerable families, who are bearing the brunt of these difficult times, it was decided to allocate an amount of Rs150 billion for a period of four months.

He said the government was also expanding the network of Panagah — shelter houses — where precautionary measures have been strictly practised. In addition, he said, it was decided to either completely cut taxes or reduce them on various edible items.

The Prime Minister said power consumers using 300 units and gas users with less than Rs2,000 in monthly bills would be allowed to deposit their bills in three monthly instalments.

For the construction industry, the government would announce a separate package within days, which, he promised, “has never been witnessed in the country’s history”.

Later, Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar said, in a tweet, that the package amounts to a whopping 1,200 billion rupees (1.2 trillion).

Earlier, top official sources told Geo News that Prime Minister Khan’s multi-sectoral relief package was based on a windfall gain — worth $5-8 billion — on account of the reduced international oil prices, which gave the government a cushion to pass the benefit on to the people. Around the country, social distancing restrictions were in place in all provinces and territories. Sindh, the province with the most Covid-19 patients, maintained its strict lockdown for the second day, where scores were arrested in the province for flouting the rules.

In Punjab, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar reiterated once again the provincial government had neither imposed a lockdown nor a curfew in the province.A day earlier, Balochistan invoked Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code throughout the province to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), people largely acted upon the government’s orders as the first day of its three-week complete lockdown went into effect. The streets were deserted as shops, shopping malls and major business centres remained closed.