ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet under Chairmanship of Advisor to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Monday approved the relief package of Rs1.2 trillion including Rs 100 billion supplementary grant for the Emergency Relief Fund to combat COVID-19 Virus. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Financeand Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired a special meeting of the ECC of the cabinet here at the Cabinet Division.The purpose of the meeting was to fulfill the necessary requirements for different relief measures already announced by the Prime Minister for the public due to the ongoing Corona Virus Pandemic.
The approval to fiscal stimulus package of Rs. 1.2 trillion also included that for Rs. 100 billion Supplementary Grant for the "Residual-Emergency Relief Fund" in terms of Article 84(a) of the Constitution for mitigating the affects of COVID-19. The ECC also approve special package for relief to 12 million poor families through cash assistance under the Ehsaas Program. It will provide cash grants to under the regular “Kafalat program” and Emergency Cash Assistance on the recommendation of the district administration. The assistance will be provided for four months and besides the BISP beneficiaries it will be one time dispensation, the cash will be provided either in one installment of Rs 12000 through Kafalat partner banks i.e Bank Alfalah and Habib Bank Limited after biometric verification or it may be provided in two installments of Rs. 6000/each.
The Poverty Alleviation Division was asked to present both options with feasibilities. The partner banks may be asked to make arrangements through branchless banking networks to disburse cash. Rs 72.9 billion of additional funds through technical supplementary grant would be given to BISP under "Ehsaas Cash Assistance Package in Response to COVID-19" Pandemic. After Ministry of Industries and Production presented a comprehensive proposals regarding the targeting parameters , implementation mechanism, cash assistance per family per month and financial phasing of the program, ECC approved Rs. 200 billion of cash assistance for the daily wagers working in the formal industrial sector and who had been laid off as a result of COVID-19 outbreak.
It was estimated that around three million workers will fall in this category and they will have to be paid a minimum wage of Rs.17500 per month. The estimated cost of this provision for daily wagers comes around to Rs. 52.5 billion a month. The provincial labour departments shall ensure the delivery of assistance to the laborers while the provision of funds shall be the responsibility of the federal government. ECC directed that immediate consultation with the provincial labor departments (mentioned under the provincial rules of business) may be carried out for providing timely assistance to those who are in need.
The ECC approved Rs. 50 billion for Utility Stores Corporation to provide essential food items to the vulnerable section of the society at subsidized rates. USC has prepared an initial plan to deliver 9 essential food items @ Rs 3000 for a family of 2+4 people through Pakistan Post Foundation Logistics Division. USC has further planned to procure essential items within 2-3 weeks. It was directed that USC may engage with BISP to obtain data for targeted assistance and again come back to the ECC for a detailed proposal for reaching out to the poor families for the effective use of this package before making any expenditure from this amount.
The ECC also approved Rs.75 billion for FBR to enable them to payback the sales tax and income tax refunds, duty drawbacks and customs duties which is due for the last 10 years. The amount shall help approximately 676,055 beneficiaries by improving their liquidity position.
The ECC also allowed reducing different taxes and duties on import and supply of different food items for alleviating the adverse impact of COVID -19 on different sections of the society. Rate of advance tax on the import of different pulses was reduced to 0% from 2%. individuals and associations of persons providing tea, spices, dry milk and salt to USC without a brand name will pay 1.5% withholding tax instead of 4.5%. Individuals and AoP receiving payments from USC for supplying ghee, sugar, pulses, and wheat flour shall be charged 1.5% withholding tax instead of 4.5% earlier. ACD (additional customs duty) @ 2% on soya bean oil, canola oil, palm oil and sunflower oil (and on these four oil seeds) has also been exempted.
The ECC approved the supplementary grant of Rs. 30 billion to Ministry of Commerce to payback duty drawbacks to textile exporters in the current financial year to improve their liquidity position when their businesses are experiencing a slow down due to worldwide outbreak of Corona epidemic. ECC was briefed SBP is working on payment of claims worth Rs. 49 billion out of which around 40 billion will be paid by June 2020.
The ECC approved supplementary grant of Rs. 6 billion for Pakistan Railways to meet its expenses. Pakistan Railways has suspended its passenger train services around the country since 19-3-2020. The approved amount shall be utilized for paying salaries to 70,000 employees, repairs, paying for utilities and performing disinfectant sprays on platforms and inside trains for proving safe journey to the passengers. Currently Pakistan Railways is earning only 1/6th of its monthly income through coal freight and the rest is suspended.