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Govt decides to open construction industry

By Agencies
April 03, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said the government will announce a Rs100 billion package for the construction industry as the government tries to keep the country afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We have decided we will give necessary incentives to the construction industry in order to provide job opportunities to people during this time of crisis,” Imran Khan said while addressing a ceremony in Islamabad.

He said we have decided to open up the construction industry and give it the necessary incentives in order to provide job opportunities to the people. He said this will also uplift the industries allied with construction. He said that the construction of road infrastructure does not entail the danger of spread of coronavirus. He said necessary SOPs will also be developed to ensure the safety of workers at the workplace.

“We will support the industrial sector and give them incentives. The Commerce Ministry has also prepared a list of industries which can be reopened in the current situation,” he said. He added that promoting industries and giving incentives to the business community was an important step in taking the country forward.

“The refund of Rs100 billion announced today for the business community is a part of that process. We are ensuring timely refunds to the business community so that they do not face any liquidity issue,” he said.

He added the Commerce Ministry was in constant contact with the business community to figure out how the challenge posed by the epidemic can be overcome. Speaking about the virus trajectory in the country, the prime minister said that Pakistan had not seen the virus blow up like other countries.

“I am confident that Pakistan will overcome this problem,” he said. He added that weaker segments of the society were at greater risk due to the pandemic, which is why the government is trying to reach out to them under the Ehsaas programme.

“A cash grant of Rs12,000 each will be given to 12 million poor families to protect them from the negative impacts of the crisis,” he noted. Speaking on the occasion, Adviser on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said the payment of tax refunds amounting to Rs100bn will be completed in a week time.

He noted that it was a historic step that the present government is clearing all outstanding sales tax refunds. He said that apart from the packages for the business community, the government has earmarked Rs200 billion for the procurement of wheat in order to support the agriculture sector and farmers.

Meanwhile, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said citizens can now pay their electricity bills with a three-month delay. The announcement was made as part of the government's relief measures for the public during the coronavirus crisis as many brave a financial crunch due to the pandemic. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said that the government will bear the losses in the delay of the bill payments and that Rs100 billion were allocated in this regard.

On Wednesday, Karachi’s sole power supplier, K-Electric, had announced additional relief measures for the consumers amid the coronavirus crisis that has infected more than 700 people in the Sindh and "is particularly tough for economically vulnerable segments of society".

In a statement, the KE said it would now "facilitate customers by using the consumption value of either the previous 11 months’ average or the corresponding month last year whichever is 'Lower'" — changing it from the 'Higher' figure that is mandated in the consumer service manual (CSM).

Meanwhile, presiding over a meeting to review the situation pertaining to preventive efforts against COVID-19, Prime Minister Imran Khan stressed on the importance of correct data amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying it was crucial for everyone at present.

Imran Khan highlighted that correct data in such challenging times was extremely important. He said negligence in this regard will not be tolerated. Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza briefed the premier on the latest developments and measures to contain the pandemic.

The situation in Pakistan was different than that around the world, the premier said. "We are not only fighting corona but our war is against poverty and unemployment as well," he emphasised.

"Every decision will be made keeping in mind the ground realities," he added. The prime minister advised that the federal government will fully cooperate with its provincial counterparts to tackle the coronavirus crisis. "We will become a nation and tackle this challenge," he added, vowing to defeat the virus like China.

He also directed for the National Coordination Committee's (NCC) decisions on the coronavirus epidemic to be followed and advised leaders of various institutions, including the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), to play an active role in the fight against COVID-19. –