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April 4, 2020

Amnesty for construction industry

Top Story

April 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday gave the status of industry to the construction sector, as he announced opening of the sector along with a package of incentives to boost it with a view to keeping the wheels of economy moving and mitigate the impact of the lockdown on people.

Interacting with media persons here after the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting, he warned people not to even think of having enough immunity against the coronavirus and said it could not be predicted about the ratio of virus-affected persons in next two to four weeks.

The prime minister emphasised that it was too dangerous to think that becauseof the strong immune system, people were not dying of coronavirus, as none could predict how rapidly it would spread in next few weeks, while the social media was giving an impression that it was not that dangerous to people in the country. However, he added the government would have a thorough review on April 14 of the virus-related situation.

He pointed out that significant number of people in rural areas earned livelihood from agriculture sector and it was already open despite the lockdown and now it had been decided to open the construction sector for which he announced a package. He noted that like the agriculture sector, many industries were associated to construction sector as well.

Announcing the package, the prime minister said that those who would invest in construction sector would not be asked questions about their source of income and that fixed tax would be introduced in the sector, being a longstanding demand of investors and if the investor invests in construction projects under Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, 90 percent fixed tax would be waived off and he would have to pay only 10 percent tax.

Likewise, he said, withholding tax on construction would be lifted from all sectors, except steel and cement, and that sales tax was also being brought down in coordination with the provinces. The prime minister added that there would be no capital gain tax for a family that sells or purchases a house.

Moreover, a subsidy of Rs30 billion was being given to the Naya Pakistan Housing Project to spur the construction activities across Pakistan, which would be a major source of jobs. Under the package, the lockdown concerning to construction sector will stand cancelled from April 14.

The prime minister announced establishment of a Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to deal with related issues and promote the construction industry. He maintained that all industries that were connected to construction would continue to function even during the lockdown and that the reason he was paying attention to the construction sector was that it generated jobs for daily wage workers, many of whom had lost their income due to the ongoing lockdown while a large number of people had their livelihood linked to this sector. He said Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have already given tax incentives and other provinces will also make such announcements soon.

Replying to questions, he said that it was the government’s endeavour to strike a balance to maintain the lockdown and not letting anyone die of hunger. He said the government had talked to the provinces on the package for the construction sector and both Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were in total agreement with this, while Sindh also had mostly agreed to it.

He noted that the lockdown in urban areas was a challenge, as on one side, there was the coronavirus while on the other, it was hunger, as 220 million people of the country could not be shut and the government would also weigh options of opening more sectors.

The prime minister said that within next three or four days, the process of transferring cash to the needy families would start and the government might need more funds. He clarified that the process would have nothing to do with political affiliation and the Corona Relief Tigers would also supplement the efforts on this count.

To a question, the prime minister assured that a policy would be announced for those, who would not be able to pay rent of their houses in the given situation of lockdown and similarly, a policy was being thrashed out on private schools fee payment.

Referring to the enthusiasm and resolve of the nation, he witnessed, following the earthquake and floods, he said that the nation knew how to rise up to crisis. About political reconciliation, he said that “this could not be applied to those, who wanted to exploit the crisis-like situation to their political leverage”.