Thursday April 18, 2024

Centre’s major aid package for jobless

By Israr Khan
April 28, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The federal government Monday announced a relief package of Rs125 billion for small industries and daily workers amid the COVID-19 lockdown.

Federal Minister for Industries & Production Hammad Azhar announced a relief package of Rs50 billion for SMEs and Rs75 billion for daily labourers.

Under the package, the federal government would pay the power bills of small businesses across the country for the months of May, June and July benefiting nearly 3.5 million shopkeepers across the country in addition to Rs12,000 for daily labourers, said Hammad Azhar while addressing a press conference here.

The minister announced the package for the laid off labourers after attending a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet chaired by Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh.

He said Rs75 billion package had been allocated for the daily labourers. Under this scheme, Rs12,000 per family is being given to another four million to six million people who have lost their jobs due to the lockdown. The money will be given in collaboration with the Ehsaas Programme.

Azhar said his ministry was working with the Ehsaas team to launch a portal where people could applyfor the programme. He said they were also planning to launch an SMS service. This fresh allocation is in addition to the one already catering to 12 million people under the Ehsaas emergency cash programme.

The government wants to help smaller businesses affected by the lockdown, Hammad said. He estimated 3.5 million small businesses will be given relief through the Rs50 billion package.

Businesses with 5KW connections and industries with 70KW connections will not have to pay their bills for three months. The government is going to approximate their energy usage for the months of May, June and July, when they resume operations, and pay their bills in advance. This, he said, will help 95% commercial connections and 80% industrial connections.

These are two schemes we have brought in, he said, adding that they will now work on a third scheme — a financial aid package for small businesses through which loans will be given without a guarantor. These schemes will be put before the cabinet on Tuesday for approval.Azhar clarified that the scheme will apply to commercial and industrial meters, both registered and unregistered. Sector specific policies will be in the next phase, he explained.

For the laid-off media employees, the government will facilitate any package or suggestion that comes from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, he added.

The ECC also approved a credit loss subsidy of Rs30 billion for the risk sharing facility for the State Bank of Pakistan’s refinance scheme to support employment and prevent layoff of workers.

The ECC also allowed Rs2.5 billion block allocation to Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan for disbursement through a special arrangement. The committee instructed the Ministry of Industries and Production to bring up similar relief packages for the agriculture sector including the agricultural tube wells, as well as transporters and the microfinance sector.

Under the refinance scheme, financing would be extended to businesses with maximum sales turnover of Rs2 billion, while the government would bear 40 percent first loss on distributed portfolio (principal portion only) for eligible borrowers, in case of repayments, after being classified as “loss” as per classification criteria under the respective the central bank’s prudential regulations. The banks and development finance institutions assigned limits under the scheme would be eligible executing agencies.

On a proposal by the MEA, the ECC approved the external debt restructuring of the government by availing the G-20 debt relief and engaging with bilateral donors for individual debt suspension with the proviso that agreements to that effect could be subsequently brought to the ECC for approval.

The ECC approved allocation of additional funds in the form of technical supplementary grant to the tune of Rs3.02 billion for the fencing of Pakistan-Iran border.