PM announces record economic relief package [The Nation] 25 Mar, 2020

ISLAMABAD - Living up to the promise made last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced an economic relief and stimulus package of approximately Rs1.2 trillion to support the poor and help local industry to offset negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Unveiling the multi-billion rupees relief package along with the ministers and advisors during an interaction with media persons here, the Prime Minister said that 200 billion rupees have been allocated for the daily-labour class to mitigate their sufferings. He said that the government is also reaching provinces and the business community to extend maximum facilitation in this regard. The Prime Minister said that 100 billion rupees have been earmarked for immediate release of tax refund to businessmen, exporters and industry, adding that the industry will also be entitled for deferred interest payments. Imran Khan said 100 billion rupees have been allocated for Small and Medium Enterprises and agriculture sectors, along with deferment of interest payments, and concessional loan facility. Another 150 billion rupees have been reserved for poor families across Pakistan under which every family will get an assistance of 3000 rupees on monthly basis. Similarly, in addition to Rs150 billion have been set aside for utility stores. “The government will provide Rs50 billion more to utility stores in coming months.” 50 billion rupees have been reserved for Utility Stores Corporation to provide essential items on subsidized rates, whereas 280 billion rupees allocated for wheat procurement. The Prime Minister said a reduction of 15 rupees per liter in the prices of petroleum products including diesel, petrol, kerosene oil etc has also been approved. He said lowering of petroleum prices will have an economic impact of 75 billion rupees on the national exchequer. He said electricity consumers consuming upto 300 units will be allowed to pay their bills in three months’ installments, while same facility will be available to gas consumers as well up to the gas bill of 2000 rupees. Imran Khan said that 50 billion rupees have been kept for medical workers for necessary supplies, 25 billion rupees to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for the procurement of testing kits and other equipment to face the challenge of Coronavirus. He said 100 billion rupees have been reserved to handle the negative impact of the lockdown. READ MORE:Europe, US main drivers for rapid spread of COVID-19 globally: WHO He said that the government has not yet banned transport in the country as it will affect the transportation of food items. He elaborated that the government has also reduced and or abolished taxes on edible items like oil, ghee, and pulses to lower the prices of kitchen items to facilitate common man in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Imran Khan said network of shelter houses will be expanded to accommodate more people, while ensuring protecting measures to avert spread of the Coronavirus. READ MORE:US, Israel hold joint military exercises amidst coronavirus outbreak The Prime Minister said that a special package for construction industry will also be announced in few days as the construction industry provides countless jobs and creates wealth for our economy. During the question and answer session the Prime Minister said that curfew is the last stage of a lockdown. “Lockdown in the country began when 21 cases of coronavirus were reported.” He said the impact of a curfew on the economy would be immense. READ MORE:Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood decides for alternate educational contents amidst COVID-19 outbreak “If I am living in Defence, I have a big garden, why would I care about how the poor people will be impacted?” he said. Regarding confusion over lockdown, Imran Khan said the government is constantly keeping a vigilant eye on the evolving situation amid COVID-19. He said that the country is threatened more by panic than the novel coronavirus. He said that Pakistan does not have a strong economy like the countries in the West. READ MORE:Adviser finance chairs meeting to streamline funding for relief measures He also negated the impression that the government was unprepared for the crisis, saying that administration has been reviewing the situation since January. “We were under pressure due to the students in Wuhan, China. I was in contact with the Chinese President myself and not a single patient came in from there.” “We were in touch with Iran as well, they couldn’t deal with coronavirus like China did,” he said, adding that due to the problems Tehran was facing the situation at Taftan worsened. The Pakistan government planned efficiently against coronavirus with its available resources and we are doing better than other countries who are more financially stable than us, he noted READ MORE:Govt to observe strict measures to halt pandemic and control COVID-19 spread: SAPM Zafar Mirza Prime Minister said that curfew will be the last option in case of increasing the spread of pandemic and the government, at the moment, does not want to put the public in difficulties. A volunteer youth force will be raised to face the calamities like COVID-19 to enhance collective response of the nation. All provinces are independent in taking decision after 18th amendment and all of them are working effectively to meet the pandemic. READ MORE:ICCI calls for 5 percent interest rate to revive business activities Overseas Pakistanis are also being engaged in collecting funds and it will be used in meeting the challenge. He urged the people to refrain from overreacting as wrong decisions taken out of fear can be more disastrous than the coronavirus itself. He, however, said any decision in future can be taken as per need of the hour. He said it is time the nation should stand in unity and fight the pandemic with bravery. He highlighted that the government is closely monitoring the situation and taking measures in the best interest of the masses. READ MORE:Pakistani FM Qureshi discusses coronavirus pandemic with Spanish, French Foreign Ministers He said the government is also working on a package for media workers. “The media in Pakistan enjoys more freedom than media in the western countries,” the premier said, adding: “The sort of allegations that the local media puts on a person, media would not survive in the western countries as their law are that strict he said.” Speaking on the occasion, NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal said that he meant to acquire 10,000 additional ventilators over the next few months in order to cope with any health crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. READ MORE:CPEC projects to provide job opportunities, ensure economic prosperity: PM He revealed that there were around 2,200 ventilators across Pakistan at the moment. Only around half of these would be available if needed for Covid-19 patients, he added. “Unfortunately, nothing is available anywhere except in China,” he said. “Let me tell you China’s situation as well. I call the Chinese ambassador around three to four times a day and meet him once or twice. I talk to NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) and foreign ministry of China. After all this, now they are issuing instructions to their factories to provide the material Pakistanis are asking for [as a] preferred buyer.” He said that acquiring protective gear for doctors and health staff was the first priority and “a small number” will arrive tomorrow while another batch will arrive on Thursday. The protective equipment included around a million masks, out of which 50,000 were N-95, he said. READ MORE:Punjab Governor initiates Corona Helpline Call Centre to contain cononavirus spread He maintained that the material to prepare protective gear will also arrive and will be manufactured in a factory in Lahore. Furthermore, 50,000 testing kits will arrive on.

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