The government of Pakistan has announced Rs. 1,200 billion Economic Relief and Stimulus Package which seeks to provide relief to vulnerable people, SMEs and industry and supports the poor.
Addressing a press conference, Prime Minister Imran Khan alongside his senior ministers and advisors said that the coronavirus pandemic is not the real danger, rather the decisions that people took fearing the COVID-19 threat.
“Chaos is more dangerous than coronavirus if we take any decision in haste it will have a dire impact on the society,” said the prime minister.
Prime Minister Imran said that he would have imposed curfew immediately if the situation in Pakistan was as bad as it is in Italy and the rest of Europe. “But in Pakistan, it is not feasible considering the number of poor people in the country,” he explained.
In a Twitter post, Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar said that the package “Seeks to provide relief to vulnerable, support to poor, SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises], industry”.
Highlighting the main points of the package, PM Imran said:
- Petrol and diesel – Petrol, diesel, kerosene and light diesel will see their prices slashed by Rs. 15.
- Over 1 crore and 20 lac individuals will receive Rs. 3000 for 4 months.
- Tax refunds of Rs. 100 billion to be disbursed immediately,
- Principal and interest payments to be deferred
- SME and Agriculture – Rs. 100 billion and deferred interest payments and concessional loans
- Expansion of homeless shelters
- Rs. 50 billion additional funds for Utility Stores
- Labour will be given Rs. 200 billion. They will also discuss with the provinces and businesses to accommodate the laborers so they are not rendered jobless.
- Export and industry – Rs. 100 billion worth of tax refunds will be given — which are usually delayed and given — so they may spend this on their labor as well. Interest payments have also been deferred
- Small and medium industries – Rs. 100 billion have been set aside for these industries and their interest payments deferred as well
- Expansion of Panah Gah
- Electricity and gas – 75% of the population are said to use 300 units or less of electricity. These households will be able to pay their bills with a deferred payment plan, over the next three months. Similarly, 81% of gas consumers incur a bill of Rs. 2,000 per month. They will also be able to pay in installments over the next three months.
- A sum of Rs. 50 billion has been set aside for the purchase of equipment and all necessary facilitation of medical workers.
- Food items – Taxes on these will either be abolished or reduced.
- A special sum of Rs. 100 billion had been kept for the express use in an emergency to counter the after-effects of the lockdowns.
- The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will also be granted Rs. 25 billion to procure kits, equipment, and other items from other countries.
- It was decided to either completely cut taxes or reduce them on different edible items.
- For the construction industry, the government will announce a separate package within days, which has never been witnessed in the country’s history.
The prime minister differentiating between the lockdown and curfew also shared his concerns that the evolving situation of the COVID 19 outbreak could stretch over to six months.
The public response to the government’s measures like those witnessed in China was vital for achieving the objectives, he stressed and urged the nation to fully cooperate with the government’s calls to control the spread of pathogen.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country cannot afford a complete lockdown with the imposition of curfew, and the situation in the country so far did not warrant for resorting to that last step.
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