PM Khan issues relief package amid lockdown

By Zeeshan Ghayur
Wednesday – March 25, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Prime minister (PM) Imran Khan, to tackle the repercussions of nationwide lockdown as a result of likely COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak countrywide, announced a relief package for the labourers, export oriented industries, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), agriculture, poor and vulnerable segment, shelter homes, utility stores, wheat consumption, fuel, electricity and gas consumers, medical workers and hospitals, items of daily consumption and to deal with emerging emergencies, on Tuesday.

He said, “For the labour, we have allocated Rs 200 billion, we are in talks with the provinces on how we can support the retrenched and unemployed labour, we are in talks with the businesses on ensuring that they do not send their staff on holidays if that the factory is shut, we are in talks with the provinces on how they can support us in our initiative.”

PM Khan continued, “For the export oriented industries, we have reached two decisions, firstly we will provide them with Rs 100 billion tax refund right away so that they have the availability of cash to spend on their labour and secondly they can pay their principle and interest, on loans already taken, in deferred payments.”

He mentioned, “For the SMEs and the agriculture industry, we have allocated Rs 100 billion along-with deferred interest payments, on loans already taken, along-with further concessional loans at low interest rates. For the agriculture we have allocated sum so that the cost of input reduces.”

PM Khan announced, “For the poor and vulnerable, we have allocated Rs 150 billion for a period of four months, we will be paying Rs 3,000 per month to vulnerable families, we will also persuade the provinces in this initiative so that we can help the poor further.”

He expressed, “To cater for shelter homes, we have noticed a huge rush of people who seek the service for residence, sleep and food, we are taking the initiative of expanding them along-with making sure that all entrants are properly scanned for coronavirus before getting admitted.”

PM Khan confirmed, “For the utility stores, we have allocated Rs 50 billion, so that they remained stocked with ample food supplies.”

He declared, “For wheat procurement, we have allocated Rs 280 billion, wherein the government will procure the wheat from the farmers, as wheat harvest has begun in Sindh province, enabling the farmer to keep earning and retaining ample cash.”

PM Khan stressed, “For petrol, diesel, kerosine and light diesel, we have decided to lower the prices by Rs 15 per litre each, although this will give an impact upon the government of Rs 75 billion.”

He asserted, “For electricity and gas, households consuming 300 units of electricity, who in Pakistan account for 75 percent, can repay their bills in three months instalments. For 81 percent of gas consumers who pay Rs 2,000 monthly bills will be able to repay in three months instalments.”

PM Khan pointed, “For medical workers and hospitals, we have allocated Rs 50 billion, to procure the necessary equipment and support.”

He noted, “For items of daily consumption such as cooking oil, sugar, pulses, we have either reduced and in some cases exempted them from taxes, thus reducing their price.”

PM Khan added, “For tackling the repercussions of the lockdown, we have allocated Rs 100 billion.”

He said, “For the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), we have allocated Rs 25 billion, to procure the required kits and equipment from abroad.”

PM Khan continued, “For the construction industry, we are currently formulating a package which will be announced in a few days time.”

He mentioned, “I have worked, for the past three days, on this stimulus package along-with my team in order to protect our industry, businesses, working class and the labourers from the advert effects of measures taken to safeguard the nation from COVID-19.”

PM Khan announced, “Placing a halt on public transportation has adverse effects and we have to figure out whether such restrictions will result in greater worries than those that might occur as a result of the potential coronavirus outbreak.”

He confirmed, “The lockdown had begun, soon after the culmination of national security council meeting, when total number of coronavirus infected patients stood at 21. This meant that schools were shut and public was instructed not to be a part of any gathering.”

PM Khan stressed, “The coronavirus spreads quickly when there is a large or substantial number of people gathered, therefore the remedy is to stop people from gathering at any venue whatsoever it maybe.”

He asserted, “The last stage of a lockdown is the imposition of curfew that is then enforced by the State and has far ranging repercussions in the society as a whole.”

PM Khan pointed, “A negative aspect of our society, since last 70 years, is that major decisions are made taking in account the small elite segment, such as utmost attention is given to the English medium schooling syllabus rather than also paying heed to the Urdu medium and the religious schools.”

He noted, “There was a time when government hospitals and medical colleges countrywide were of superb standard, I too along-with my family were born at government hospitals, steadily the standard deteriorated and private hospitals begun opening up to cater for the elites who then had the option of either getting themselves diagnosed locally or to fly overseas even for routine medical checkups.”

PM Khan added, “If we ponder carefully, our response on the coronavirus is the same, that is to impose a curfew because the rich has stockpiled on food supplies, disregarding the poor, in slums where 8-10 people live in single rooms, who are unable to stockpile.”

He continued, “If in a curfew a particular time is given for going out of the homes to purchase the necessary groceries, the rush of people who will flock out of their homes will stampede the purpose of imposing the curfew in the first place.”

PM Khan questioned, “Do we have the capability of distributing food at the doorsteps of the poor and vulnerable? Have we pondered upon the idea that if a curfew is put in place and all public transportation is halted, which has been, how would the hospital receive the daily supplies? How long would the hospitals be able to function along with all the nurses, doctors and staff?”

He said, “If we have not pondered over all these aspects and impose a curfew, following in the footsteps of other countries where curfews have been imposed, had I been in Italy or France I would have felt no hesitation in imposing a curfew because the ground realities there are totally different.”

PM Khan asserted, “When I think of Pakistan in terms of curfew, the first thought that hits my mind is how will I be able to distribute food to the poor, how long will we keep shut the mobile food stalls, all these things have to be pondered over in detail.”

He mentioned, “Now that the lockdown is in place countrywide, my team is constantly monitoring the repercussions, we are in touch with all the chief secretaries who are in-turn in constant contact with the deputy commissioners.”

PM Khan highlighted, “It was yesterday that we realised that our national supply of lentils, peas and beans had fallen short, as 75 percent of lentils for national consumption are imported, since the Karachi port was shut and therefore the port was reopened.”