According to a notification by the government, a Rs 100 billion emergency fund was set up to deal with the impact of the pandemic. (Photo Credit: File Photo)
Pakistan has approved a Rs 1,200-billion relief package to deal with the growing coronavirus crisis in the country as COVID-19 cases rose sharply, claiming the lives of 25 people and infecting over 1,800. The package was approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) in a meeting chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh on Monday. It now awaits a formal nod from the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Radio Pakistan reported that the meeting of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Khan, was in progress here. "It is discussing the situation arising out of the coronavirus including its impact on the country''s economy and the poor people," according to the report.
According to a notification by the government, a Rs 100 billion emergency fund was set up to deal with the impact of the pandemic. It was also agreed to provide 20.2 million people Rs 12,000 on a monthly basis for four months via the Ehsaas Kifalat Programme. Another Rs 72 billion will be provided through the Benazir Income Support Programme. Moreover, Rs 200 billion have been allocated for daily wage earners and labourers. The Federal Bureau of Revenue was tasked to issue Rs 75 billion in tax refunds.
As per the package, the two per cent tax on import of pulses has been abolished and the withholding tax rate on spices, dry milk and salt supplies has been set at 1.5 per cent for utility stores. The ECC approved Rs 30 billion for textile exporters as payment of duty drawbacks. A Rs 6 billion grant was approved for the Pakistan Railways. Another Rs 50 billion was set aside for procurement of medical supplies. A hefty Rs 280 billion was allocated for procurement of wheat to stock it for use in future.
Another Rs 25 billion was allocated to be used by the disaster management body which is leading effort to provide medical supplies. The package was announced by Khan last week and also included reduction of Rs 15 per liter in the prices of patrol in the country.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) also lowered interest rates to facilitate the businesses. Lately, the SBP also asked the banks to provide relief in debt to individuals and companies to help them to defer payment of interest on the principal amount for one year.
Khan said in his address to the nation on Monday that that the total package was worth USD 8 billion which he conceded was far low as compared to other countries. Officials in Pakistan were scrambling to contain the disease by appealing to the public to remain inside homes and go out only in cases of emergencies. So far 25 people have died of the disease, while 52 recovered. Another 12 were in critical condition at various hospitals. The number of cases reached 1,865.