–Reduces petroleum prices by Rs15, announces tax funds for industries, slashes interest rate, allocates Rs200bn for labourers
–PM Imran says complete lockdown will be imposed as last resort, govt in constant touch with provinces
ISLAMABAD: In a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced concessions and tax refunds for exporters and businessmen, followed by a 150 basis points decrease in interest rate by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Briefing the journalists regarding the measures taken by the government, Imran talked about immediate measures taken by the government to deal with the coronavirus crisis in the country.
The PM said the government has approved the stimulus package to help the poor and business community. “We have allocated Rs200 billion for labourers and we will immediately release Rs100 billion tax refunds to exporters and industry,” he announced.
The government decided to allocate Rs 200 billion to the labour class. To help the industrial sector, it was decided to release tax refunds amounting to Rs100 billion, besides, deferring of the interest payment.
“For the small and medium industry and agriculture sector, another amount of Rs100 billion was set aside with deferred interest payment,” the PM said, adding concessional loans would also being extended to the sectors. The government wanted to bring down the input costs for the farmers, he added.
Other packages included an additional amount of Rs50bn for the Utility Stores, Rs280bn for the wheat procurement, slashing of petrol and diesel prices by Rs15 per litre for which the government would have to bear the burden of Rs75bn. An amount of Rs100bn was allocated separately for the emergency situation, he added.
The prime minister said power consumers using 300 units and gas users with Rs2,000 monthly bills would be facilitated to deposit their bills through three monthly installments. A sum of Rs50bn was also allocated for the medical staff. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would get Rs 25bn for purchase and procuring of kits, he announced.
Imran said for the vulnerable families who were bearing the brunt of the difficult time, it was decided to allocate an amount of Rs150bn for a period of four months. He said they were also expanding the network of Panagah (shelter houses) where the precautionary measures had been strictly practiced. Besides, he said, it was decided to either completely cut taxes or reduce them on different edible items.
For the construction industry, the government would announce a separate package within days, which, he promised, had never been witnessed in the country’s history. Reiterating that the country could not afford a complete lockdown with the imposition of curfew, the prime minister said the situation in the country so far did not warrant for resorting to that last step.
‘CHAOS IS DANGEROUS’:
“Chaos is more dangerous than coronavirus if we take any decision in haste it will have a dire impact on the society,” he said. He said the option of lockdown was first discussed after the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting.
“I opposed the complete lockdown aka curfew,” he added. A complete shutdown will disrupt the supply of food items and medical equipment, said the premier. “This is not a T-20 match and this crisis may continue for six or seven months,” he further said.
Imran said that curfew is the last stage of lockdown. “I am so much concerned about the downtrodden segment of the society as to how would they meet their ends during curfew,” he said, adding that if situation worsens, then the government will have no option but to impose curfew but with a comprehensive strategy.
“We will form a team of volunteers to distribute food items to the poor if curfew was imposed,” said the prime minister. Imran said he would have imposed curfew immediately if 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 in the country,” he explained.
Pakistan has a majority of the young population that’s why the situation here is different from Italy, he maintained.
Without comprehensive strategy curfew cannot be imposed, said the PM, adding that the strategy would change with the evolving situation. “After the 18th Amendment, Sindh has the right to take its own decisions and that is why they imposed a complete lockdown in the province,” he said.
He also said the federal government would not dictate provinces as they were empowered in their own decisions. “We are constantly monitoring the situation and preparing the paramedical staff and arranging ventilators to deal with the coronavirus crisis,” he added.