Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced a financial stimulus package to deal with the adverse impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the country's economy.
While addressing a media briefing, the prime minister once again reminded the nation that panic was more of a threat to Pakistan than the novel coronavirus itself. He also negated the impression that the government was unprepared for the crisis, saying that his administration has been reviewing the situation since January.
The prime minister announced the following measures to safeguard the most vulnerable segments of society and mitigate the economic losses to businesses and industries:
Labour: The premier announced that a sum of Rs200 billion was being allotted for labourers across the country. He further said that his government was coordinating with provinces to convince businesses not to lay off labourers.
Industries and export: While saying that the export industry was the most affected industry in the country, the prime minister announced that the export sector would be given tax refunds of Rs100 billion immediately. Their interest payments would be deferred as well.
Small and medium industries and agriculture: A further Rs100 billion are to be earmarked for small and medium industries and the agriculture sector. Their interest payments will be deferred and they will also be able to enjoy concessional loans at low interest rates. Farmers across the country will also enjoy lower costs of input.
Low-income families: The premier announced that a package of Rs150 billion would be allocated for low-income families and would be distributed among them over a period of 4 months. The prime minister also promised that these families would be given cash payments of Rs3,000 each month.
Sanctuaries: The prime minister also announced an expansion of sanctuaries to accommodate more people. He pointed out that the existing sanctuaries were being overwhelmed in the wake of the outbreak and therefore a mechanism for medical screening for new entrants was also being constituted.
Utility stores: A sum of Rs50 billion is to be earmarked for utility stores to ensure the constant availability of food and other necessities. For wheat procurement, the prime minister announced that the government was budgeting Rs280 billion so that wheat farmers do not face cash flow issues during the outbreak.
Petrol prices: The prime minister also announced a reduction of Rs15 in the prices of petroleum, diesel, light diesel and kerosene. The premier pointed out that this was set to impact the government by up to Rs75 billion.
Electricity and gas: The prime minister announced that consumers who were utilising 300 units of electricity would be allowed to pay their bills in installments over the next three months. This would mean that 81 per cent of consumers who incur a bill of around Rs2000 each month would also be able to pay the in installments over three months.
Medical workers: The prime minister announced that a sum of Rs50 billion was being set aside for the purchase of personal protective equipment for health workers. He also assured them of the government's full support in their fight against the novel coronavirus.
Food items: The premier announced that taxes on food items such as sugar, wheat and pulses would either be reduced or eradicated completely.
Emergency: The premier also stated that a sum of Rs100 billion was budgeted in case of emergencies.
While pointing out that these were unprecedented times and that the country had never faced a situation like this before, the prime minister also announced that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would be granted a sum of Rs25 billion to procure equipment from other countries.
"A special package is also being prepared to help out our construction industry, which will be announced in a few days. Construction industry provides countless jobs and creates wealth for our economy," concluded PM Khan.