ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday formally launched a cash assistance programme for those who have become jobless due to the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged lockdown in the country and vowed that the amount collected under the Corona Relief Fund would be spent in a transparent manner and its audit details would be presented before the nation.
Speaking at the live telecast of the ceremony held at the PM Office to launch a web portal for registration of jobless people for getting Rs12,000 under Ehsaas Cash Programme, the PM said the government had decided to completely open the construction and other small and medium industries to save people from losing their jobs.
“I thank all those who have deposited money in the PM Corona Relief Fund. I assure you that this amount will be spent in a transparent manner. You will be told where this amount has been spent. I am myself monitoring it and will provide complete audit details,” the prime minister said.
Mr Khan said he would ensure transparency and merit like he had done in the case of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Namal University projects where they provided every detail to the donors.
Says amount collected under Corona Relief Fund will be spent in a transparent manner
He said the government would provide cash assistance to those people who had been working as labourers or in restaurants and had now lost their jobs, but they would have to provide details and proof regarding their previous employment.
Moreover, he said, the government would contribute Rs4 on every donated one rupee in the relief fund so that maximum relief could be provided to those affected due to the lockdown.
He said the distribution would be made on the basis of merit and there would be no political interference.
Opening of industries
The prime minister said the economy of even the developed countries had been affected due to lockdown and efforts were being made all over the world to restore businesses. Even in the cities like New York, where thousands of people were dying daily, they were thinking of reopening construction industry, he added.
Mr Khan said the government had made every effort to give major incentives to the construction industry because it provided jobs to a large number of people, including daily wagers.
“We are completely opening the construction industry,” the prime minister declared, without giving any time frame.
At the same time, the prime minister urged the nation to observe discipline to face the challenge and stressed upon observance of social distancing and other precautionary measures. He said nobody could predict how long the coronavirus crisis would last, but it seemed they would have to live with it at least for next six months or a year.
He also requested the people who had been diagnosed with Covid-19 to go into quarantine in their houses as all infected patients did not require to be taken to hospitals. The prime minister said it looked odd to use police force to forcibly keep people in quarantines where they complained about lack of facilities.
Mr Khan said the government had provided huge relief to the people through reduction in oil prices as in a span of just one month, price of petrol had been reduced by Rs30 per litre, diesel by Rs42 and kerosene by Rs45 per litre.
He said he had directed the chief secretaries of all provinces to ensure reduction in the prices of all the commodities associated with oil prices to provide maximum relief to the masses.
Responding to criticism from the opposition that the government had not passed on maximum relief to the people in line with the drastic and historic reduction in international oil prices, the prime minister claimed that oil prices in Pakistan were lowest when compared to other countries of the region, particularly India and Bangladesh. He said petrol and diesel were being sold for Rs153 and Rs126 per litre, respectively, in India. In Bangladesh, he said, the price of petrol was Rs170 per litre.
Mr Khan said the government could have taken advantage of reduction in international oil prices as its tax revenue had been reduced by up to 35 per cent due to the lockdown, but it decided to pass on the benefit to the people.
Later, Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar explained the registration process for the jobless people.
For this purpose, a web portal has been set up and applications have been invited from those who fall in the categories mentioned on the website.
Dr Nishtar said applications would be accepted only through the web portal. She said under the Ehsaas Programme, the government had already disbursed Rs81 billion among 6.8 families in just 23 days.
Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar provided details of the relief measures the government had taken to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2020