KARACHI: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Saturday said that the budget for the next financial year would be impacted by coronavirus.
“Therefore, a new strategy has been worked out under which priorities will be given to health services, employment generation, social security, and innovation in education sector,” he added.
This he said while presiding over a meeting to set a strategy for the budget 2020-21. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Finance Secretary Hassan Naqvi and other officials concerned.
The chief minister said that the coronavirus emergency indicators such as increase in expenditures, decrease in government revenues, decline in exports, unemployment and loss of purchasing power were horrible and needed to be addressed with a new strategy.
He told his team that the first and top priority would be given to strengthen the health systems under which Covid-19 emergency hospitals would be established.
Strengthening health systems to fight Covid-19, creating employment will be top priorities
“We are already establishing coronavirus emergency centre at NIPA and similar facilities would be developed at all the divisional headquarters,” he said, adding that all other hospitals would be equipped with necessary gadgets.
Talking about employment generation, Shah said that the small, medium enterprises (SMEs) were hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis and were in need of small loans, subsidies and other concessions to sustain.
He said that soft loans would be given to SMEs, apart from other concessions and subsidies. He added that short-term loans would be up to Rs500,000 to small business and Rs2 million to medium enterprises.
He said that investment would be made in the agriculture sector where soft loans for purchasing export quality seeds and urea would be advanced so that export quality rice, pulses and other crops could be cultivated.
“I would direct the agriculture minister to guide the growers, particularly the small ones, to switch to seasonal crops, new cash crops and export-oriented crops so that they can revive themselves and contribute in the national economy,” he said.
He said that loans would also be advanced for livestock and poultry. “This is a best business if the cattle are grown on scientific and healthy grounds their demand in the international market is always on the rise,” he said.
He added that the livestock & fisheries department would be activated to help the people engaged in livestock and fisheries sectors.
Poverty alleviation plan
Shah said that in the next budget he wanted to start a poverty alleviation programme under which interest-free loans to be given to individuals to start their business for which the government or its partners would offer technical assistance.
These loans would be given to those who wanted to switch over from one small business activities to other or start afresh.
He added that womenfolk would be given priority and importance.
Shah said that despite limited resources and pandemic, “we have to focus on education of our children”.
He added that new trends of teaching would be introduced so that in this situation educational activities keep thriving.
“I have given a task to the education minister to work out a detailed education plan, online and in classes, so that it can be implemented through the next budget,” he said.
The chief minister said that the development budget might be curtailed to create budgetary space for health services, revival of economy by advancing loans to traders, growers and in livestock and fisheries sectors.
However, health department schemes, education, road sector water supply and sanitation would be given priority.
He said that all the mega development projects would be initiated on public-private partnership. “This will help to minimise financial pressure on the government and help in creating employment opportunities,” he said.
Shah said that he had approached the World Bank and other donor agencies to help the Sindh government to carry on development works and social protection programme while fighting coronavirus.
Giving guideline to his team, he said that his government wanted to start a social protection strategy to target individual and families highly vulnerable to food insecurity through targeted income/food support, particularly in low-income high-density communities with high-risk contagious diseases.
He also directed a senior official to prepare schemes for establishment of six shelter homes at divisional headquarters and two lost-and-found Children Centres in Karachi.
These centres would help support homeless people and lost-and-found children.
“This is the time to work as a welfare government and Inshallah we will not let our people alone at this critical time,” he vowed.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2020