• Asks nation to join hands with government to defeat second wave of coronavirus
• Says opposition won’t get NRO even with its many public meetings
• Claims Pakistan’s exports increasing at faster pace leaving India and Bangladesh far behind
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan says the government has decided not to shut down factories and businesses despite a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths in the country.
“We don’t want to lead people to death due to hunger, while saving them from coronavirus,” Mr Khan said and in the same breath made an impassioned appeal that the nation should join hands with the government and defeat the second wave of coronavirus while strictly observing SOPs that primarily require wearing face mask at public places.
The prime minister was speaking to media persons at the Chief Minister Secretariat during his visit to Lahore on Wednesday, where he also held a one-on-one meeting with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and discussed with the latter administrative and political affairs of the province.
Asserting that the country’s economy is now on a positive path of progress, Mr Khan said the first wave of coronavirus could have devastated Pakistan’s economy but the nation’s support helped it come out of the crisis, adding that India was still mired in worse economic situations coupled with over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.
He said Europe and England were again compelled to impose complete lockdown.
The prime minister lamented that the coronavirus-related deaths in Pakistan had increased from seven to over 50 a day within two weeks and could continue rising, if protective measures were not taken in their true letter and spirit.
Saying that his government suspended all of its public meetings and gatherings to counter the ever-rising threat of coronavirus infections, the prime minister yet again made it clear that the opposition would not be able to get NRO even with its many public meetings.
“The government will no more allow the opposition to continue holding its public meetings and creating potential threat to masses’ lives,” Mr Khan said, referring to the Islamabad High Court’s observation in an order that public gatherings had become a heightened threat for the public.
The prime minister said the country’s exports were now increasing at a faster pace leaving India and Bangladesh far behind. “I visited Faisalabad and found that the textile industry was running at its full throttle and now facing shortage of labour.”
Mr Khan said his government’s sustained economic policies had helped Pakistan overcome its fiscal deficit and current account deficit despite the fact that the PTI held country’s reins when there was a huge $40 billion gap between import and export and $20 billion trade gap.
“Now for the first time in 17 years, Pakistan showed current account deficit in surplus and can also turn fiscal deficit into surplus, if it did not need to pay interest installments on massive loans taken by the previous PML-N government,” the premier said, adding: “Minus paying loans and interest installments, Pakistan’s income has surpassed its expenditures.”
Mr Khan said the dollar had come down to its natural rate and the local currency would continue getting stronger with its surplus current account.
He regretted that the previous governments never considered overseas Pakistanis as asset and eventually did not create systems that could motivate them to bring back their incomes to invest in Pakistan and boost its economy. “Now, the PTI government’s policies will help protect overseas Pakistanis’ investments and motivate them to keep on sending dollars back home helping Pakistan to raise its foreign exchange reserves,” he believed.
Mr Khan also made it clear that the Punjab government had its plans afoot to nab the influential and politically-backed qabza groups involved in illegally occupying prime state land and constructing large plazas. Asserting that Lahore will soon hear qabza mafia’s miserable wailing as the government would lay its iron hands on them, he said these mafias used to fund political parties’ public meetings, election campaigns and, in return, find no pressure from the civil administration.
Lockdown of non-essential sectors
Prime Minister Khan said that like other parts of the world, Pakistan was also hit by the second wave of Covid-19, but the country was not going for a complete lockdown. He said Pakistan would only shut non-essential sectors, including public gatherings, to save its poor people as well as economy from the severe consequences, APP adds.
“With the high level of poverty and the lessons learnt from the first wave of Covid-19, we cannot afford the lockdown of businesses and factories, where people are employed,” PM Khan said while addressing the Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan organised by the World Economic Forum.
The prime minister spoke on various subjects, including how the country tackled the first wave of Covid-19 through effective measures and saved the people from economic effects, the strategy for second wave of coronavirus, government’s policies for economic revival, and economic opportunities being created by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Dilating on the successful strategy to cope with the first wave of coronavirus, he said that after realising the worst economic impact of complete lockdown, the government adopted the strategy of ‘smart lockdown’ on hot spots and quickly opened the construction sector, followed by other businesses, to save the poor and daily-wage earners from hunger.
The prime minister also mentioned the distribution of unprecedented cash assistance among 15 million poor people, including those rendered jobless due to the lockdown, to save them from hunger.
He mentioned the economic challenges faced by the country, including fiscal deficit, current account deficit, trade deficit, etc, and said the government tackled them by cutting down expenditures and imports, increasing exports, attracting foreign direct investment, receiving more workers remittances and checking money laundering.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020