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Economy

PM announces Huge Relief Package to tackle Economic Slowdown due to Covid-19 Pandemic

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Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday announced a huge relief package aimed at providing financial support to the different sectors of economy affected by the economic slowdown unleashed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) all over the globe.

During an interaction with media persons, the prime minister said the government had decided to allocate Rs 200 billion for the labour class, which had been hit hard in the difficult times.

To help the industrial sector and especially the export sector, it was decided to release tax refunds amounting to Rs100 billion, besides, deferring of the interest payment to bolster this sector, he added.

For the small and medium industry, and agriculture sector, another amount of Rs 100 billion was set aside with deferred interest payment, the prime minister said, adding concessional loans would also being extended to the sectors. The government wanted to bring down the input costs for the farmers.

Other packages, he said, included additional amount of 50 billion for the Utility Stores, Rs 280 billion for the wheat procurement, slashing of petrol and diesel prices by Rs15 per liter for which the government would have to bear the burden of Rs75 billion. An amount of Rs100 billion was allocated separately for the emergency situation, he added.

The prime minister said power consumers using 300 units and gas users with Rs 2,000 monthly bills would be facilitated to deposit their bills through three monthly installments. A sum of Rs 50 billion was also allocated for the medical staff. The National Disaster Management Authority would get Rs 25 billion for purchase and procuring of kits, he announced.

Imran Khan said for the vulnerable families who were bearing the brunt of the difficult time, it was decided to allocate an amount of Rs 150 billion 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 practised.

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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.

However, he added, the government would review the situation after a couple of weeks. The provincial governments after the 18th Constitutional Amendment could take their decisions while the role of the Federal Government was only that of an advisory, he replied to a query.

The Federal Government, he said, could only give guidelines but could not direct the provinces against their decisions. The provincial governments could react to a situation, but should also give consideration to the evolving situation.

“God forbids, nobody knows the evolving situation, which might also compel us for the imposition of curfew after two weeks,” he added.

Advisor to the PM on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Minister for Food Security Khusru Bakhtiar, Advisor to the PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the PM on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, and NDMA Chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal were also present on the occasion.

Comparing the situation in Spain, Italy, France and other European countries, the prime minister said with about 900 cases in Pakistan, the government team had been taking cognizance of the evolving situation regularly.

Enforcing a curfew would lead to complete halting of transport, which could badly affect the food and medical supplies.

__PM Imran Khan

Such steps could have strong damaging effects upon the society and economy, especially on the downtrodden or the poor class, who had been living in clusters in the Katchi Abadis.

The prime minister differentiating between the lockdown and curfew also shared his concerns that the evolving situation of the COVID 19 outbreak could stretch over to six months.

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“Whatever decisions the government take, I am fully responsible for them. All the economic decisions are being taken with the consensus of my economic team,” he added.

To another question, he regretted that the economic situation had been improving in the country as the macroeconomic indicators witnessed rising, but the COVID 19 outbreak cast unintended consequences upon the economy. The year 2019 had been the most difficult time of his life, he added.

The prime minister, to a question, replied that in case of emergency, the country would require a volunteer force comprising the youth, besides creation of funds. The youth and overseas Pakistanis would be tapped in such like scenario.

Dilating upon the issue of complete lockdown, he further regretted that confusion and impression had been created in the country. Taking wrong decisions at the current critical stage was more dangerous than the spread of coronavirus, he warned.

The prime minister said the government was extra cautious in taking certain steps, which should benefit the country and the nation. During the first National Security Committee meeting, when the country had reported just 21 cases, the gradual lockdown started with the closure of the schools, besides stoppage of public gatherings.

In the past, decisions were taken for the interests of the selected elite class and there were different systems for different classes, he said and regretted that the same response was being also witnessed in the country over the coronavirus.

The prime minister said it was a collective fight of humanity and a single government could not fight it alone.

The public response to the government’s measures like those witnessed in China was vital for achieving the objectives, he stressed and urged the nation to fully cooperate with the government’s calls to control the spread of the Pandemic .

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Diplomacy

For The First Time In 74 Years, Pakistan is Going To Turn Gems, Jewelry And Minerals Into An Export Industry: PM

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Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Task Force. The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Industry Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant Dr. Shahbaz Gill, Chairman Gems and Jewellery Task Force Engineer Gull Asghar Khan, Atif Khan, members of the task force and relevant senior officers. During the meeting, recommendations were made to the Prime Minister on the restructuring of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Division of the Task Force and the proposed Mineral City.

The meeting was informed that Pakistan has a potential of USD 5 billion annually in terms of exports of precious stones which will have a positive impact on the national economy and create millions of jobs. Pakistan currently has reserves of 99 types of precious stones and is the eighth largest producer in the world. Moreover, according to conservative estimates, Pakistan consumes 200 tons of gold annually. With effective legislation and better management of this sector, it will be transformed into a major export industry.

The meeting was informed that Gems and Jewellery have been given industry status and its implementation will be ensured as per the strategy of the task force. In order to increase exports, special attention will be given to export promotion for which assistance will also be sought from Pakistani embassies. In addition, a Gems and Jewellery City will be set up to pool resources, provide one-window operations to address the problems the sector is facing and provide incentives to investors. Initially, a public-private partnership model will be adopted using existing resources.

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Pakistan will also actively seek sector-related certifications for access to international markets. It will not only improve the standards of not only precious stones but also precious metals but will bring the current standards at par with internationally recognized standards. The meeting was also informed that despite the availability of research resources in this field, no significant progress has been made. According to the strategy, all modern standards will be introduced by utilizing the research sector. The meeting was also given a detailed briefing on the establishment of Mineral City.

An area has been identified for the chemical and mineral industry in Pakistan where industrial value addition from crude minerals will not only help reduce imports but also increase foreign exchange from exports. The Prime Minister said on the occasion that the government was restructuring the sector with modern technology by changing the traditional practices of the minerals and precious stones sector. The Prime Minister further directed that all the resources that are being wasted should be utilized and a schedule should be worked out for the implementation of this strategy with clear-cut timelines as well as the existing barriers for investors should be eradicated.

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Canada

Socio-Economic Implications of Canadian Border Closure With U.S

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After doing a  detailed analysis of the situation emerging from the closure of the border between    Canada and  US, it could be assessed that how damaging the decision is for the  Economy of Canada, and how beneficial, it will be for Canada, if it decides to re-open the Border which is closed over the fears of an outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Since, some people think that given the maximum number of  Covid-19 cases and several deaths worldwide, the decision should stay as there are thousands of cases and deaths over covid-19 in the US. They deem it a good step to keep the border shut over the fears of  Novel Corona Virus with the US and Mexico. 

Though some sections consider the move as a right decision based on the covid0-19 statistics some experts term it very dangerous for  Canadian Economy as it will be affected as major industries such Tourism and Travel, Immigration affected very badly and economic cannot be put on hold for long as the numbers show that  75% to 80% Canadian exports go to the US while 30% to 40% US exports make their way in  Canada.

Thus the economy has been hit very badly due to this prolonged closure and shutdown of Economic activities will ultimately pose a grave threat to falling in Recession and Falling of  Reserves.

The Canadian authorities will have to swallow a hard pill to re-open the b border for essential and non-essential travel since both types of entries in the country contribute to the economy of the country.

At the moment, Canada has limited Covid-19 infections as compared to the US that has a massive number of infections in the world.

According to the Border Management Experts, this could be the only problem that might have prompted  Canadian Prime Minister to extend the closure for another month until some  SOP’s may be developed to ensure on border covid-19 Testing and Scanning so that preventive measures should be taken to keep the infection ratio low in Canada.

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 The World economies are affected very badly over the lockdowns announced to prevent Covid-19 outbreak and their economy has been under pressure already and the financial experts predict the worst type recession shortly. 

The people of both countries are of the view that the Prolonged border closure has caused an economic crisis and several Industries such as Hotel Industry, Travel Tours and Immigration, Food and beverages Industry, sports Industry, Education have been affected very badly and both Canada and the US cannot afford to sustain more jolts to their economy as economic activities have dropped to almost  80%  and ring the alarm bells for the leadership to decide immediately what their next plan will for the border.

Whether they will reopen it in phases or provide restrict access to essential travel such health workers, Airline Crew, Food and Goods services, People visiting ailing relatives and other related activities that fall within the purview of  “ essential”.

Although, the global Pandemic has created a situation like recession which is going from bad to worse each Passing day, yet in such scenario “keeping borders Closed” for trade and Business Opportunities and other travel, entertainment industry, will incur an irreparable loss to the Economy of both Canada and US as both countries have signed several Trade Agreements and US has been losing millions of Dollars in terms ” US Entry Waivers” and this is putting pressure on world’s biggest economy. 

Even it is a great blow to the Immigrants who wish to travel to neighbouring countries.

Both Canada and the United States are providing millions of dollars to people as relief package, Health and social security and other procurements such  Covid-19 testing kits and establishing new isolation and Quarantine centres as the infections surge in the US and worldwide.

In such circumstances halting economic activities are suicidal for  Canada and Virus affected the US  by keeping borders close for non-essential or optional purposes despite putting some curbs on essential travels such putting immigrants in 14 days quarantine and other immigration-related curbs. 

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The economists fear that what would be the consequences if the covid-19 vaccine was unavailable till the end of the year 2021, will they still keep the border closed, sounds like insensible and disastrous for all types Industries and Sectors including  Immigration and Border services. 

So, it would be prudent on the part of Both Canada and US  to think over the re-opening of their border so that people intending to visit their relatives on both sides of borders may have uninterrupted access and they must be facilities at the border checkpoints for covid-19 so that the fears of  Canadian authorities about getting soaring infections may be dispelled by assuring them safety measures at border crossing points.

Furthermore,  the fears cannot be treated with medicines but they could be soothed with confidence-building measures as the statistics show that  65% Canadian fear to get contracted by Virus while over 60% US people have a similar situation for contracting virus.

Despite all this, nobody knows that when these borders will reopen for general people apart from essential travel as most people are in the grip of fear and prefer staying at home as per WHO guidelines, that may be the issue that both Canadian and US Governments are lingering on the issue and prefer extending closure as both nations enjoy cordial relation and the closure is a mutual decision of both countries.

Recently, though some Tour industry groups recorded their protest and demanded to re-open the border. The decision could not be influenced until the general public presses their respective Governments to review the decision and take some bold steps to save their economies falling to prey to this pandemic.

Both Canada and the US  cannot afford to lose millions of Dollars in border trade and border revenues such as Entry waivers, customs etc to boost their economies.

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Economy

PM to Inaugurate the First One-Window EHSAAS Center Tomorrow

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Under the Ehsaas umbrella, there are many programs for 14 different target groups. But often, a poor family is not aware of the benefits they are entitled to and, if they are aware, they have to go to multiple offices to seek help. With One Window Ehsaas, the aim is to deliver services through a single window, a one-stop shop.

One Window Ehsaas has six pillars: A One Stop Shop, the Ehsaas Center; a public facing digital information and services platform; mobile app; back office consolidated digital interface; Cognitive API architecture, or the integrated national socioeconomic database; and finally, the Ehsaas One-Window Beneficiary Selection and Targeting Policy.

The first One Window Ehsaas Center is opening in Sitara Market today in Islamabad. In this center, all Ehsaas services can be accessed in one place. To facilitate Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries, whose families receive stipends, both Point of Sales machines as well as cash machines or ATMs have been placed in the One Window Center. Partner banks have opened their branches in the center, and NADRA office has been set up as well.

Having all these services in one center can significantly facilitate an Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiary, who often previously needed to go to many offices to get complaints resolved. Ehsaas stipends for children can be accessed at the center also. The digital system, which has recently been put in place does real time verifications from three data sources before the child is enrolled in the program and if the child doesn’t have a Birth registration form—which is a prerequisite for enrollment—the mother can just walk the courtyard to get it made in the NADRA center rather than taking taxi to go to another site. Ehsaas Nashonuma services are also available in the center.

Children at risk of stunting and pregnant mothers can get specialized nutritional food from the office and cash stipends from the ATM. They get awareness session as well on health and nutrition. Antenatal services and immunization services are available at the center. Students can walk into the center and get information about Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship, and they don’t have to pay in an internet café to fill their application.

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In the One Window center, there is free use of internet, computer and printer. In the One Window center, someone, looking for a livelihood opportunity can visit Ehsaas Amdan and Ehsaas Interest Free Loan Desks. A person in need of financial assistance for health can find out about Sehat Sahulat and, if not entitled in Sehat Sahulat or not in an empaneled hospital can be channeled to Ehsaas Tahafuz or PBM’s health related financial assistance systems. In One Window service, there also are many care services. Somebody wanting to spend a night in Panagah can book a bed and get free One Star bed and breakfast facility.

People can admit a child in an orphanage; and a young woman can get information and be admitted in a vocational center. A street child can be admitted in one of our free schools. Ehsaas Registration Desks have been set up where people can get surveyed, to ascertain if they are eligible for Ehsaas benefits. In the center, Dashboards, display information relevant to people’s needs and complaints are addressed in real time.

There is also a beneficiary retiring room, in case a woman comes with a child and needs to feed her. A differently abled individual can have multiple avenues of redress in the center. Processes are being made simpler so that they can get a disability card made with ease. In the same disability room, NGOs are given space to provide free prosthesis and orthoses. Also, a customized wheelchair can be ordered.

The second part is the digital e-portal with people centered information; this was built learning from the questions on social media about various Ehsaas programs. The third part of One Window Ehsaas is an app which mirrors information on the digital portal but in addition, it also marks locations of our service sites: Langars, Panagahs and payment sites. When opened from a mobile, an individual can be navigated to the address.

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This app is enabled with a camera, which allows a photograph to pick the geolocation of an Ehsaas social welfare site to be mapped. The fourth part is the integrated digital interface facing the back office, which facilitates access of all those working in the Ehsaas ecosystem to appropriate links and resources. The fifth component of One Window Ehsaas is the integrated database. Previously the 2010 BISP data was siloed; even provincial social protection agencies had to do paperwork to access the database and there were costs involved.

Now, under the Ehsaas data reform, all federal Ehsaas implementing agencies will be able to access data from the 2021 Ehsaas National Socio-economic Registry through APIs with no cost at all. This two-way data sharing will also enrich the data repository. Data integration will also enable transparency. Agencies will be able to see what benefits an individual or the family are getting, and the entitlements they have in terms of various Ehsaas programs.

The sixth pillar of One Window Ehsaas, is the Standardized Beneficiary Targeting Policy. Previously, all agencies used their own eligibility ascertainment system—this Policy will compel standardized beneficiary targeting using the Proxy Means Test, which uses information on household and individual characteristics to compute an algorithm generated score (0-100) for each household, which then serves as a proxy for welfare status.

The information needed to generate the score comes from the National Socioeconomic Survey. So, in the One Window Policy specific PMTs were stipulated for each program and a policy devised to do away with duplications. “We will open Ehsaas One Window Centers in every district”, said Dr. Sania.

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