Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of federal cabinet here on Wednesday (March 25).
The meeting was held via video link. Meeting of federal cabinet discussed the situation arising out of coronavirus and the steps taken by the government to contain the spread of the contagion.
Meeting of federal cabinet reviewed the impact of the epidemic on the country’s economy. It also discussed a package for the construction sector.
As per the agenda of the meeting, federal minister for Energy Omar Ayub briefed the prime minister on the distribution, billing and other matters related to the power division amidst the crisis of the virus.
Besides, the federal cabinet also reviewed measures taken against hoarders benefiting from the crisis of coronavirus across the country.
The federal cabinet endorsed the decisions of its subcommittee on various legal issues.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced government has earmarked Rs 200 billion for labourers who will face extraordinary difficulties in the wake of nationwide lock-downs to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“In many countries a curfew has already placed. Had I been in Italy or France, I would have no qualms in placing a curfew. When I think of Pakistan, I think of how we will get food to the people.”
Referring to the decision by the provincial governments to enforce lock-downs in their respective provinces, he said: “In Pakistan unfortunately decisions always made keeping in mind the elite.”
“When I place a curfew do I ever think of squatter settlements where there are 8-10 people living in a single room?
Major points of the Package
Outlining the major points of the package, the prime minister said:
1. Labour – A sum of Rs200 billion has been earmarked for labourers. We will also discuss with the provinces and businesses to accommodate the labourers so they not rendered jobless.
2. Export and industry – We will give them Rs100bn worth of tax refunds — which are usually delayed and given — so they may spend this on their labour as well. Interest payments also deferred.
3. Small and medium industries – Rs100bn set aside for these industries and their interest payments deferred as well. They will able to make use of concessional loans as well, with low interest rates. Farmers will also be able to enjoy lower input costs.
4. Low-income families – A sum of Rs150bn set aside for families most impacted, spread across the next four months. They will given Rs3,000 monthly. Provinces will asked to join in and assist the federal government.
5. Expansion of Panah Gah – In the wake of the pandemic, there has been a rush on existing shelters so their numbers and capabilities need to be expanded. The government will work to enforce measures so that people screened before being let in.
6. Utility stores – To ensure consist availability of goods, the government has set aside Rs50bn. The government will also budget for wheat procurement worth Rs280bn, so the farmers can also earn and the village areas do not face a financial crunch.
7. Petrol and diesel – Petrol, diesel, kerosene and light diesel will see their prices slashed by Rs15 “which will result in an impact on the government of Rs75bn”.
8. Electricity and gas – Seventy five per cent of the population said to use 300 units or less of electricity. These households will be able to pay their bills with a deferred payment plan, over the next three months. Similarly, 81% of gas consumers incur a bill of Rs2,000 per month. They will also be able to pay in instalments over the next three months.
9. Medical workers, equipment – A sum of Rs50bn has been set aside for the purchase of equipment and all necessary facilitation of medical workers who are at the forefront of the fight against the virus.
10. Food items – Taxes on these will either abolished or reduced.