ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday reviewed and approved a Rs1.2-trillion economic relief package announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week as the number of confirmed cases rise exponentially.
Currently, more than 1,800 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, while 25 have lost their lives to it, across Pakistan.
During the meeting, which also deliberated upon the government’s steps to check the COVID-19 pandemic, PM Imran took notice of the reports claiming that goods of the country’s exporters were being stopped. “Exporters’ goods, as well as goods’ transport, should not be halted,” the premier said.
The Cabinet was briefed on the measures being taken to tackle the worsening pandemic.
Sources had earlier said the Power Division was expected to brief the ministers about the circular debt, as well as supply and tariff issues, amidst a country-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
The meeting was also set to review the epidemic’s impacts on the national economy and give final approval to the relief package announced by the premier to mitigate the crisis.
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, under Chairmanship of Advisor to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, on Monday finalised a Rs1.2 trillion package, including a Rs 100 billion supplementary grant, for an Emergency Relief Fund to combat the virus.
The ECC also approved a special package for relief to 12 million poor families through cash assistance under the Ehsaas Program. The plan will provide cash grants, under the Kafalat program, and Emergency Cash Assistance, to the poor on the recommendation of the district administration.
The assistance will be provided for four months and will be a one-time dispensation. The cash will be provided either in one installment of Rs12,000 through Kafalat partner banks i.e Bank Alfalah and Habib Bank Limited after biometric verification, or it may be provided in two installments of Rs6,000/each.
‘Coronavirus to be confronted with faith’
Addressing the nation on Monday night, PM Imran Khan had said that the coronavirus would be confronted by the force of faith, as he announced the government’s measures to contain the epidemic.
PM Imran said that China had locked down Wuhan to contain the virus. “Had Pakistan’s situation been similar to China’s, I would have ordered a lockdown in our cities as well,” he said.
The prime minister noted that 25 percent of Pakistan’s population were the poor who could not afford two meals a day. “If the government is unable to look after the unemployed, the lockdown will not be successful,” he maintained.
“This disease does not differentiate between the poor and the rich,” he remarked, citing the example of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who contracted the infection as well.