Coronavirus relief fund approved by federal cabinet
ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet reviewed and approved the Rs1,200 billion economic relief package on Tuesday, which was announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week to deal with the coronavirus outbreak and its repercussions in 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) had on Monday finalised a Rs1.2-trillion package, including a Rs100-billion supplementary grant, for an Emergency Relief Fund to combat the virus.
The ECC had also approved a special package for relief to 12 million poor families through cash assistance under the Ehsaas Programme. Cash grants would be provided under the Kafalat program and emergency cash assistance to the poor on the recommendation of the district administration.
The assistance would be provided for four months as a one-time dispensation.
The cash would be provided either in one Rs12,000 installment through Kafalat partner banks — Bank Alfalah and Habib Bank Limited — after biometric verification or in two installments of Rs6,000 each.
Addressing the nation on Monday night, PM Imran had said the coronavirus would be confronted by the force of faith and announced the government’s measures to contain the epidemic.
The premier had said China 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% 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 had contracted the infection as well.