Govt to reopen low-risk industries across the country

Parliamentary body told impact of pandemic greater crisis than disease itself


Waqas Ahmed April 09, 2020
PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: The parliamentary committee on Covid-19 was informed on Thursday that the government was reopening low-risk industries to ensure the supply of essential commodities amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

It was also maintained that the economic and social impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the country was a greater crisis than the pandemic itself.

The committee met under the chair of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser. The meeting was attended by federal ministers and lawmakers from all political parties in parliament.

Adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh told the participants that the viral outbreak had affected both exports and the flow of remittances. He added that the investment portfolio had reduced by $1.4 billion.

Furthermore, the Pakistan Stock Market has fallen by 21% since the mid of February and the value of the rupee decreased by 3%.

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“The GDP rate in the fiscal year 2020-21 will remain low because of the setback caused by the pandemic,” Shaikh explained.

The finance adviser also pointed that the outbreak had affected manufacturing and air transport worldwide.

The PM’s aide said the country’s economy was heading towards stability before the virus spread in the country.

“Our foreign reserves were increasing and inflation had reduced in February,” he added.

“Our exports had increased by 3% and imports were down by 18%. The rupee had become stable and the budget deficit had reduced by 2.3%.”

Shaikh informed the participants of the meeting that the government had approved an economic stimulus package to deal with the situation, including incentives for the construction sector.

The government has also released Rs1.5 billion for the National Disaster Management Authority. Besides, a Rs100 billion energy fund has also been set up.

The finance adviser further said the people have been given tax relief on food items and medicines.

An amount of Rs200 billion has been allocated to provide relief to daily-wage workers. The government has also given a Rs70 billion relief on fuel prices and deferred the payment of gas and electricity bills. The Utility Stores Corporation has been provided with Rs25 billion.

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Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood told the participants that exporters have been given a relief of Rs100 billion. A similar amount has also been allocated for the small and medium enterprises and the agriculture sector.

Federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar informed the participants that ensuring the supply of essential commodities was among the government’s top priorities in the prevailing situation.

He said the government was reopening low-risk industries to ensure the supply of essentials goods.

“We are taking steps for wheat harvesting,” he added. The minister maintained that the social and economic impact of the outbreak was greater than the disease itself.

PML-N leader Khawaja Asif advised the government to remain prepared for the holy month of Ramazan during which the demand for foodstuff would increase.

PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf said the government should clarify its strategy for reopening the construction sector.

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