In Pakistan, finance adviser upbeat about relief in external debt

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh says without it developing countries will be worst affected from COVID-19 pandemic

APP April 15, 2020
Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has voiced hope that financial and other forums of the world would be able to devise a plan which enables developing countries like Pakistan to meet their international obligations.

Talking to Ambassador of China Yao Jing on Tuesday, he said keeping in view the present circumstances, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G-20 countries were talking about debt relief without which developing countries would be worst affected from COVID-19 pandemic. “Pakistan looks forward to Chinese support to deal with the unprecedented situation arising from this pandemic,” he said.

The adviser appreciated Chinese government for all the assistance it had provided so far to Pakistan to deal with the pandemic.

He also shared the details of the economic relief package given by the government to the people whose lives and businesses were affected by the pandemic.

“During this difficult time, the government has three major priorities including provision of healthcare and safety to the public, cash assistance to the most vulnerable and keeping the wheel of the economy moving at a slow but steady pace,” he pointed out.

He added that the government devised a comprehensive relief package worth Rs1.2 trillion, which included Rs200 billion assistance for workers and labourers, Rs100 billion for supporting small businesses and agriculture sector.

Detailing further, he said Rs107 billion had been allocated for sales tax refunds and Rs50 billion for income tax refunds from 2014 onward.

Moreover, Ehsaas Programme, through its urgent cash disbursement, was taking care of the most vulnerable in the country, he added.

He highlighted that the reduction in petrol and diesel prices and deferment of payment of bills were some other significant steps.

Incentivising the construction sector was also an opportunity for those who were in need of work, Shaikh said.

The adviser also discussed the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the overall growth of Pakistan’s economy as exports and remittances would suffer due to global economies entering a recessionary phase.

He said different economies had different levels of strength to deal with the economic losses and the developing countries would be worst hit by the slowdown.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2020.

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