FILE PHOTO: Daily wage laborers, wait for work as they sit outside closed shops, during lockdown amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a market in Karachi, Pakistan April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/File Photo

ECC okays Rs75b for daily-wage earners

6.2 million people will benefit from federal govt’s move

Shahbaz Rana April 23, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved the disbursement of Rs75 billion among 6.2 million daily-wage earners, who were now out work because of the partial lockdown imposed in the country to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

This amount will be released from PM’s Relief Package of Rs200 billion, according to the finance ministry.

Each deserving person will receive Rs12,000 per person in compensation -- 31.4% or Rs5,500 less than the minimum per month wage for a labourer.

The disbursement will take place using the ‘Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas Programme’, one of the schemes launched under the Ehsaas initiative.

For this purpose, a fourth category in addition to the already existing three categories in the ‘Ehsaas Kifalat Programme’ will be created. The standard filters and checks of Ehsaas will be applied for the identification of beneficiaries.

The“Mazdoor Ka Ehsaas Programme is aimed at extending the much-needed support to low-income labourer/daily-wage earners including loaders, cleaning staff, contractual employees, piece-rate workers, street vendors, construction workers, painters, welders, mechanics, carpenters, domestic help, drivers, etc.

The ECC was informed that after the usual filters and checks, up to six million low-income people were expected to benefit under the planned fourth category in addition to the 12 million labourers already targeted under category one to three of Kifalat.

The Benazir Income Support Programme has not been able to reach these 12 million families because of its capacity constraints and adding another 6.2 million would be a major challenge for its management.

The ECC also asked the industries and production ministry and the Poverty Alleviation and Social Sector Development Division to jointly work out a comprehensive mechanism and modalities to ensure transparent and efficient disbursement of money to the deserving people.

There were concerns that running two separate programmes would lead to potential overlaps which were difficult to remove are in the existing situation and could lead to unequal distribution.

Loan conversion

The ECC also approved giving $188 million World Bank loan as grant to the climate change ministry. However, there are serious questions of misuse of a significant portion of these funds as the climate change ministry wants to spend the money on the youth force to protect trees.

Pakistan has secured the loan from the WB for Pakistan Hydromet and Ecosystem Restoration Services Project.

The WB has recently revised objectives of the loan to strengthen Pakistan’s public sector delivery of reliable and timely hydro-meteorological services and enhance resilience to climate and health shock. It has allocated $60 million for procurement of radars and $128 million for resilience against climate and health shocks.

The ECC approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs606 million for 19 projects to be implemented by the Balochistan government in the FY 2019-20 and another technical supplementary grant amounting to Rs7 million for the purchase of spare parts for helicopter maintenance by the Frontier Corps Balochistan (North).

The ECC also gave the nod to releasing a government loan of Rs1.3 billion in the current financial year and Rs3.85 billion per annum during the next three years for the settlement of the outstanding liabilities of litigants in the case involving Pakistan Steel Mills.

It accorded a principled approval to a proposal by the national health services ministry for the provision of Rs150 million funds as grant in aid/seed money for the Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority. The ECC asked the finance and health secretaries to jointly work out the modalities for the arrangement of funds.

On a proposal by the industries ministry seeking a supplementary grant of Rs288 million for the payment of salaries to the employees of Pakistan Machine Tool Factory, the ECC asked the Finance Division and the Industries and Production Division to sit together and resolve the issue.

The ECC also considered a proposal by the maritime affairs ministry on the arrest of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation ships in South Africa on account of alleged claims of a company named Coniston against the Pakistan Steel Mills. It asked the finance secretary to engage with the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and Pakistan Steel Mills and seek opinion of the Law Division, if necessary, to resolve the matter.