Sindh cabinet approves relief ordinance
Shortfall of Rs233b expected for Sindh, says CM Shah
KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet passed the Covid-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020, on Monday, in an attempt to mitigate the challenges arising from the province-wide lockdown and provide relief to those affected by the ensuing economic crisis.
The ordinance is to prevent evictions of residential and commercial tenants even if they cannot pay rent, while also reducing school tuition fees by 20 per cent. Furthermore, deadlines associated with school tuition fees, rent and utility bills have been extended, while concessions have been announced in utility charges as well.
Additionally, no employees or workers are to be laid off, terminated or removed at the current time, and employers must continue to pay their salaries, though some deductions are permitted. The government may also provide exemptions in provincial taxes, duties, fees, cess, levies and charges.
Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab tweeted that the ordinance "is meant to address the extraordinary situation we are living in."
Shah also revealed during the meeting that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had initially set a target of collecting Rs5.5 trillion but was now expecting Rs3.9 trillion, cutting Sindh's share from Rs835 billion to Rs602 billion. This, he pointed out, was a shortfall of Rs233 billion for the province.
Suspected Covid-19 patient ‘commits suicide’ at Karachi hospital
Stressing the gravity of this change, he said a new strategy would have to be adopted to meet expenditures, including the growing health expenditure bills.
The CM stated that under federal transfers based on FBR collections, the Sindh government had been meant to receive Rs716 billion by June 30, but now the amount to be transferred was expected to be Rs534 billion.
Keeping in view the current financial situation, he said he had decided to cut non-development expenditures from Rs870 billion to Rs700 billion. Furthermore, he announced, the Annual Development Plan budget had also been reduced from Rs228 billion to Rs93 billion this year.
Moreover, the cabinet was apprised that a target procurement of 1.4 million tonnes of wheat, at the rate of Rs1,400 per 40 kilogrammes, had been initiated, with the food department procuring around a third of the target - 469,673 tonnes - so far.
When it was pointed out that the conditions of presenting land documents was causing hindrances in the process, the cabinet, on the request of Sindh Food Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal, waived the conditions.
Pakistan hails global support for Covid response plan
Directing the food department to achieve the target, the CM added that he would appreciate it if they could even exceed it.
The CM further told the cabinet that he had been informed that locust swarm attacks on standing crops in the province would multiply in upcoming seasons. "After the coronavirus pandemic, locust swarms will be another disaster," he maintained.
The provincial agriculture minister and secretary briefed the meeting on measures being taken to control the locust threat, adding that the department had constituted 57 teams to spray the crops. However, as far as spraying desert areas was concerned, they added, it was the responsibility of the federal government.
They told the CM that 12 aircrafts were required to carry out aerial spraying in the desert areas of Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, further saying that the Centre had decided to purchase six aircraft but this had not yet been done.
The cabinet urged the federal government to purchase or hire six aircrafts to begin the spraying process, asserting that the locusts would otherwise wreak havoc on the next crops.
WHO chief says pandemic far from over, worried about children
During the meeting, the cabinet also approved a proposal to authorise the additional chief secretary, home secretary and all commissioners to use powers under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, while also approving a one-off provincial sales tax waiver on the commission payable to branchless banking retailers disbursing funds to the needy under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.
Furthermore, the cabinet accorded ex-post fact approval to the notifications, circulars and standard operating procedures issued by certain officials under the Sindh Epidemic Disease Act.
Sindh nears 5,000 Covid-19 cases
Briefing the Sindh cabinet about the current situation in the province with regard to the pandemic, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah stated that the virus was spreading throughout the province, adding that 341 more cases had emerged in the previous 24 hours, pushing the provincial tally close to 5,000.
"Positive cases are emerging from Karachi to Kashmore, from Karachi to Thar, which is not a good sign," he said, during a cabinet meeting on Monday.
In pictures: Ramazan at night
The CM said that 2,733 tests had been carried out on the day, out of which 12.6 per cent had been positive. So far, a total of 43,949 tests have been conducted in Sindh, with 4,956 cases being diagnosed.
Meanwhile, four more patients lost their lives, bringing the Covid-19 death toll in Sindh to 85, he said, adding that 24 other patients were in critical condition and 16 on the ventilator.
Out of the cases reported on Monday, 269 belonged to Karachi, the CM revealed, claiming that the residents of katchi abadis (slums) in the city were not observing social distancing. Meanwhile, 23 cases surfaced in Khairpur, 12 each in Larkana and Hyderabad, eight in Ghotki, four in Sukkur, three in Dadi, two in Matiari and one each in Jacobabad and Umerkot.