Federal cabinet meets to approve coronavirus relief package, discuss economy

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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet will on Tuesday review the coronavirus situation in the country and discuss the economic relief package announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan last week.

The meeting will also deliberate upon the steps taken by the government to check the coronavirus epidemic as the number of confirmed cases of the virus rise exponentially.  

Currently, more than 1,800 people have been confirmed to have contracted the virus, while 25 have lost their lives to it, across Pakistan.

According to sources, the Power Division is 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 will also review the impacts of the epidemic on the national economy and give final approval to the relief package announced by the premier to mitigate the crisis.

Relief package

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, under Chairmanship of Advisor to PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, on Monday finalised a Rs1.2 trillion package, including a Rs 100 billion supplementary grant, for an Emergency Relief Fund to combat the virus.

The ECC also approved a special package for relief to 12 million poor families through cash assistance under the Ehsaas Program. The plan will provide cash grants, under the Kafalat program, and Emergency Cash Assistance, to the poor on the recommendation of the district administration.

Read also: Goods transporters facing hurdles due to lockdown

The assistance will be provided for four months and will be a one-time dispensation. The cash will be provided either in one installment of Rs12,000 through Kafalat partner banks i.e Bank Alfalah and Habib Bank Limited after biometric verification, or it may be provided in two installments of Rs6,000/each.

‘Coronavirus to be confronted with faith’

Addressing the nation on Monday night, PM Imran Khan had said that the coronavirus would be confronted by the force of faith, as he announced the government’s measures to contain the epidemic. 

PM Imran said that China had 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.

Read also: Murtaza Wahab disappointed at PM Imran for not addressing PPE, ventilator shortage

The prime minister noted that 25 percent 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 contracted the infection as well.