COVID-19: Hafeez Shaikh hopeful of ‘debt relief’ for developing countries

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Dr-Hafeez-Shaikh

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Tuesday expressed hope that financial and other forums of the world would be able to come up with a plan to enable developing countries like Pakistan to meet their international obligations and provide relief to the population adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Talking to Ambassador of China to Pakistan Yao Jing, he noted that keeping in view the present circumstances, the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G-20 countries were talking about debt relief, without which developing countries would be worst affected.

The adviser thanked the Chinese government for all the assistance it had provided so far to Pakistan in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, saying Pakistan looked forward to further this support.

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

He said during this difficult time, the government had three major priorities; provision of healthcare and safety to its people, cash assistance to the most vulnerable, and keeping the wheel of the economy moving at a slow but steady pace.

The government, he said, had come up with a comprehensive relief package of worth Rs1.2 trillion, which included Rs200 billion assistance for workers and labourers, Rs100 billion to support SMEs and agriculture sector, Rs107 billion as sales tax refunds and Rs50 billion income tax refunds from 2014 onward.

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

Hafeez Shaikh said the reduction in petrol and diesel prices and deferment of payment of bills were some other significant steps, adding that incentivizing the construction sector was also an opportunity for those who were in need of work.

The adviser further discussed with the ambassador the adverse affects of coronavirus on the overall growth of the country’s economy, as exports and remittances would both suffer as global economies were in recessionary phase.

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

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