Dr Ishrat unveils govt’s economic revival plan in wake of Covid-19

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain said on Monday that the government had devised a well-crafted strategy in the wake of Covid-19, enabling the most vulnerable segments of the society to absorb the economic shocks and supporting the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to tackle disruption in economic activities.

He was delivering a keynote speech at an online dialogue “Managing Economy in the aftermath of COVID-19: A keynote session with Dr Ishrat Hussain, Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity”, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

National and international experts on economy, diplomats, academicians and the development experts participated in the webinar, an SDPI press release said.

Dr Ishrat Hussain said the largest cash grant in the history of Pakistan, targeting 16 million household across the country, was being provided to the most vulnerable groups in the wake of the pandemic.

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Almost eight million people living below the poverty line had already been facilitated, whereas four million more households, which were feared to slip into the category, besides four million others that had lost the employment during the crisis, would also be provided the cash grant, he added.

“The SMEs are being provided relief through several measures, including the arrangement of subsidies on the loans by the government,” he said, adding that the measures were also being taken to revive the agriculture sector.

It was being done through supporting the small farmers and Rs56 billion was being allocated to provide subsidies on agricultural inputs, including seeds and fertilizers, he stated.

Dr Ishrat said the jobs creation was another key consideration of the government to respond to the growing unemployment which was resulted in the aftermath of coronavirus.

“Therefore, keeping in view the potential of construction sector in the creation of employment opportunities, subsidies and incentives were being announced for the important sector of the economy.”

The adviser said a number of measures were in the offing for the performance evaluation of civil servants under the institutional reforms.

“These reforms are directed towards the aspects of induction, recruitment, training, performance management, career planning, promotion, compensation, early retirement and finally retirement,” he stated. “It would now be mandatory for the Grade-19 and above officers to produce at least two research papers in their relevant fields for their promotion in the next grade.”

He informed the cabinet had already approved the institutional reforms plan, which would be implemented in next promotions.

The e-governance initiatives, he added, were introduced even before the outbreak of the pandemic and would be strengthened further now as an ongoing process.

Regarding microfinance banking institutions, he said they were regulated by the State Bank while the others were regulated by the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

He recommended that the regulatory framework of microfinance institutions should come under the central bank.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri earlier said that in the time of uncertainty about the future at every level, it was important for the people to know about the measures and policies being worked upon by the government to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19.

He opined, “Keeping a balance between the lives and livelihoods would be important for the government while responding in the existing crisis. Therefore, it is important for all the stakeholders to remain updated on various policy initiatives being taken by the government to overcome the challenges.”

While responding to a question, Dr Ishrat Hussain said the existing taxpayers would not be burdened further to reduce the revenue shortfall and the focus would be on bringing new potential ones into the tax net.

To another question on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said, “We have to watch the situation as it emerges. Since the United Nations will have to take decision and revisit the SDGs, for instance climate and environment related SDGs could be achieved quicker now due to less emissions while generating employment will take long time.”

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