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PM Imran announces 'historic' welfare package worth Rs120b

03 Nov, 2021
PM Imran Khan's address to to the nation. Photo: screengrab
PM Imran Khan's address to to the nation. Photo: screengrab

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced the ‘biggest welfare programme in Pakistan’s history’ worth Rs120 billion to provide relief to people struggling with rising inflation.

In a televised address to the nation, the premier said that 20 million families will benefit from the package, thus helping 130 million Pakistanis.

"This [poverty alleviation] package, which is worth Rs120 billion, will be offered to Pakistanis by the federal and provincial governments," he said.

Under the package, people will be able to avail a 30% discount on three basic edible items: including ghee, wheat, and pulses.

Moreover, farmers would be provided interest-free loans of up to Rs500,00. Under this welfare intiaitive, four million families would be able to avail interest-free facility for house building.

“We will provide scholarships worth Rs47 billion," the prime minister said.

A perilous situation

At the onset, he said that the Ehsaas programme had laid the groundwork over the last three years by mapping poverty across the country, while stating that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf –led government had come to power at a time when the country’s economy was in a perilous state.

“The PTI government inherited a difficult economic situation, and we are thankful to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China for providing the help that saved Pakistan from defaulting,” he said, while saying that Pakistan had to approach the International Monetary Fund to help stabilize the economy.

During this time, the coronavirus broke out, exacerbating the challenges faced by the country, the premier added.

He also lauded the country’s response to the pandemic, saying that he had faced strong pressure to enforce curfew-like lockdowns, adding that National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) led response had since earned the country international acclaim.

Fearing unemployment, the premier further said, the government imposed "small and smart" lockdowns instead of completely shutting down the economy. "We especially saved agriculture and construction, which create jobs in urban areas and increased exports," he added.

Recounting the government's incentives for the construction and agriculture sectors, he said the country's economic indicators were positive.

“Cotton production had increased by 81%, while record-breaking motorcycle and tractor sales were witnessed in the country,” KhN said.

He said there was a 23% increase in urea usage by farmers, while motorcycle sales had also gone up, thus showing that better times were coming.

Talking about construction, the premier said there were Rs600 billion projects underway due to the incentives offered by the government. “In the industrial sector, large-scale manufacturing has increased by 13%.”

Speaking on the government’s policies on agriculture, he said that they resulted in increase in rice production by 13.6%, corn by 8%, sugarcane by 22%, and wheat by 8%.

On the increase in profits of several industrial sectors, he said engineering witnessed an increase of 350% in their profits, textile 163%, cars 131%, cement 113%, oil and gas 75%.

The premier said electricity consumption had increased by 13%, indicating that the industry was growing. The prime minister stated that the tax revenue was increasing, which showed that our economic indicators are on the right track.

In information and technology, the prime minister said the sector had witnessed a growth of 47%, while in the current year, it is expected to grow by 75%. "This is a good thing for our youth".

"Our policies prevented the economy from collapsing," he said.

Talking about the rise in petroleum prices, he said the commodity was still relatively cheap compared to neighbouring countries. However, he added that price of fuel would be increased. "If we don't increase oil prices, our deficit will balloon out of control."

Prime Minister Imran acknowledged that inflation was a major problem in the country, saying the media and the opposition had the right to criticise the government.

But he said the media "needs to balance and think whether inflation is rising because of our government or due to rise in prices in the international market".