PM to Announce Multisectoral Relief Package on the Cards Due to Covid-19

On the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Imran Khan will be able to announce a Multi-Sectoral relief Package on Tuesday.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Saturday continued discussions with different stakeholders, including the Ministry of Finance officials, economic advisers and experts, to finalise the salient features of the proposed fiscal package.

“The government has decided in principle that it will not seek any additional funding from the IMF from its allocated additional resources of $50 billion but the IMF will be approached to convince on tax breaks and subsidies under the proposed fiscal stimulus package,” top official sources confirmed to The News on Saturday.

However, the IMF has made it clear to Pakistan that any relief through tax breaks or subsidies should be given through the budget only and any steps that create distortions in the taxation or fiscal system, such as tax exemptions, should be avoided.

When the IMF’s Resident Chief in Pakistan Teresa Daban Sanchez was contacted for comments, she said, “We are working with the Pakistani authorities on a continued basis to evaluate developments and identify courses of actions”.

Official sources said the Ministry of Finance had estimated that the massive decline in POL prices that tumbled from $55 per barrel to less than $25 barrel as well as the palm oil prices which nosedived more than 40 percent provided a cushion of $5-$8 billion to Pakistan.

They said if the government passed this benefit fully on to the consumers, the prices of petrol, diesel, electricity and ghee/cooking oil could reduce significantly on the domestic market.

When Special Secretary Finance Omar Hamid Khan, who is also official spokesman, was contacted for comments, he said the government was working on multi-sectoral relief package including agriculture, fiscal side, exporters, SMEs and others in order to protect them from the negative impacts of the coronavirus.

He said the ministry was working on the fiscal package on the directives of PM Imran Khan.

Pakistan’s exports, tax collection, remittances and foreign investment are going to face a major hit because of coronavirus.

Exporters have witnessed cancellation of orders and the government estimates that the exports might face $500 million to $1 billion reduction in March-June period of 2020. So exports might fetch maximum $20 billion earnings against the earlier target of $24 billion for the current fiscal year 2019-20.

Exporters are expecting a major fiscal stimulus package from the government on account of reduction in tax rates, and release of stuck-up refunds, rebates and incentives on immediate basis in order to help them to overcome their losses.

The daily wagers can be provided with financial assistance through the safety net programs such as the Ehsas program. The government will also provide special incentives to the construction industry, while launch of small works schemes through the federal PSDP program is also under consideration.

Although, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has slashed its policy rate by 75 basis points bringing it down from 13.25 percent to 12.5 percent in its recently announced monetary policy, with decreased POL and commodities prices, the headline inflation would be heading towards single digit within next few weeks so the SBP must move fast on the basis of its argument that it raised the policy rate by adopting a forward looking approach so this policy must be adopted now when the inflationary pressures are on receding motion.

A federal minister, on the condition of anonymity, commented that when all central banks of the world were fighting against stagflation in the aftermath of coronavirus, the SBP was still fighting headline inflation.

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