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

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ISLAMABAD, MAY 18 (DNA) – Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms & Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain has said that the government has devised and implemented a well-crafted strategy in wake of COVID-19 enabling the most vulnerable segments of the society to absorb the economic shocks whereas the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are being given support in order to tackle a disruption in the economic activities.

He was delivering a keynote speech at an online dialogue titled: ‘Managing Economy in the aftermath of COVID-19: A keynote session with Dr Ishrat Hussain, Advisor to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms & Austerity’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. Among others, national and international experts on economy, diplomats, academicians and the development experts made their participation in the webinar.

Dr Hussain said that the largest cash grant in the history of Pakistan targeting 16 million household across Pakistan is being provided to most vulnerable groups in the wake of the pandemic. Almost eight million people living below the poverty line have already been benefitted whereas four million more households that are feared to slip into this category and four million others that have lost the employment during this crisis would also be provided this 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 measures are also being taken to revive the agriculture sector. It’s being done through supporting the small farmers and Rs 56 billion are being allocated to provide subsidies on agricultural inputs, including seeds and fertilizers.

He further said that the job creation is another key consideration of the government to respond to growing unemployment resulted in the aftermath of coronavirus. Therefore, he maintained, keeping in view the potential of construction sector in the creation of employment opportunities, subsidies and incentives are being announced for the important sector of the economy.

Dr Ishrat said that a number of measures are on 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 said now it would be mandatory for the Grade-19 and over officers to produce at least two research papers in their relevant fields for their promotion in the next grade. He said the cabinet has already approved the institutional reforms plan and it will be implemented in next promotions. The e-governance initiatives were introduced even before the arrival outbreak of the pandemic and would be strengthened further now as an ongoing process, he said.

Regarding microfinance banking institutions, he said, they are regulated by the Central Bank while the others are regulated by the SECP. He recommended that the regulatory framework of microfinance institutions should come under the State Bank.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, earlier said that in the time of uncertainty about the future at every level, it’s 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.

“Keeping balance between the lives and livelihoods would be important for the government while responding in the existing crisis,” Dr Suleri opined. Therefore, he said, it’s 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 that the existing taxpayers wouldn’t be burdened further to reduce the revenue shortfall. He said that the focus would be on bringing new potential ones into the tax net.

To another question on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said that we have to watch the situation as it emerges, since The UN 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.