Cash disbursements to needy likely in a week: Umar

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar Tuesday said the process for cash disbursements to the poor families under the economic stimulus package announced by the prime minister would be started within a week.
Addressing media here after the fifth meeting of National Coordination Committee on Coronavirus, the minister informed that in order to materialize the prime minister’s announcement of disbursing Rs 3000 per month to 12 million families, the social protection division would publish and broadcast advertisements in newspapers and circulate messages through SMS across the country, after which the formal process of cash disbursement would start.
He said all the beneficiaries would get four month stipend in advance amounting to Rs 12000 per family. The minister was flanked by Minister for Economic Affairs Division Hammad Azhar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.
Asad Umar said five meetings of NCC to review the situation in the wake of lockdown due to coronavirus in the country had already been held and sixth would be held tomorrow. In order to ensure smooth implementation of decisions taken in the meeting and maintain a balanced approach, he said the prime minister had directed to have a close coordination with all the provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
He said the PM had also directed to work with all provinces to make special measures to ensure that the procurement of wheat was not affected due to lockdown. ‚ÄúThere is no dearth of wheat and other essential food items, therefore people should not panic in the current situation,” he added.
He further informed that in the next meeting to be held tomorrow (Wednesday) which would be attended by chief ministers of all the provinces, GB and AJK, the government would announce further strategy about extension or closure of lockdown in the country.
He said in order to ensure a comprehensive implementation of decisions made in the NCC meetings, a National Command Center was formed whose first meeting was held on Tuesday. The meeting he said was represented by all the provinces and the armed forces.
After formulation of this center the institutional capacity had further strengthened now. The minister said if no lockdown was in place, there was fear of spread of the virus on a large scale, however putting strict lockdown to such a level that people could not even allowed to get their daily use items specially eatables was also not doable.
He cited example of India where a strict lockdown was implemented without taking into consideration the people’s daily basis requirements, which resulted in failure. Therefore, he said the government wanted to develop a balanced approach where on one hand people would be forced to remain inside and on the other hand shops of food, medicine and other essential items would also not be closed.
In today’s meeting, the minister informed that the PM had specially directed to ensure provision of required supplies to the utility stores specially in far flung areas of Balochistan and districts of erstwhile FATA. He said the concerned authorities would also be directed to treat the citizens with respect and if a virus suspected was found, he or she must be treated respectfully.
With respect to the coronavirus testing capacity, the minister informed that on March 13, Pakistan had only 13 laboratories with testing capacity of 30,000 people. While now Pakistan had 32 laboratories with capacity of 280,000. He informed that by April 15, the coronavirus testing capacity of Pakistan would reach to 900,000. Further he informed that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had disbursed 16,700 personal protection kits for coronavirus to all provinces, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.