Govt unveils stimulus for small businesses, labourers

Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar on Monday announced that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has approved two packages for unemployed labourers and another package for small business owners.
Azhar, addressing a press conference after the ECC meeting, said that the packages will be presented before the federal cabinet tomorrow for approval. The minister said a Rs75 billion package has been approved for the people unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis. He added that the Ehsaas programme, along with the Ministry for Industries and Production, will launch a portal to register those unemployed.
“Under the package, the unemployed will be provided with Rs12,000 in installments,” said the minister. He added that the details of the package will be uploaded on the website after it is approved by the federal cabinet. The minister, while sharing details of the package for small businesses, stated that the government will pay electricity bills for up to three months for those consuming 5 kilowatt (commercial customers) or 70 kilowatt (industrial customers) of electricity. “The package shall benefit 3.5 million small businesses,” said Azhar. He added that to determine electricty consumption, data from the past will be used as a benchmark. The minister stated that 95% of all commercial and 80% of all industrial connections in the country will benefit from the cash injection. “These businesses are overwhelmingly of micro, small and medium scale,” clarified the minister. He added that the sums deposited towards their bills will stay valid for upto six months. “The sum will be based on actual consumption and total payments made from the meter in the May, June, July 2019 period combined,” said the minister.
The minister shared that the relief packages will be applicable across the four provinces, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He added that the package will benefit 10.7 million households in the country, out of 60 million households total. Last week, the ECC also approved Rs75 billion for targeted payments to low-income groups, especially labourers and daily wagers most severely affected by the lockdown in the country.
According to a statement released by the government, an estimated six million people are expected to benefit from the scheme in addition to the 12 million labour population already targeted through the Kifalat programme.
The amount was taken from the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Relief Package of Rs200 billion, disclosed the government. The approval for the amount was given during an ECC meeting chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. The Ministry of Industries and Production and the Poverty Alleviation and Social Sector Development Division are tasked to jointly work out comprehensive mechanisms and modalities to ensure a transparent and efficient disbursement of the support to the deserving people, the statement said.
It is pertinent to mention that last month, the federal cabinet has approved a Rs1.2 trillion total economic relief package. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Monday approved a Rs50 billion relief package for small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh presided over a meeting of the ECC in the capital.
Federal Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar in a Twitter statement said the ECC today approved the package that will benefit 3.5 million small businesses. “For those with 5KW commercial or 70 KW industrial [power] connections, the govt will pay their electricity bills for up to 3 months after they restart,” he said. He added power consumption data of traders from the past will be used as a benchmark for payment of their bills. The minister said 90 per cent of all commercial and 80 per cent of all industrial connections in the country will benefit from this “cash injection in their businesses.” The businesses that will benefit from the package are of micro, small and medium scale, he cleared. Elaborating the nuts and bolts of the package, he said: “The sums deposited in their bills will stay valid for utilisation upto 6 months. The sum will be based on actual consumption and total payments made from the meter in the May, June, July 2019 period combined.” Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar has said that govt has proposed a relief package amounting to Rs75 billion to benefit common workers and daily wagers, who lost their jobs due to coronavirus, media reported.
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, Hammad Azhar said that a portal to provide relief worth Rs75 billion is being launched for lower-income people who have lost their income due to the lockdown. Ministry of Industries and Ehsaas Programme will jointly launch this portal after getting approval from federal cabinet, he added.
“Labourers and daily wagers can get themselves registered by accessing the portal and filling the requisite information. Government is also going to introduce PM Programme for small businesses, under which the government will pay their electricity bill for three months”.
“Around 3.5 million people running small businesses like tailor shops, small markets, and industrial units will take advantage of this initiative,” added Hammad Azhar.
The programme will equally be available for the people of Azad Kashmir as well, he added. Hammad Azhar said on Sunday said his ministry will table a relief package for small businesses in an Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting.