PM sees country on path towards Welfare State


-Launches Naya Pakistan National Sehat Card for Punjab

From Abid Usman

LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday launched the distribution of Naya Pakistan National Sehat Card among the entire population of Punjab province enabling every family to avail medical treatment of up to Rs1 million a year at both government and private hospitals.
Calling it a “revolutionary step”, the prime minister said, “neither everyone can take, nor any of the governments in the past took such a bold decision of providing Rs 1 million health insurance to the entire population.”
Addressing the launching ceremony, he lauded the Punjab chief minister, health minister and the whole team involved and said the Punjab government had moved on the course which would uplift the country, in pursuance of the forefathers’ vision to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. He said under the program 30 million families would benefit from the health insurance facility which would cost Rs 400 billion to the government. He said our forefathers had dreamed to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state but unfortunately it could not be developed on that course.
Citing Madina State as first welfare state which fulfilled all basic responsibilities of its citizens, the prime minister said unfortunately, no such state was found in the Muslim world rather the Scandinavian states were close to that model.
Naming Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the prime minister said a state always believed in inclusive growth and had compassion for the weaker segment.
He said any individual or nation abiding by the teachings of Allah Almighty would get His blessings.
He said all the Scandinavian countries did not have more resources than Pakistan but they were more prosperous by having adopted the model of a welfare state.
“Today, the Punjab government took such a step to put the country on the course of uplifting this nation… We want to make Pakistan for which it was established. If we don’t opt that course, it will be great treachery with the Indian Muslims who had voted for it,” he remarked.
He said some leaders in the past claimed to make Pakistan an Asian Tiger which could in no way be greater than the idea of a welfare state like Madina.
The prime minister told the gathering that the time would prove that initiative of Sehat Card, involving almost equal funding, would have far better outcomes than the Metro Buses or Orange Train.
He said all families across the province would get the Sehat Card by March and also resolved to replicate the model in Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.
The prime minister said the Sehat Card would lead towards the development of health infrastructure across the province as it would attract the private sector to build hospitals even in remote areas.
He said the government would close down the government hospitals in far-flung areas where the doctors did not want to be posted, to save the cost.
He said the government would incentivize the private sector by allowing duty-free import of their equipment to expand the network of private hospitals.
The prime minister told the gathering that a silent revolution was in the making through the government’s initiative of housing construction loans by banks for the salaried class after the government removed all the impediments.
He said the people had applied for loans worth Rs 260 billion out of which Rs 110 billion worth loans had been approved and Rs 34 billion disbursed already.
He said under Kamyab Pakistan Program, around 2 million people had been given interest-free loans for house building. Moreover, under the same program, a loan of Rs 0.5 million was also being given to the farmers and others to establish their own businesses.
Through the Ehsaas Ration scheme, almost 54% of the population was being given a 30% subsidy on the purchase of ghee, flour and pulses.
Earlier, the prime minister also distributed Sehat Cards among the beneficiaries.
In his address, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said the provincial government had allocated Rs 399 billion health budget compared to Rs 169 billion from 2013-18.
He said 23 big hospitals were nearing completion, the up-gradation of 158 health facilities had been completed while 78 projects were in the pipeline.
He said the provincial government was spending Rs 37.5 billion on the purchase of medicines.
Moreover, he said the government would soon fulfill its commitment by filling 100,000 vacancies.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday directed to provide the required budget for all public welfare projects on priority basis so as to ensure effective public service through timely completion of these projects in good way.
He also directed to make more effective public awareness campaign about the welfare-oriented development projects.
The Prime Minister was presiding over a meeting here about the development budget in Punjab.
The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ch. Fawad Hussain, Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, Special Assistant to PM on Political Communication Dr. Shehbaz Gill, Minister of the State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, Provincial Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht, Chief Secretary Punjab and other senior officers.
Provincial Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht told the Prime Minister that the provincial government with the record allocation of Rs. 750 billion had presented the biggest ever development budget for Punjab.
Chairman Punjab Planning and Development Abdullah Sunbal briefed the Prime Minister about the required budget for the completion of ongoing development projects in the province in communication, education, construction of roads and health sectors.