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ISLAMABAD: The Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Dr Mohammad Jahanzeb Khan, said that despite facing a tax revenue loss upwards of Rs900 billion, Pakistan disbursed Rs1.2 trillion in stimulus package for industries, and Rs350 billion as relief to informal work sector and poor families.

The Deputy Chairman Planning Commission said this while addressing the 77th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) 2021, in Islamabad on Tuesday.

He said that last year in the wake of the pandemic the government of Pakistan adopted a three-pronged policy of saving lives, saving livelihoods, and salvaging economies.

While facing tax revenue loss upwards of Rs900 billion, Pakistan disbursed Rs1.2 trillion in stimulus package for industries, and Rs350 billion as relief to informal work sector and poor families, he said.

He said that through dedicated Rs187 billion for Ehsaas emergency cash, our national flagship initiative expanded social protection coverage for the most vulnerable 12 million families.

He said that recognizing the need for sustainable stimulus packages to fill preparedness gaps; we allocated Rs70 billion to COVID-19 related response, based on a rapid health facility assessment across the 130 plus districts of the country.

He stated that Pakistan reached out to subject experts, research, academia and the development partners, for available regional and global knowledge and for evidence-backed reform interventions. However, we need more awareness about the other regional practices to counter the socio-economic fallout of the pandemic etc. Were there additional learning that could have enhanced the efficacy and effectiveness of our strategies, he said.

While highlighting the importance of the forum, Dr Jahanzeb said that the UNESCAP is collectively planning and considering the limited fiscal space in the most populous and the least developed region in the world, also touted as the least integrated of the world's regions.

He said that lagging the world in intraregional trade, is hurting our own economic growth too.

COVID-19 is breaking us individually, but is also bringing us, the collective whole, together, he said.

While emphasizing on future goals, he said that we must put the region back on track to achieve SDGs.

"We have more in common than what keeps us apart: our informal economies, social protection needs of our people, our growing youth bulge and ageing population, and our resource limitations," he said.

The Deputy Chairman Planning said that we have to show regional solidarity for saving 400 million poor living in the region, we have to come together to set up a regional vaccine buying pool, with effective distribution and supply chain, and share health workforce training resources.

"We have to promote private sector participation, expand on our mutual large renewable energy potential, pursue the possibility of an integrated regional power grid, revitalize partnerships to catalyze larger infrastructure projects," he said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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