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ISLAMABAD: The government has agreed, in principle, to announce a special relief package for the sectors that have suffered “exceptional [unusual] injuries” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was stated by Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Planning and Development, while addressing a conference on “NCOC policy and SOPs regarding Covid-19 and resolutions to devise a way forward” organised by the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, here on Friday.

The minister said that with the “balanced” decisions of the government regarding Covid-19 pandemic, the economy has achieved 3.94 percent growth and over 4.8 percent growth is estimated for the next year.

“The PTI government would exceed 5.8 percent economic growth by the last year of its 5-year tenure,” he added.

“I raised question in the last Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet meeting when it was approving Rs48 billion for the second phase of Ehsaas emergency cash programme that other sectors including restaurants, marquees, wedding halls and educational institutions have been badly hit by the Covid-19 and should be given some relief,” said Umar, adding that Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin agreed, in principle, with his proposal.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industries would prepare a relief package for these sectors, he added.

The minister said that with increased vaccination, all restrictions on businesses would go by the coming Eidul Azha.

He said the current vaccination capacity in Islamabad is of 20,000 shots daily, while the average number of first dose administration is 7,000 shots.

“It is only a matter of a few weeks, not months and years when we can completely escape this situation in Islamabad,” said the minister, adding that the faster we increase vaccinations, the sooner we will get the opportunity to remove all restrictions.

The minister said that the government wanted businesses to run 24/7.

He urged the business community to fully cooperate with the government in mass vaccination of their employees and general public that would surely pave way for removal of all restrictions on businesses.

He further said that currently only 21 percent of the targeted population of Islamabad has been vaccinated and if the business community cooperates in vaccination of people up to the desired target, the government would remove all restrictions on businesses.

He said that the NCOC, on Friday, decided that parks would be opened with limited capacity of visitors.

Umar said the government is going to launch a national campaign for vaccination to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the government is ready to set up vaccination centres in the ICCI, markets, and industries for vaccination of maximum people to make Islamabad a model city in the battle against coronavirus.

Umar said a meeting of the NCOC would be called next week to launch a national campaign where the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, trade associations and other stakeholders would be invited to work together on vaccination.

Umar appreciated the presentation given by the president ICCI and said that the current executive body of ICCI is bringing forward young and talented business leaders through its platform, which is laudable.

He further said that a rent-related bill, which was the demand of the Islamabad business community, is currently facing delay in the Senate due to opposition parties.

He said the Planning Commission had projected a growth rate of 4.8 percent for the next year.

Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan, president, ICCI lauded the government’s anti-Covid efforts and demanded that the government should introduce the policy of “one safe day” in a week, and enhance business timings up to midnight for revival of business activities.

He said that due to lockdowns and restrictions on businesses, the economy suffered a loss of Rs2.5 trillion last year and is expecting a loss of Rs 1 trillion this year, while livelihoods of 18 million workers is at stake as sales of businesses have reduced by 70 percent.

He said the average coronavirus positivity rate has come down to around 4.5 percent, while Islamabad has the lowest positivity rate – two percent – which shows that the members of business community and general public are following SOPs.

“There is therefore an urgent need to ease restrictions on businesses to help revive the economy,” he added.

He said that all market associations including associations of other sectors like restaurants and parks, have given an undertaking that they will ensure strict compliance of SOPs in Islamabad. He urged the government that it should allow amusement parks, cinemas and gyms to reopen to revive the business activities. He also demanded resumption of indoor dining in restaurants.

He urged the government to remove all duties on the import of industrial machinery to promote industrialisation and focus on the GSP plus regime and the FATF.

Ali Nawaz Awan, SAPM on CDA Affairs, presidents Anjuman-e-Tijaran of Islamabad/Rawalpindi and presidents of Market Associations were also present at the occasion, while the presidents of various Chambers including Faisalabad, Gujranwala joined the event through Zoom. Khalid Chaudhry, former SVP ICCI performed the role of stage secretary.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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