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LAHORE: Terming the ‘Naya Pakistan National Health Card’ as a revolutionary step, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday the government would incentivise the private sector by allowing duty-free import of the equipment, to expand the network of private hospitals through this project.

Under this initiative, 30 million families would benefit from the health insurance facility, which would cost Rs400 billion to the government, he said while addressing a ceremony held in connection with formal distribution of the card to the entire Punjab, here at Governor’s House.

The premier maintained that this facility will enable every family to avail medical treatment upto one million rupees a year at both government and private hospitals. That initiative would also help strengthen the health infrastructure of the country, he said, adding: “All families across the province would get the Sehat Card by March and this model would be replicated in Balochistan, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Imran Khan said that Holy Prophet (PBUH) laid the foundation of first welfare state in Madina, which fulfilled all basic responsibilities of its citizens. Unfortunately, no such state was found in the Muslim world rather the Scandinavian states were close to that model, he added. He named Denmark, Norway and Sweden and said a state always believed in inclusive growth and had compassion for the weaker segments of society. “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,” he said.

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The premier also 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. “Time would prove that initiative of health card, involving almost equal funding, would have far better outcomes than the Metro Buses or Orange Train,” he said, adding: “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; 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.”

Under the ‘Kamyab Pakistan Programme,’ around two million people had been given interest-free loans for house building while a loan of Rs 500,000 was also being given to the farmers and others to establish their own businesses, the PM said. Through the ‘Ehsaas Ration’ scheme, almost 54 percent of the population was being given a 30 percent subsidy on the purchase of ghee, flour and pulses, he added.

The premier lamented that despite having a myriad of resources Pakistan lagged behind, only because it lacked the values that Islam preached. He congratulated Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid and their team for the provision of health insurance to the people of Punjab up to one million rupees annually. “This facility will meet the health emergency of the marginalised section of the society,” he said, adding: “The Punjab government had moved on the course that would uplift the country, in pursuance of the forefathers’ vision to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state.”

Speaking on the occasion, 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. As many as 23 big hospitals were nearing completion, the up-gradation of 158 health facilities had been completed while 78 projects were in the pipeline, he added. He said the provincial government was spending Rs 37.5 billion on the purchase of medicines. He said the government would soon fulfil its commitment by filling 100,000 vacancies.

Earlier, the premier distributed Sehat Cards among the beneficiaries.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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