ISLAMABAD, Jun 15 (APP):Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar Monday said the government was justified in not imposing the strict lockdown as the countries, which had done so, had suffered a lot economically.
Participating in the budget debate in the National Assembly, he particularly mentioned the deteriorating situation of India where a strict lockdown was imposed on March 25, affecting livelihood of millions of its people.
He said the lockdown could not check the spread of coronavirus, however on the contrary, it badly affected economy of the country, pushing half of the Indian population below the poverty line.
He said the opposition parties remained obsessed with Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying it was ironic that they were blaming the government for the coronavirus at a time when the whole world, including Pakistan, was engulfed by the pandemic.
He said the coronavirus had rendered around 40 million people jobless in the United States of America (USA) while it had hit hard the British economy, bringing it down by 30 percent in April. Same was the situation with other countries, he added.
Asad Umar said the country’s economy was growing well before the outbreak of coronavirus as evident from the economic indicators, which showed that the current account deficit had reduced manifold, while the exports were increasing and imports declining, hence narrowing the trade deficit.
Moreover, the foreign exchange reserves were growing whereas other economic indicators were showing positive growth before the COVID-19 hit the country, he added.
The minister criticized the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League (N) for its ill-thought policies, which, he said, had ultimately resulted in its defeat and success of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the last general election.
He informed the House about the Rs 650 billion Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocations, saying special focus was being given to education and health sectors as their funds had been increased from 29 percent last year to 38 percent of total PSDP during the current fiscal year.
Talking about the spending on education, the minister said the development expenditure by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was the highest ever in the sector in the history of Pakistan, and 50 percent higher than the second highest funding.
He said earlier there were around Rs18 billion development spending, which had been recorded at Rs 28 billion during the fiscal year 2019-20. During the upcoming year, it would be further enhanced by 25 percent to Rs 35 billion, he added.
Asad Umar said there were only Rs 40 billion projects coming under the federal PSDP, however, the government envisaged Rs 50 billion spending on matching-grant projects and all the provinces had been consulted in that regard.
He said Rs 50 billion would help improve the health sector, which had been neglected for the last 30 years. The development funding by the Federal Government during the next year would be increased manifold to Rs 65 billion, he added.
The minister said most of the allocations under federal PSDP were made for Balochistan’s projects as the government was paying special attention to the special areas.
Likewise, he said, Rs100 billion had been earmarked for the erstwhile FATA districts, Gilgit Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the government would help complete all the projects of Karachi city, including Karachi Circular Railway and Greenline.
The minister said Rs 77 billion had been earmarked for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to continue projects under it. ML1 was becoming a reality, and work on it would be started next year, he added.
Likewise, he said, the government was determined to continue and complete various road, transmission lines and electricity projects.
He said during the current year, around 2000 megawatt electricity projects under CPEC were completed.
The minister said physical work on three special economic zones (SEZs) including Faisalabad, Rashakai and Bostan had started. The Sukkur-Hyderabad Motorway costing Rs 206 billion would start as Rs 50 billion had been earmarked for it in 2020-21 budget.
He said the incumbent government had simultaneously initiated work on three hydel projects, including Diamer-Bhasha, Mohmand and Dasu dams, which after completion would generate electricity of 7460 megawatt.
He said the feasibility work on initiating various water related projects would also be initiated.