ISLAMABAD, Nov 25 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said with Pakistan like other parts of the world hit by the second wave of COVID-19, it was not going for a complete lockdown but would only shut the non-essential sectors, including public gatherings, to save its poor people as well as economy from the severe consequences.
“With the high level of poverty and the lessons learnt from the first wave of COVID-19, we cannot afford the lockdown of businesses and factories, where people are employed,” he said while addressing the Country Strategy Dialogue (CSD) on Pakistan organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The prime minister spoke on various subjects, including how the country tackled the first wave of COVID-19 through effective measures and saved the people from economic effects, the strategy for second wave of coronavirus, the government’s policies for economic revival, and economic opportunities being created by the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Dilating on the successful strategy to cope with the first wave of coronavirus, he said after realizing the worst economic impact of complete lockdown, the government adopted the strategy of smart lockdown on hot spots and quickly opened the construction sector followed by other businesses to save the poor and daily wage earners from hunger.
The prime minister also mentioned the distribution of unprecedented cash assistance among 15 million poor people, including those rendered jobless due to the lockdown, to save them from hunger.
He also mentioned the economic challenges faced by the country, including fiscal deficit, current account deficit, trade deficit etc. and said the government tackled them by cutting down expenditures and imports, increasing exports, attracting foreign direct investment, receiving more workers remittances and checking money laundering.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said with the current account deficit recorded in surplus after 17 years, the huge trade deficit of US$ 40 billion curtailed, exports increasing and stock market performing well, Pakistan’s economy was improving and growing well in the region.
He also mentioned other positive economic trends, including the higher sales of cement and other construction materials, and the measures taken by the present government that had put the economy on right track,
As regards the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Imran Khan said it was not just exclusive for China or connectivity but also for the establishment of power generation projects to fuel Pakistan’s economic and industrial growth.
The second phase of CPEC, he said, focused on the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Pakistan, help in the development of agriculture sector, modernization of railway, digitalization and others.
The prime minister said the development of ML-1, a modern railway track under CPEC from Peshawar to Karachi, and other projects would help boost the country’s connectivity with the region, including Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and China.
He said Pakistan with its strategic location and connectivity was very well placed in the region.
He, however, added that the key to them was Afghanistan where after a long time prospects of peace had emerged.
Pakistan had played an important role in bringing the United States and Taliban on the table for talks and then pushing for intra-Afghan dialogue for peace in the war ravaged country.
Imran Khan appreciated US President Donald Trump for his role in the Afghan peace process by saying “President Trump did a great job”.
He hoped that US President-elect Joe Biden was not going to reverse it. “I hope everyone will be trying to push peace process in Afghanistan”, he added.
The prime minister said since it was not the job of any government to do business, his government was encouraging the private sector to play its effective role in the economic growth and wealth creation.
The public-private partnership was the future of the country’s economic development and growth, he added.
Imran Khan said Pakistan with a population of 220 million was a huge market, which offered opportunities of investment in diverse areas of economy, including the agriculture sector.
The government was taking measures to tackle the food inflation issue in a way that farmers get fair return of their produce and consumers get commodities on reasonable prices, he added.
The prime minister said as Pakistan had the problem of grading and marketing of its agricultural products, including fruits in the international market, foreign investors would be welcomed.
The government, he added, would also encourage and welcome the investment in automobile sector, particularly in electric vehicles, which, besides being environment-friendly, could boost the country’s exports as well.
The prime minister said Pakistan, which was moving on the path of industrial revolution in 1960s, was reversed back due to the policy of socialism in 1970s and it was the time when wealth creation was considered as a crime.
His government was encouraging and offering incentives to the industries, including the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to do indulge in wealth creation and make profits through enhanced industrial activities, he added.
The prime minister also mentioned the enhanced activities in Pakistan’s construction sector and said 30 allied industries got boost through construction.
The current Pakistan of 2020 was all about facilitating the business and industry for creating wealth and lifting the people out of poverty like China did, he remarked.
The prime minister said the electricity tariff in Pakistan, which was 25% higher than that of India and Bangladesh due to agreements made with the private power producers in the past, was also a hurdle in the way of enhanced exports due to the problem of competitiveness.