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Pakistan to approach IMF for second COVID relief package: PM

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ISLAMABAD (APP): Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said that his government would approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for second relief package as third COVID-19 wave had gripped the country with its service sector hit badly.

“W are going to speak to IMF because we see disruptions ahead. Just when our economy was recovering and all the indicators were positive, unfortunately we will have to review the whole situation and  our new Ehsaas Program. Because the service industry has been badly hit everywhere in the world but in Pakistan our service industry has been really badly hit,” the prime minister said addressing the launching ceremony of United Nations Development Program’s Pakistan National Human Development Report on Inequality.

The event was also attended by Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar, with virtual attendance by the Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja.

The report, presented by the lead author Dr. Hafiz Pasha, explores the many dimensions of inequality in Pakistan. These dimensions have been captured both at the national and provincial levels, exploring inequality between and within Pakistan’s provinces.

In addition, inequality has been measured from the perspective of people focusing on children, labour, youth, and women. The report takes a comprehensive approach, exploring not just economic measures such as income and wealth, but also studying inequalities in human development – the true measure of a country’s success.

The prime minister said Pakistan was having a very scary third wave than the first one.

He said in the United States with a population of 330 million, around $4 trillion were given out to COVID-hit people contrary to Pakistan which distributed just $8 billion among a population of 220 million dollar.

“So I think, this is time for second package and we will obviously talk to IMF,” the prime minister said.

Referring to her statement, the prime minister observed that the IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva realized the seriousness of the situation as conditions could not be imposed on the people already suffering owing to the pandemic.

In a recent statement, the IMF head had said, “The global economy is on firmer footing as millions of people benefit from vaccines. But while the recovery is underway, too many countries are falling behind and economic inequality is worsening. Strong policy action is needed to give everyone a fair shot—a shot in the arm to end the pandemic everywhere, and a shot at a better future for vulnerable people and countries.”

The prime minister said the civilized societies were defined by the ways how they treated their poor as well as their planning to address inequality.

He said the elite capture had not been a problem of only Pakistan but all developing countries even the richer countries too.

Imran Khan said the COVID-19 had made poor people poorer as more people had gone below poverty line. However, he said the elite capture was mainly a problem of especially the developing countries.

Calling the Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity Panel report as “shocking”, the prime minister said every year, one trillion dollar leave developing countries for tax havens and seven trillion dollars were laundered out of poor countries.

He said this single fact was the reason behind inequality in the world.

He said the money laundering from developing countries did not only cause poverty, but also led to devaluation of local currency owing to huge dollar outflow besides causing inflation in the country.

About the elite capture in Pakistan, the prime minister said his government was the first one to go after cartels including sugar cartels which had jacked up the commodity’s prices affecting the mainly the poor class.

He said the cartels usually had their political connections and his government would strengthen the Competition Commission of Pakistan to address the cartelization.

Imran Khan said he was proud of the recognition by the UNDP report the reduction in poverty ratio and human development growth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province despite the fact the province had been badly hit by terror and consequent displacement of population.

He said he was also proud of transparent disbursement of cash assistance distributed among the people during the COVID pandemic regardless of any political affiliation of the beneficiaries.

The prime minister said the UNDP report would greatly help the government to fine tune its policies mainly to protect poor.

He said his government was already working on regional disparity as data of 75pc population had been collected and rest would be done by June. He said the database would help the government provide direct subsidy to the needy people as under the current system, both the poor and rich were benefiting some of the subsidies equally.

The Pakistan NHDR 2020 follows UNDP’s global Human Development Report (HDR) of 2020, which highlights how human development is deeply intertwined with our relationship to our planet.

Speaking on inequality in the region, Kanni Wignaraja, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific at UNDP stated, “The challenge of inequality is endemic, both regionally and globally. While the Asia-Pacific region has witnessed the steepest rise in human development, globally, it continues to grapple with widespread multidimensional poverty, and is now vulnerable to a new set of inequalities emerging around higher education and climate resilience. And the one we have been unable to close – the shocking gender gaps in our region”.

“The report highlights that interregional inequality in Pakistan has increased. It indicates that the highest level of Human Development in Pakistan is in Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has shown the fastest rate of growth in human development,” said Dr. Hafiz Pasha, lead author of the report. While sharing the key findings of the report, Dr. Pasha highlighted that the level of child development is low in Pakistan, while within Pakistan it is relatively higher in Punjab. He further articulated that the privileges of the elite in Pakistan adds up to PKR 2,660 billion, equivalent to 8% of the GDP.

Speaking on the release of the report, Mr. Knut Ostby, Resident Representative at UNDP Pakistan stated, “This NHDR comes at an especially important time for the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing millions of people into poverty, the issue of inequality has become far more urgent for the success of the country, its institutions, and its people. We hope that the recommendations contained in the report can spawn policy discussions and dialogue, and lead to actionable change at the policy level”.

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