Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday reiterated that Covid-19 pandemic is a global problem that requires a global solution, urging the developed world to “put their minds together”.
The premier was addressing a virtual United Nations event on Financing for Development in the Covid-19 era and Beyond. The event was hosted by the UN secretary general and the Canadian and Jamaican prime ministers.
Addressing the event via video link, Imran said that when Pakistan imposed lockdown measures to curb the spread of the virus, everything came to standstill, as it did in most economies of the world. “When everything came to a standstill, the biggest issue for us was how to look after the most vulnerable section of our population, and the people affected in the non-formal sector of our economy. “Out of a population of 220 million, almost 150 million are counted among the most vulnerable section […] non-formal sector, daily wagers, weekly wagers, whose families are dependent on them earning money so that they could eat.”
Talking about the Ehsaas programme, the premier said: “[Therefore] we started this cash handout programme, one of the biggest in Pakistan’s history. We doled out $8 billion to stimulate our economy and to give cash to the most vulnerable section of our society.
“But the problem was and the problem is, that we have falling exports and remittances. We had big, ambitious plans to revive our tourism sector and all this took a nose dive.”
He added that while these problems have been faced by most countries, the developing world has taken a larger hit.
“To put things into perspective, the total amount of stimulus we could afford to give to our economy — which was the biggest stimulus ever in our history — we managed to give $8 billion.” He maintained that when compared with the stimulus packages of other developed countries, the developing world has only given $7 trillion to stimulate their economies.
“We don’t have the fiscal space to revive our economy, to look after the most vulnerable section of our society. “In Pakistan’s case, we have this huge, ambitious programme of fighting climate change by planting 10 billion trees. All this money [was] diverted into dealing with the effects of the coronavirus lockdown. He added that when he spoke to the leaders of Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt, he was informed that the countries were facing problems similar to those being faced by Pakistan.