Legislators express reservations over Covid-19 spending

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Ijaz Kakakhel

Legislators from both ruling and opposition parties on Monday expressed serious reservations over the government’s announced “Economic Stimulus Package for Covid-19”, which included spending in Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan, agriculture package and many more.

The reservations were expressed during meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, held on Monday in parliament house while Rana Tanveer Hussain was on chair.

Members of the committee were of the view that why the government has included rebate to businessmen/traders in the spending of Covid-19 because these were their own money.

Similarly, they also opposed the subsidy package for USC of Pakistan, petrol/diesel relief and agriculture package.

They were of the view that some of the above and other could not have any relation with Covid-19 relief measures.

Appreciating the performance of Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination during Covid 19, Chairman PAC said that there was no justification for allocation of funds for daily wages workers, relief for vulnerable families and panagah and others.

He questioned that how it could be find out that payment to panagah came under the spending during Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier, Secretary Finance Younas Khan gave a detailed briefing on the Economic Stimulus Package for Covid-19 and said an amount of Rs1240 billion was announced by PM in March last year.

Further classification of the total are Rs190 billion as Emergency Response, Rs570 billion as relief to citizens and Rs480 billion as support to business and economy.

Out of the total Rs1240 billion, the government has announced Rs875 billion as cash assistance (70%) and Rs365 billion as non-cash assistance (tax exemptions and guarantees).

The secretary finance informed the committee that Economic Coordination Committee and Cabinet made these decisions of providing relief to different sectors of the economy and individuals.

In this regard, the ministry of finance was given supplementary grant, the Secretary Finance maintained.

He said the whole economic activities had slowed down during Covid-19 and that was why the government make allocation for various sectors of the economy.

Members of the committee questioned over including beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Program in Covid-19 in the Stimulus Package because the government has already announced the routine budget for it every year.

Secretary Finance claimed that actual beneficiary of the BISP was about 4.3 million while during the Covid-19 the number increased to 15 million for once. He also said that government provide subsidy on cotton, fertilizer, for Rabbi and Kharif crops.

The Secretary also informed the committee that all Rs1240 billion was the arrangement of government of Pakistan while the foreign assistance was separate from this amount.

Chairman of the PAC asked for detailed briefing over the foreign loan and grants for Covid-19 and asked the Economic Affairs Division for detailed briefing on it.

About Covid-19 vaccination, Secretary Ministry of National health Services, Regulation and Coordination informed that there were non-discloser agreement for vaccine manufacturing companies with countries.

He said these may be discussed during incamera meeting of the PAC, for which the committee agreed.

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