Save economy, jobs

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PAKISTAN’s economy was already struggling before the
breakout of Covid-19 but the pandemic has further complicated the matters and the situation warrants effective strategies based on out-of-box solution to save the country from total collapse.
The Finance Ministry shared with Senate some disturbing figures on Friday that around three million jobs are expected to be lost in the initial round of novel Coronavirus outbreak. Out of the three million jobs, the industrial sector is likely to lose one million and the remaining two million will be lost in the services sector. Prior to this, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics has also estimated a loss of eighteen million jobs in the agriculture, industrial and services sectors. The Finance Ministry also said the proportion of those living in the poverty line will increase from 24.3 per cent to 33.5 per cent. The closure of businesses has already badly affected the tax revenue whilst foreign direct investment, exports and remittances are also expected to fall as a consequence of the contagion. This entire scenario validates PM Imran Khan’s stance that the country cannot afford lockdown situation for a prolonged period and this is the reason that he announced gradual opening up of the businesses. At present the government will have to go a step further to restore economic activities in the country. As the construction sector has been reopened with incentives, it is imperative that the government itself takes the lead and focus on the development and reconstruction of road infrastructure. This will provide immense job opportunities and also encourage the private sector to invest its money. Projects under the CPEC especially ML-1 and SEZs should be accelerated as these alone have the potential to help the country mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. Any sluggishness on the CPEC will further worsen our economic woes. As the budget for the next fiscal year is being prepared, the focus must be on reduction of unnecessary expenses and creation of job opportunities as well as providing succour to the vulnerable segments of the society including the employees who have been badly affected by the inflation.