Economy won’t be shut in spite of 5th COVID wave: PM

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated his government’s resolve to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for a robust economic growth through exports.
Addressing the launching ceremony of National SME Policy 2021 on Wednesday, the prime minister said that the government is taking every possible step to facilitate the youth in establishing businesses including startups.
Underlining the importance of SMEs in the country’s development, he urged the private sector to facilitate the government’s initiative of providing more facilities to new businesses. “The land is very expensive in our cities … the government would facilitate the businessmen by providing loans at low interest rates and land on lease,” he said. The premier added that in the past, only wealthy traders used to get loans from banks but the government has changed it and even the small traders can avail the facility.
The prime minister said that stern action will be taken against all those elements that can create hurdles in the way of exports and agriculture industry. “Action would be taken against those institutions that are creating hurdles [in setting up businesses],” he added.
He said all impediments are being removed to facilitate the registration process of SMEs. “Now we’re trying to automate things… we’re trying to make a strategy with NADRA so we can increase the tax net in the country… we’re a country with a population of 220 million but only 2.2 million pay taxes… a country cannot run this way.”
The prime minister said that despite having a population of 220 million people, the country’s exports were only $22 billion when the government took over. “Singapore with a population of only five million has an export of over $300 billion… many smaller nations have surpassed us,” he added.
He said, “Despite Covid-19 challenges, our government received record remittances, tax collection and export revenue.” He warned that another wave of coronavirus has gripped the country but reiterated his stance against lockdown, saying that his government will not shut down the economy.
The prime minister said that the inspections from various institutions became a way for bribery, adding that in such a system a large organisation may survive but smaller businesses suffer the most and end up shutting down completely.
The PM said that he understands that there is rising inflation in the country but added that the prices of commodities increased in the entire world. “But despite this, a record number of mobile phones, motorcycles and cars are being sold in the country.”
He further said that the policies of the government would soon yield results and many good things for the countrymen will come in near future.
Earlier, Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiar said to facilitate new businesses the government has fixed around 19,000 plots for lease on easy instalments. He said an amount of Rs30 billion will be fixed for revamping SMEDA to facilitate the SME sector.
Separately, chairing a meeting of young entrepreneurs/startups on Wednesday, the prime minister said that the government is focused on creating a startup-friendly ecosystem to unleash the huge potential of e-commerce in the country.
“The future of business in the world is technology-driven e-commerce platforms. Cognizant of its importance, we are working to clear all kinds of impediments hindering its growth”, he added. The prime minister appreciated the role of startups in generating employment opportunities for the huge tech-savvy young population, which is 2nd largest in the world.
He vowed to fully facilitate and back them to materialise their true growth potential. He directed the authorities concerned to take effective measures to address concerns of startups relating to capital gains tax, digital signatures, intellectual property rights and attracting foreign direct investment.
Meanwhile, chairing a meeting on the Plan for Big Cities, the prime minister said, “We are laying special focus on the development of big cities as they are the real engines of growth for the national economy.”
He said that due to rural to urban areas migration, the cities are facing multiple challenges including housing, job opportunities and civic amenities are scarce. It is necessary that work on special development packages for the big cities must be accelerated, he added.
The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to take all possible measures to clear hiccups in the way of completion of various development schemes in big cities on priority basis in order to provide maximum relief to the residents. The prime minister also directed the authorities to work in close coordination and launch a concerted campaign for the uplift and development of big cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalsbad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the government has devised a comprehensive mechanism for the distribution of urea with the help of district administration that would ensure availability of urea fertilizer to farmers at the controlled rate.
The prime minister, chairing a high-level meeting on fertilizer issues on Wednesday, said that increased indigenous production led to urea fertilizer availability to farmers at a five times cheaper rate compared to prices in the international market.
The prime minister directed to implement the plan immediately saying that the facilitation of the small farmers was among the topmost priorities of the government.
A comprehensive plan was also presented in the meeting which after implementation would ensure smooth distribution of urea fertilizer at union council level under the monitoring of district administration, agricultural department and revenue department.
The meeting was given a detailed briefing on urea production, its distribution across the country, monitoring mechanism to curb hoarding and smuggling and the price differential between Pakistan and international markets, including regional countries.
Federal ministers Shaukat Fayyaz Tarin, Fawad Chaudhary, Hammad Azhar, Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, Syed Fakhar Imam, Minister for State Farrukh Habib, SAPM Dr Shehbaz Gill, Jamshed Iqbal Cheema, stakeholders from the fertilizer industry and officials concerned attended the meeting.
The meeting was briefed that the urea production in three-year tenure of the government surpassed 6.1 million tons, 440,000 bags per day, which prior to 2018 never crossed 5.5 million tons, 370,000 bags per day. This was achieved due to the government’s policies, including unhindered supply of gas to urea plants.
In addition to that, due the prime minister’s vision to prioritise food security, a robust system to monitor fertilizer supply and demand with constant monitoring has been put in place that has led to resolution of issues on a daily basis.
The prime minister said that the government was taking strict anti-smuggling and anti-hoarding measures to curb illicit profiteering from urea distribution across the country.
The government had achieved record production of urea fertilizer in its three-year tenure, which surpassed 6.1 million tonnes. Prior to 2018 it never crossed 5.5 million tonnes, he observed.
The meeting was also informed regarding anti-smuggling operations and the number of bags confiscated at the border crossing by authorities. – TLTP

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