Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday announced the opening of construction sector from April 14 to help the country’s daily wagers and laborers, affected by continued lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak, to earn their livelihoods.
Talking to media-persons, he said the government’s decision taken in coordination with the provinces, was also aimed at reviving economic activities in the country, badly hit by the situation arising out of the Coronavirus outbreak. The Prime Minister also announced various incentives for the construction sector including tax incentives, waivers and subsidies in the areas of sales tax, capital gain tax, withholding tax etc.
Giving details of the decisions, he said that those investing in the construction sector during the year 2020, would not be asked any queries about the source of their income.
Secondly, the Prime Minister said, the government had also decided to bring the construction sector in the fixed-tax regime under which the rate of tax on land would be levied on the basis of per square yard and per foot.
He, however, added that those investing in the prime minister’s housing programme would be given 90% tax rebate and they would be required to pay just 10% of the total calculated tax amount on their projects. The Prime Minister said that it has also been decided to waive-off withholding in cement and steel sectors.
Besides, he said, that in coordination with the provincial governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Sindh, it has also been decided to bring the sales tax in construction sector to 2% through consolidation of all taxes. The Prime Minister further said that Capital Gain Tax on the sale of house was also being done away with.
He also announced Rs. 30 billion subsidy for Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, adding, further subsidy would be given on its progress.
The Prime Minister said the government has also decided to give construction sector the status of industry. It has also been decided to establish the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to help promote the construction industry in the country, he added.
The Prime Minister said all the decisions regarding the COVID-19 were being taken in coordination with the provinces. However, he added, any of the provinces could make changes as per their requirements.
He said since the Rs. 1200 billion’s stimulus package announced by the federal government to provide financial relief to the poor and daily-wagers in the wake of lockdown due to Coronavirus outbreak, the government had decided to open the construction sector.
The Prime Minister said with the agriculture sector, which was already open, providing jobs to people in villages, the opening of construction sector, the main source of employment in urban areas, was very much needed.
The prime minister said besides the Rs 1,200 billion package, the government had also launched an Emergency Cash Relief SMS service under which Rs 150 billion would be distributed among the poor and needy. About 10 million people had so far applied for the financial assistance through the SMS service, he added.
The prime minister said the decision to open the construction sector was taken because of the fact that the situation of coronavirus could not predicted. “We cannot predict what the situation will be after two or four weeks,” he remarked.
He said with the medical sector, food processing industry, take-away restaurants and goods transport already open, the opening of the construction sector would bring a big relief to the daily-wagers and labour class.
The prime minister, however, added that as schools, colleges, universities, wedding halls etc. had already been shut down, the lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak was continuing in the country.
Imran Khan rejected the notion, being circulated on the social media that the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan was low due to strong immunity of its people, and said as there was no final word about the COVID-19, the citizens should take care of their health. He said the situation regarding the lockdown would be reviewed on April 14.
The prime minister referred to the situation after the Spanish Flue which revived back even after reaching its peaks and downs. He also referred to the situation of Chinese city of Wuhan, after the outbreak of novel coronavirus and said the Government of China had totally locked down the city for two months, and provided the people with food and other essential items at their doorstep.
“But my fear is that we will not be able to do this, because of our limited resources,” he said and added that it was the reason his government had decided to open the construction sector to save the daily-wagers and labourers from unemployment.
The prime minister, however, vowed to fight the contagion together as a nation and said all the resources and capacities of the country would be utilized to fight and win the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated the stance of not full lockdown in cities as both the Covid-19 and hunger was a challenge for the nation and said the government could not confine its around 220 million population to their homes. “We are daily deliberating on how to confront coronavirus besides creating activities for the daily wagers and low people – who are being adversely affected due the virus,” he added.
He said in case a complete lockdown was implemented, the situation in one month would be so adverse that it may result in casualties from hunger. He said whole nation will have to demonstrate utmost responsibility to observe social distancing to contain further spread the virus as police may not be able to control them with force. He said the whole nation would surely defeat the pandemic with unison and unity.
He said the entire world was worried to confront coronavirus as the lockdown had badly affected their economies and daily life, adding even world advanced economies including the US, were not unanimous on complete lockdown. To a question, the prime minister said the objective of the PM’s Corona Relief Fund was to assist the needy and down-trodden segments of the society in this critical time.
He said unfortunately 80 percent labour in Pakistan was not registered and that was why the government was facing difficulty in their registration. He, however, said the people would get relief shortly from the data of Ehsaas programme.
He said that until job opportunities were not created it was almost impossible for the state to reach out to all people, adding Pakistani nation would come out of this crisis with unity as it had proved it in the 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods.
The prime minister said it was unfortunate that some people were using this crisis situation just to hide their corruption.
To a question about role of the provinces for announcing package of construction sector, the prime minister said after the18th Amendment the centre could not dictate the federating units, however, it could only advise them. He said the federal government had elucidated the reasons of opening the construction sector to the provinces and it was now up to them to take any decision.
He said the Punjab and Khyeber Pakhtoonkhwa governments were fully on board on this specific issue and objective of establishment of Tiger Force, the prime minister said over four hundred thousands people had so far been registered and they besides other states institutions would assist the people and give feedback to the government.
To a question, Advisor to the prime minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafiz Shaikh said besides the opening of hefty construction industry which would provide job opportunities to millions of people and create business activities, Rs 150 billion would be distributed among 12 million poor families.
He said the government had also allocated Rs 200 billion for those people who had lost their employment due to coronavirus, adding the federal government in coordination with the provincial governments and business community would provide this relief to the affected people.
Similarly, he said, Rs 280 billion had been earmarked for procurement of wheat so that maximum people could get cash in this critical hour, adding Rs 100 billion had been earmarked for emergency needs while Rs 100 billion tax refunds had been given to the business community for not laying off their employees. He said the government had fulfilled its commitment with the business community.