Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that the provision of cash assistance to eligible poor families under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program will begin today.
Speaking in Islamabad with the media about the coronavirus situation prevailing on Wednesday night, he gave a guarantee that the distribution of funds would be truly merit-based, transparent and non-political.
Khan said that the process of giving Rs144bn cash to 12 million eligible families will be completed in the next two and a half weeks.
The prime minister also said that the Coronavirus Relief Tigers Force will continue to identify decent poor people at the district and trade union level, and this will be added to the list of eligible people.
He also warned that as many as one in 100 people in Pakistan might be infected by the corona virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19.
Khan urged residents to understand the gravity of the coronavirus situation and demonstrate responsibility by adopting all necessary precautions to control the virus.
The prime minister urged opposition leaders, lawmakers and civil society to support the government in its efforts to drive Pakistan out of the crisis.
Earlier, China announced financial, medical and technical support for Pakistan in its war against the pandemic.
The support was announced by a delegation of Chinese business leaders who asked Prime Minister Khan in Islamabad.
They announced the Rs2mn contribution to the prime minister’s Covid-19 grant.
They also donated Rs5mn medical supplies which included 30,000 masks, 100 N-95 masks, and 300 personal protection suits to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
CMEC general manager Li Kan told the prime minister about the application of the latest environmentally friendly technology to increase cotton production in China.
Zonergy President Richard J Guo showed interest in investing in Pakistan’s renewable energy sector, particularly in the manufacturing of solar panels.
Prime Minister Khan appreciates their interest in investing in Pakistan.
He also appreciated the generous attitude displayed by Chinese companies towards Pakistan’s struggle against Covid-19.
Meanwhile, a report by the Pakistan Development Economic Institute (PIDE) has stated that of the 8.51 million migrant workers in the country, around 3.78 million people are at risk of being dismissed because of the closure needed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Closing business activities will force owners to fire their employees, and some have already begun to do that.
“We assume that informal workers, which comprise 45% of the total migrant workforce, will be the first to be laid off,” PIDE projections.
“This means that around 3.78 million migrant workers will be left without their source of livelihood,” the report said.
PIDE shows that Punjab employs 5.33 million migrant workers, of which 2.37 million face the threat of losing their jobs.
Sindh, with a migrant workforce of 1.3 million, might see 580,000 laid off.
Of the 1.38 million migrant workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 610,000 may face layoffs; in Baluchistan, of the 70,000 migrant workers, 30,000 can be laid off; while in Islamabad, 190,000 migrant workers face the threat of losing their jobs.
With calls for social alienation and national lockdown, the coronavirus outbreak has closed business operations across the country.
As projected, millions of workers face layoffs, but the situation is far worse for workers who are far from home to make a living.
“While we are worried about sending money from overseas workers, migrant workers remain largely ignored in all our discussions,” added PIDE.
According to official statistics, around 8.51 million migrant workers work throughout Pakistan (based on the 2017-18 Labor Force Survey).
Statistics show that 45% of these are involved in informal activities, including day laborers, construction workers, domestic workers or factory workers.
More than 65% of migrant workers live in 15 districts in Pakistan, with more than 1 million workers in Karachi, followed by sizable populations in Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The findings show that the majority of internal migrants work in the wholesale and retail, manufacturing, construction, transportation and communication sectors.
Therefore, employees in this sector are expected to be hardest hit.
In addition, this report also shows the vulnerability of each sector and what the impact of large-scale layoffs on daily workers.
Many of these daily bets live in factory dorms, which, being closed for now, leave them homeless.
With bus and train services also suspended, these workers have nowhere to go.
PIDE states: “We must also remain aware that some of these internal migrants can return home as they did after the festival. With a long lock, it might be possible to migrate again. “
Four recommendations have been submitted by PIDE to the government.
This includes social protection packages announced by the federal and provincial governments, which must include migrant workers while targeting vulnerable workers regardless of domicile.
Second, they suggest that there must be provisions to accommodate migrant workers in their current work districts to reduce the massive movement from work to their home cities, as has been witnessed in India.
“Current local government practices that require people to register in their hometown to get an unconditional cash transfer of Rs 12,000 for registration under the Ehsaas program must be reviewed.
“This will cause unnecessary movement and is contrary to the locking intention to prevent corona,” he said.
Third, migrant workers, especially daily workers, need a place to stay during this period.
Panahgah (shelter) must also be opened for them, providing shelter and much needed food.
Soap and other hand washing facilities must also be provided to reduce the risk of corona virus spread.
Fourth, in cases where internal migrants bring their families, and they want to remain in whatever place they have, they must be part of any public assistance initiative.
“The vast majority of children, among seasonal migrants traveling with families, experience malnutrition and loss of wages increasingly confirms this. To prevent that from happening, rations need to reach them, “he added.
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