ISLAMABAD - The federal government would start the second phase of Ehsas Cash Programme to the needy people after disbursing Rs.175 billion to 14.6 million beneficiaries in the first phase during 2019-20.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired a meeting on Thursday with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation (SP&PA) Dr. Sania Nishtar for an update on the preparations of release of second tranche of Ehsaas Cash Assistance package in response to Covid-19.

SAPM briefed the Adviser that during the first phase of the programme as response to the Covid-19 pandemic, an amount of Rs.175 billion was disbursed by BISP to 14.6 million beneficiaries @ 12000 as one time assistance during 2019-20. Now under the instructions of the Prime Minister the second phase has to be started to provide additional cash relief to those who need it most urgently. The Special Assistant on SPPA briefed that there are 4.6 million regular beneficiaries of Kafalat programme, and one time Emergency Cash Assistance was provided to 11.6 million beneficiaries during the pandemic to look after their cash needs.

The Special Assistant said that for the second tranche a revised list of Emergency Cash Assistance beneficiaries will soon be prepared (as the number might be reduced due to control in the spread of the disease and opening on businesses and markets) and all the necessary details will soon be shared with the Finance Division.

The Adviser appreciated the efforts of the Poverty Alleviation Division in looking after the poorest of the poor in the unexpected times and said that for the second tranche of the cash assistance programme, Finance Division shall provide all possible help after the SP&PA Division works out the exact requirement of funds for the Kafalat Programme, Emergency Cash Assistance and for paying bank service charges. He also directed to provide an update to the Finance Division about the transparency standards and expenditure already made under round-1 of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Assistance Programme.

Meanwhile, in separate development, Irfan Wahab Khan CEO of Telenor Pakistan called on Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh here at the Finance Division.

The CEO briefed the Adviser about the brief history and services of the company and expressed the intention to increase the company’s investment in the country with the help and assistance from the government. He briefed that this week they have received additional capital of Rs.7.4b (45 million USD) into Telenor Microfinance Bank from Ant Financial and Telenor. 

This brings the total FDI to $185 million in the last 2 years alone as equity injection into Telenor Bank/Easypaisa to grow Pakistan’s digital payment ecosystem. The CEO also shared that telecom sector has an investment potential of about $ 1 billion which can be tapped. 

He gave a briefing on his plans to improve and provide latest telecommunication services in AJK and GB. He said during coronavirus pandemic the use of IT services has helped the economy in a positive way but as the resources of the people are shrinking they are also optimizing. He requested the Adviser to grant certain concessions for the further growth of the sector.

The CEO requested that in view of the ongoing economic situation of businesses in the country FBR may be asked to rationalize the withholding tax/GST on telecommunication services. 

He also requested that the issue of SIM Issuance Tax may be settled out of court to bring on an amicable end to this matter. Other issues regarding the renewal of licenses were also discussed.

The Adviser appreciated the contribution of the telecom sector in the development of the country and said it is an important sector which is helping the people in many ways; from job creation to communication and in providing digital access to financial services. He assured all possible help and support for the telecom sector for the prosperity of the country and the industry.