ISLAMABAD               -            The government would have to revise all economic targets during the ongoing fiscal year, in view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 across the country which resulted in a halt to economic activities.

Pakistan’s provinces have already announced lockdown situation for next two weeks, which would result in lesser economic activities across the country. The incumbent government, which was already struggling to achieve the economic targets, would have to revise the targets. Background discussions with the officials of different ministries revealed that government would revise the targets downward in the next few days.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had projected around Rs300 billion shortfalls in next three months (April-June) of the current fiscal year owing to a slowdown in economic activities because of the coronavirus threat. Shortfall in tax collection would exceed the budget deficit target for the year 2019-2020. Meanwhile, the ministry of commerce projected that Pakistan’s exports might tumble by up to $2.67 billion in the next few months. According to the estimates, exports could either tumble by 25 percent, amounting to $1.336 billion minimum, and by 50 percent (2.672 billion) in the worst case scenario, during the period of March-June 2019-20.

Similarly, the country’s GDP growth would also be affected due to lockdown in the country. Meanwhile, inflow of foreign remittances would also reduce due to the prevailing situation as the COVID-19 spread is a global issue.

However, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafiz Shaikh said, “The government is facing a challenging situation and under the prevailing circumstances, the prime objective of the government was to contain the virus, provide health care facilities, provision of essential food items at affordable rates, financial assistance to the common man and assistance to the business community to operate their businesses during the times of the pandemic without a permanent set back to the economy.”

He said, “Towards this end we are reviewing numerous proposals with the hope to give a plan that is simple and implementable to meet the aforementioned objectives.”

Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired a meeting on Monday at the Finance Division with Governor Sindh Mr. Imran Ismail and Business community from Karachi joining the meeting through video conferencing. Advisers to Prime Minister on Commerce and Austerity and Institutional Reforms and Petroleum were also present during the meeting.

He also asserted that people should have faith that the government was there to support them.

The businessmen included representatives from the garments and textile sector, pharmaceutical industry, Pakistan Stock exchange and tourism and hotel industry, gave proposals regarding the problems they had been facing and the assistance they required from the government in the times of crisis. They requested that they should be enabled to look after their daily wagers in the next 2-3 months times and be provided with assistance to carry on their business with improvement of their liquidity position.

On the request of the business men the secretary finance told that SECP had given proposal and mechanism to home department Sindh to help in running business/ trading at stock exchange Karachi. The food industry would remain open and continue business as usual, wherever needed, the federal government would have a dialogue with the provincial government to facilitate the business and trader community.