Pakistan: Pakistan admits disruption in CPEC due to Covid-19 outbreak

New Delhi: Pakistani authorities have warned about delays and disruption in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects after outbreak of coronavirus.

In a detailed report tabled before high-powered National Coordination Committee (NCC) it was stated that Chinese companies working on CPEC projects will suffer delays and higher costs along with supply-chain and worker related disruptions will be witnessed, according to a report in Pak daily The News.

The report states that Pakistan’s plan to expeditiously build Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will also be thwarted or at least face delays as Chinese companies will find it hard to manage required human and capital supplies on an urgent basis, according to The News.

“…Pakistan on the back of its infrastructure availability could be a contender to benefit from global business opportunities precipitation from the impacts of COVID-19,” according to The News.

“A well-articulated policy is need of the hour, however, the response may be constrained by: Uncertainty about the nature and duration of shocks may complicate policy response; Adequately finance demand of health systems and social safety nets within the confines of already squeezed budgets may not be sufficient; Need for a mix of timely and targeted policies on hard-hit sectors and segments of society through temporary tax relief and cash transfers (identification problem); Reprioritise revenue and spending objectives as lower revenues resulting from lower imports coupled with additional spending requirements for pandemic mitigation are likely to widen fiscal deficit. This in turn will further aggravate precarious debt situation; Target measures to defer taxes and government fees, defer loan payments, and increase concessional financing for small and medium-sized enterprises; SBP to provide ample liquidity to banks particularly for lending to SMEs as financing needs to remain solvent are likely to grow at a rapid pace,” according to the report.

The report, according to The News further says, many businesses will face liquidity problem and will look towards the financial sector for cheaper sources of financing. Global markets will be tight thereby constricting exports and remittances, fiscal adjustment will be painful, higher debt accumulation will be problematic, development will be harder to find financing, revenues will be difficult to increase while expenditure demand will be immense, and in all this an intricate policy mix has to be in place for stable transition out of the crisis, the report concluded.

Meanwhile, dozens of doctors and nurses have launched a hunger strike, demanding adequate protective equipment for frontline staff treating coronavirus patients, the lead organiser of the protest said on Saturday. Frontline staff have been left vulnerable, with more than 150 medical workers testing positive for the virus nationwide, according to the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) in Pakistan’s worst-hit Punjab province.

Several doctors and nurses have died from Covid-19 in Pakistan. Simultaneously although almost half of the money under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program has been disbursed among the deserving families, the residents of the less developed areas of Pakistan particularly from Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are yet to get benefit of this initiative.

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