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Rs407b interest-free loan programme launched

* PM Khan says programme to make 4.5m low-income families self-reliant
* All families in Punjab to get health card by end of March
* Petrol, diesel prices slashed as country has more money right now

Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday launched an interest-free loan programme worth Rs407 billion under the Kamyab Pakistan Programme, which he said would contribute to making the country’s low-income groups self-reliant.

Addressing the programme’s launching ceremony at Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, the premier said 4.5 million families would benefit from interest-free loans under this initiative to set up small businesses, construct homes, start farming and acquire technical education.

He added that Rs2.5b had been disbursed by the government among the low-income groups in various welfare schemes so far, and that banks had also given loans worth Rs55bn after the government encouraged them to facilitate the common man. The prime minister stressed the need for transforming Pakistan into a welfare state, along the lines of the state of Madinah, saying that the country was envisioned as a socio-welfare state. But deviation from this ideology increased difficulties for the common man, he regretted.

The prime minister said the Kamyab Pakistan Programme, which was aimed at making the country a welfare state, would be further expanded. The programme, he said, envisaged interest-free loans worth Rs500,000 for businesses, Rs350,000 for farmers and Rs2m for the construction of houses.

Imran said technical training would also be provided to one member of each deserving family under the programme.

Imran said he would be launching the Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority on Thursday (today), a body envisioned by him for researching how best to disseminate lessons from the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to the public.

The prime minister further said the “biggest” initiative taken by his government to facilitate citizens was the issuance of ‘Naya Pakistan Health Card’. He added that by the end of March, all families in Punjab would get the health card, reiterating the announcement he had made at the launch of the programme for the province in December last year.

Imran also spoke about his recent announcement of slashing petrol and electricity prices, saying the government was able to take the step due to “record” tax collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Earlier this week, the prime minister had announced the slashing of petrol price by Rs10 per litre and electricity tariff by Rs5 per unit as part of a series of measures to bring some relief to the public.

The announcement met criticism and skepticism by many, particularly the opposition. The move was dubbed a “populist” measure and many had expressed the fear that it would lead to a fresh spree of borrowing to finance the package.

However, Imran explained in his speech today that it was in fact the revenue collected by the FBR that enabled the government to take such relief measures. “I want to thank the FBR today for collecting […] record tax in Pakistan and because of this we have reduced the petrol price by Rs10 per litre and power tariff by Rs5 per unit when prices are on the rise internationally,” he said. The prime minister added that the government was able to take these steps because “we have more money”.

He said the nation should rest assured that their taxes would be used to “elevate individuals, reduce their burden and reduce inflation”.

“This is my promise to you. This [tax] money will not be spent on anything but you,” he said.

Earlier, the premier had lauded the FBR in a tweet for “successfully knocking down” February’s revenue target of Rs 441bn and “posting a robust growth” of 28.5 percent. “Because of this performance of the FBR, we are able to subsidise petrol, diesel and electricity and give relief to our people,” he said.

He said relief was given in terms of reduction in electricity charges and petrol prices as the country now had more money.