LAHORE:The global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could have a colossal impact on the health and livelihoods of ordinary Pakistanis. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demands that the government take the following rights-based economic measures without delay.
The government must invest in providing protective gear to medical staff dealing with the emergency across the country. All COVID-19 testing must be nationalised and made available free of cost. A debt moratorium should be declared for at least six months and the State Bank’s monetary policy reviewed such that discount rates are cut.
Small businesses must be given non-collateralised credit support, while enterprises should be given tax breaks conditioned on their retaining staff. In addition to existing beneficiaries, the Ehsaas and Benazir Income Support Programmes must be used to reach daily-wage earners immediately to provide them with enhanced livelihood support.
It is time to rethink national priorities such that people, not profits, shape the country’s economic system. The situation demands an immediate increase in allocations for health, low-income housing, and social safety nets in the federal and provincial budgets. HRCP also calls on all citizens to appreciate that Pakistan is facing a crisis, and to take all precautionary measures as advised by the government and medical practitioners.