USC May Launch Ramadan Relief Package on March 4

USC May Launch Ramadan Relief Package on March 4

The Utility Stores Corporation (USC) in Pakistan is gearing up to implement a significant relief package likely from March 4, 2024 for the holy month of Ramadan, aimed at providing much-needed relief to the lower-income segment of the country.

The federal government has approved the initiation of the Ramadan Relief Package, totaling Rs7.492 billion, through USC, likely to commence from March 4, 2024. This relief initiative targets beneficiaries with subsidies on 19 essential items, as disclosed in reports following a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet. The approval was granted based on a proposal from the Ministry of Industries and Production.

The Ministry’s proposal sought approval for providing subsidies to targeted beneficiaries under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), registered under PMT-60, amounting to Rs7.492 billion. It highlighted that Rs5 billion had already been allocated during the current fiscal year 2023-24 for the Ramadan Relief Package-2024, with the remaining Rs2.492 billion to be re-appropriated from the current fiscal year budget allocations for the Prime Minister Relief Package (PMRP).

The ECC has called for the Finance Division to release the full projected subsidy amount of Rs7.492 billion to ensure timely purchases and necessary arrangements for the availability of subsidized items at USC outlets.

Considering that Ramadan is expected to begin on March 11, 2024, the proposed implementation date for the Ramadan Relief Package-2024 has been set from March 4, 2024, until the last day of Ramadan.

The Ministry of Industries highlighted the government’s longstanding practice of providing relief to the public during Ramadan by offering 19 essential items at subsidized rates through USC outlets since 1991. The federal government has allocated a budget of Rs35 billion for the financial year 2023-24 for the subsidy on essential items, covering the implementation of both the Prime Minister’s Relief Package 2023-2024 and the Ramadan Relief Package 2024 through USC.

The funds allocated during the current financial year include Rs30 billion for PMRP and Rs5 billion for the Ramadan Relief Package 2024, summing up to a total budget approval of Rs35 billion.

The primary objective of the Ramadan Relief Package is to provide maximum relief to the masses, particularly during the holy month.

The Ministry of Industries emphasized that due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s restrictions on untargeted subsidies, the government has approved the provision of subsidies to targeted beneficiaries of BISP registered under PMT (proxy means test)-40 for the fiscal year 2023-24. The ECC has previously approved the continuation of PMRP on a targeted subsidy model, leading to the conversion of the USC’s hybrid subsidy model to targeted subsidy, disbursed to beneficiaries registered under PMT-40.

The USC is currently selling subsidized items to 26.92 million households registered with BISP under PMT-40. To extend support to an additional 12.73 million households, the proposal suggests disbursing the 19-item subsidy to targeted beneficiaries of BISP registered under PMT-60 instead of PMT-40, aiming to serve the maximum number of targeted beneficiaries during Ramadan-2024.