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Pakistan Plans Staggered End To Lockdown After Grim Economic Warning

A Pakistani farmer separates wheat from the chaff at a farm on the outskirts of Peshawar in December.
A Pakistani farmer separates wheat from the chaff at a farm on the outskirts of Peshawar in December.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan has planned a staggered end to its coronavirus lockdown after warnings that a prolonged economic halt could result in some 18 million job cuts, pushing more than half of the population into poverty.

"We are going to resume key sectors that employee millions," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said on April 10, referring to agriculture and construction. The cabinet decided this week to allow people to resume work on the fields and reopen the construction and associated industries such as cement and steel manufacturing from April 14.

The retail and transport sectors would be the next to come out of the three-week lockdown, Awan said, despite the number of infections climbing to 4,500. The decision comes as a new study predicted that more than 18 million jobs were at risk under the current strict restrictions that include a curfew enforced by the military in some parts.

Researchers at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, a state-run body, warned that the agriculture, construction, and retail sectors could be hit hardest.

"As a result, 120 million people or more than half of population are at risk of falling beneath the poverty line," said Mahmood Khalid, one of the co-authors of the study.

According to United Nations estimates, around 40 percent of Pakistan's population already lives below the poverty line. The government has announced a $7.1 billion rescue plan and was expecting up to $3 billion from donors in aid and new loans.

-- DPA

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