by Khayyam Siddiqi
While the Federal and Provincial government authorities have taken several measures to contain the Coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan and provide all possible socioeconomic relief to the people during this lockdown, the corporate sector and regulatory bodies have also come forward to facilitate the community in different ways.
The credit also goes to the corporate sector regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), that had advised the corporations during the third week of March to divert their corporate social responsibility activities and budget towards the prevention, detection, and cure of COVID-19.
Companies were also advised to take proactive measures, ensure contingency planning, and mitigate health risks to employees, customers, and communities while making alternate arrangements with suppliers and customers to ensure continuity of business operations.
So, let’s get straight to some recognition of those organizations who have been supporting the nation during these trying times:
Unilever Pakistan: Pledged Rs 200 million towards Coronavirus relief efforts.
As per the breakup:
- Rs 100 million worth of hygiene and sanitation products will be given to hospitals, government and civil society bodies;
- Rs 45 million in monetary donations to government bodies and healthcare facilities;
- Rs 40 million in monetary donations for the distribution of rations and essential products to the people most in need; and
- Rs 15 million for a public awareness campaign to be organized across the country.
Pakistan State Oil:
Provision of ration bags, groceries, and other hygiene products to underprivileged families across the country. Supply of testing kits and medical equipment to hospitals besides equipping doctors and medical staff with protective gowns and masks.
Setting up sanitizing and hand-washing points with the help of law enforcement agencies in Karachi. Extending support to various ambulance service providers in terms of fuel.
Also working to provide fuel for ambulances transporting COVID-19 patients. Advertising and CSR budgets are being redirected towards supporting relief efforts.
Engro Fertilizers: Slashed urea price by Rs 240 per bag to support farmers amid the Coronavirus outbreak.
Pakistan Air Force: Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force pledged one month’s salary in the fund established by the government to fight the pandemic. It has been decided at the Air Staff level that all rank and file of PAF will contribute to the fund.
Besides the Air Chief, officers of the rank of Air Commodore and above would donate their three day’s salary whereas, the officers of Group Captain and below ranks would donate two day’s salary in the national cause. Moreover, airmen and civilians would also chip in their one day’s salary in the Corona Relief Fund.
Philips Morris Pakistan: Donating protective gear to various hospitals and distributing soaps and sanitizer as well as food rations to communities across Pakistan including Sahiwal and Mardan.
EBM: Redirecting and repurposing advertising budgets towards COVID-19 relief efforts with the distribution of food and medical supplies in different communities.
As per the directives of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), all banks have waived online fund transfer charges since March 20 to discourage the general public from visiting banks in the wake of Coronavirus outbreak.
Moreover, various financial institutions have been seen spreading awareness about the pandemic and precautionary measures through emails, in-app messages, websites, and social media.
SBP also directed all the banks to provide fit, authenticated and disinfected cash while taking responsibility to clean, disinfect, seal and quarantine all cash being collected from hospitals and clinics and to block the circulation of such cash in the market.
The central bank has clearly taken the lead in introducing several policy measures to protect the safety of public and address the potential economic impact amid COVID19 outbreak in Pakistan such as reducing its policy (discount) rate; launching refinance facilities to stimulate new investment in manufacturing and supporting hospitals/medical centers; and extending support to local exporters, households and businesses.
Telecom & IT: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) started to respond to the pandemic with a request to telecom users to disregard unauthentic, unverifiable information over WhatsApp or social media platforms related to Coronavirus.
It then announced that educational institutions and online businesses can use VoIP, VPN, and video conferencing applications without any restrictions.
This was followed by an extension of 30 days for registration of all GSMA valid device IMEIs that are working on mobile networks but not registered with PTA to ensure social distancing.
PTA also directed cellular mobile operators and local loop operators to remain fully prepared for the provision of uninterrupted telecom services to the consumers besides simplifying the Internet Protocol whitelisting process for the facilitation of its Licensees and their customers like call centers and business process outsourcing.
PTA sent out SMS alerts to people who might have come in contact with Coronavirus affected individuals during traveling or at other places besides asking all operators to make calls to the Ministry of National Health Services helpline (1166) free of cost and replacing standard ring back tone with awareness messages about COVID-19.
PTA also ensured the dissemination of over 366 million awareness messages via cellular mobile operators to subscribers since March 19 in English, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, and Pashto. The telecom watchdog has also requested concerned authorities to grant the status of essential services to the cellular sector which has yet not been implemented and reportedly workers are facing hardships to ensure services during the lockdown.
Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication:
In the process of developing a mobile application – Corona App – to deal with Coronavirus outbreak with the help of technology enabling people in the capital to check whether they may possibly have Coronavirus.
Jazz: Calls to government hospitals and doctors, advised by the government of Pakistan, made free of cost. Abolishment of balance validity. Initiated free Teledoc consultation. News and updates about Coronavirus free on Jazz TV. Provision of food supplies to daily-wage workers.
Ufone: Collaboration with Pakistan Red Crescent Society for awareness about Coronavirus and assistance in volunteer registration. Free of cost UPaisa wallet services. Various offers and promotions.
Zong: Free access to select government helplines, hospitals, and doctors. Free access to WHO and covid.gov.pk. No service fee on balance transfer. Extension in balance validity.
PTCL: Free of cost internet to double play voice and TV customers till 30th April and extension of the deadline in billing dates for wireline customers. Provision of relief packages comprising ration, medicines and preventive gears to Coronavirus affected families in Sukkur.
Nayatel: Launched a free audio conference solution for virtual meeting rooms from 30 minutes to 48 hours.
The Ministry of Energy (Power Division) has directed all power distribution companies across the country, excluding K-Electric, to allow customers to pay their March bills by April 7 without late payment surcharge.
K-Electric has extended the due date for bills below Rs4,000 to until April 10 and for all other customers, including industrial and commercial, the due date has been extended till April 7.
Oil and Gas Development Company: handed over its hostel in Islamabad to the district administration to establish a quarantine facility. It will also provide 50 protective gear to the quarantine staff. Provision of food and medicines to affected patients in other facilities as well.
SECP: Directed the listed companies to modify their usual planning for annual general meetings to avoid large gatherings in one place. To facilitate companies and businesses, the deadline to hold AGM for the year ended on Dec 31 extended till May 29, 2020.
Relaxation to file impediment reports with the concerned registrar for the election of directors along with the provision to file any statutory return on or after 24th March with the delay of 30 days. A short sale in 36 specific shares of future market subjected to an uptick rule for April contacts.
The maximum period of borrowing by mutual funds for redemption purposes extended to 360 days. Deposit requirements of TREC holders relaxed against base minimum capital. The requirement to perform biometric verification at the time of opening of the account is eased and can be performed within 90 days.
The proposed new law, “Non-Banking Finance Companies and Collective Investment Vehicles Bill, 2020”, to protect investors and tighten the supervision/monitoring of NBFCs and collective investment vehicles.
Pakistan Stock Exchange joined the club of the world’s elite stock exchanges by launching Exchange Traded Fund to make the market more attractive, especially for retail investors. Asked insurance companies for imparting maximum facilitation to insurance policyholders and claimants during this difficult time.
Insurers were also advised to waive off non-mandatory requirements for claims processing and use alternative methods for verifying the authenticity of claims.
Other than the aforementioned entities, there are several individuals, small businesses, NGOs, hospitals, welfare organizations and groups who are extending a helping hand to those in need. We are also certain that the list of companies which are giving back to the society will grow rapidly in the next few days and we will keep updating it. During this challenging time, we all are required to act with kindness and help the deserving people around us.
The writer is a journalist turned communication professional with experience across the power, telecom, financial services, manufacturing and utility sectors. He tweets at @mkhayyams
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