Imran Khan to visit Saudi Arabia next week, says Pakistan Foreign Ministry

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. (Photo courtesy: PTI official media cell)
Updated 13 September 2018
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Imran Khan to visit Saudi Arabia next week, says Pakistan Foreign Ministry

  • It’ll be either on Sept. 17-18 or Sept. 18-19 — Dr. Mohammad Faisal
  • The prime minister will travel with a small entourage, as per the government’s austerity drive

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit Saudi Arabia next week, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to Arab News on Thursday.
“It’ll be either on Sept. 17-18 or Sept. 18-19. The details (of the visit) are being finalized,” said Dr. Mohammad Faisal, spokesperson for Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said the prime minister will travel to Saudi Arabia with a small entourage, as per the government’s austerity drive.
Arab News learned that the agenda of his meetings with Saudi dignitaries was being finalized. The prime minister will discuss “financial support to Pakistan and the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Pakistani workers (in Saudi Arabia).”
The development comes just days after a three-day visit of Saudi Arabia’s Media Minister Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad to Islamabad, during which he held meetings with Imran Khan and other top civil-military leaders. The minister passed on greetings from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the prime minister and invited him to visit Saudi Arabia.
In his victory speech on July 26, Imran Khan said: “Saudi Arabia is a friend who has always stood by us in difficult times.”
King Salman, in a telephone call on Aug. 12, congratulated Imran Khan on his party’s victory in the country’s parliamentary elections.
Pakistan is an important ally of Saudi Arabia, King Salman had said, adding that Saudi Arabia wants to maintain cordial relations with the country. He extended an invitation to Imran Khan, who had accepted.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also telephoned Khan and expressed the Kingdom’s desire to invest heavily in the country to strengthen its trade and bilateral ties with Pakistan.
“Pakistan considers Saudi Arabia’s security to be of crucial importance and safety of the holy sites in the kingdom was part of their faith,” the PTI said in a statement after Khan spoke to King Salman.


India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

Updated 23 September 2018
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India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

  •  “Modicare” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to half a billion people
  • The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega health care scheme, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme, on Sunday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 

The National Health Protection Scheme, popularly known as “Modicare,” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to 100 million families or 500 million people, accounting for around 41 percent of people who fall below the poverty line.

 “The aim is to provide medical care to the people standing at the very margin of society. It has been a dream to provide health care to the needy and that dream is coming true today,” Modi said in a speech after inaugurating the scheme.

 “This is the first time in the world that a health care program is being launched where an individual will have an insurance cover of 5 lakh rupees ($7,000).”

The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India.

The intervention is meant to take the burden off the government hospitals and bring the expensive private hospitals within the reach of poor people.

For Ganesh Yadav, a daily wage earner, the “Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” as the program is officially called, is “a good move by the government if it really works.

 “Last year I spent more than 50,000 rupees ($720) in getting a kidney stone removed in a private hospital and I am still struggling to pay back the debt that I incurred. If the Modicare really works then poor people like me will not have to worry about the expenses in health care,” said Yadav, who lives in Noida, a satellite town of Delhi.

But one doctor raises doubts about the success of the program.

“An earlier health scheme also had the provision for insurance cover but the out-of-cost expenses of the poor people could not come down. There is a lack of clarity on this issue in the new scheme as well,” says Dr. Shakil, a cardiologist based in Patna, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
 
Talking to Arab News, he asks: “How will you identify the real beneficiaries? Besides, the scheme will not build public health infrastructure but give benefit to the private players, which I think is the real drawback of this policy.
 
“The government is in a hurry to launch the scheme and not many preparations have gone into it before inaugurating it.”

Economist Venkat Narayana questions the budgetary provisions for the scheme. “Under the scheme 60 percent of expenses would be borne by the central government and 40 percent by the state government. But the poorer states cannot afford the huge sums involved in the expenditure,” says Narayana, who also runs NGOs for poor people in Warangal district in the South Indian state of Telangana.

“My experience suggests that such a program does not address the real health care needs of the people living in villages and smaller cities. The money that the government plans to spend on insurance can be spent in expanding and enriching the medical infrastructure across the country.”

But Nirala, a political activist associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, feels that “this is a visionary intervention in the health care system of the country.

“Modi has tried to address the gap that exists in medical system of the country by bringing private hospitals within the reach of the poor masses,” he told Arab News.

Political analyst Pawan Pratyay, however, feels that Prime Minister Modi "has played a big political gamble in the election year by launching this attractive looking and sounding health care policy.

“The government has been cutting the health budget year after year. By bringing this pro-poor scheme Modi wants to change the pro-rich image that he has acquired over the years and attract the voters from the economically marginalized demography.”