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ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has approved Rs3.850 billion for Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) employees’ salaries for the financial year (2020-21), and directed the Ministry of Industries and Production to ascertain accurate amount of liabilities payable by PSM.

The meeting of the ECC presided over by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh Wednesday considered two separate summaries moved by the Ministry of Industries and Production for the disbursement of salaries to the employees of PSM who have not approached the court (Sindh High Court), and for clearing the liabilities of the retired employees of the mill.

The meeting on the first proposal decided to approve Rs3.850 billion for the PSM employees due for the financial year 2020-21 to be disbursed every month.

However, on the second proposal, the meeting, in principle, agreed to the idea that the dues to the retired non-litigant employees should be paid but wanted to know first before taking any decision on the nature of liabilities payable by the PSM on account of retirement due and how much liabilities will accrue as a result of the retrenchment plan, and other expenditures on account of utilities or any other charges on the PSM.

The meeting was informed that the retired employees of the PSM had already been paid Rs12.741 billion on account of retirement dues but the Court had asked to pay as well to the non-litigant retired employees.

This would add Rs11.68 billion more to the expenditure of the federal government, the meeting was told.

The ECC considered and approved two Technical Supplementary Grants (TSGs) for the Ministry of Interior amounting to Rs111 million for clearing various liabilities of the ICT administration.

Two other TSGs for the Islamabad High Court (Rs102 million) and the National Heritage and Culture Division (Rs8.5 million) for various expenditures have also been approved by the ECC.

The ECC allowed the exemption from re-lending of the funds for the Pakistan National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for the Covid-19 to cover the country's requirements for 12 months through emergency operations.

In order to administer the program, the Asian Development Bank shall provide a loan of US $100 million and an additional US $5 million will be from the government of Norway as a grant administered by the ADB.

The ADB has already signed a loan agreement with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to finance the said project.

The meeting allowed notifying the Kharlachi Border Crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a rebatable border point for export of goods to Afghanistan.

Earlier, the opening of this border point helped in the release of congested transit trucks at the Afghan border due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

The ECC also approved the shifting of the Federal EPI from development to revenue expenditure with an allocation of Rs9,903.195 million through TSG for vaccine procurement in current fiscal year for the centralised procurement of the vaccines under the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) to avoid interruption in the immunisation programme.

Now the vaccine would be procured by the Federal EPI on behalf of the provincial governments, and later reimbursement would be made by the Punjab and the Sindh government, and deduction at source from the shares of the KP and Balochistan for their respective vaccine shares will be made.

The ECC also approved removal of additional custom duty on specific items of textile sector with revenue impact of Rs533 million.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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