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ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved Rs7.8 billion subsidy for Ramadan Relief Package-2021 to provide 19 essential items at relatively lower rate at Utility Store Corporations (USC) during Ramazan.

The meeting presided over by Finance and Revenue Minister, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was presented by Ministry of Industries and Production the ‘Ramazan Relief Package-2021’.

The meeting was told that 19 essential items would be available at subsidized rates at USC under the proposed relief package that would entail a subsidy of around Rs7.8 billion.

The meeting was further informed that the subsidy would be available on wheat flour, sugar and ghee which have significant differential vis-à-vis prevailing prices in the domestic markets.

The managing director USC briefed the forum that procurement would start from April 01, 2021 to ensure availability of basic items at discounted prices across 4000 outlets of USC throughout the country.

The meeting directed MD USC to coordinate with Finance Division for timely release of funds to ensure well-timed procurement and other contingent arrangements.

The ECC approved Ministry of Industries and Production’s summary seeking permission regarding operation of two plants namely Agritech and Fatima Fertilizer from March till November 2021 to produce urea from SNGPL-based plants.

According to the ministry, the rationale for the proposal is to bridge the gap between estimated demand and actual domestic production of urea in the country.

The ECC directed that the Ministry may closely monitor the demand-supply situation and take a decision to import urea, if needed, as per requirements during the current year.

The ECC approved, in principle, the summary of Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination for exemption of taxes and duties on import of auto disable syringes and raw material needed for local manufacturing of auto disable syringes in the country.

The Secretary Health briefed the forum about efforts underway to switch from conventional syringes to auto disable syringes as reuse of conventional syringes leads to blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

The ECC approved in principle, the summary and directed the Ministry of Health to hold a follow-up meeting with the Law Division to fine-tune details.

The ECC also considered a summary regarding exemption of Federal Excise Duty (FED) on 10 soft-skin vehicles imported by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to be used by the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) for locust control operations.

Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) requested for a one-time exemption of Federal Excise Duty amounting to Rs10.3 million for 10 vehicles.

The ECC constituted a committee with representatives from Law Division, FBR and Ministry of National Food Security and Research for further discussion and submission of updated proposal before the committee.

The Secretary Ministry of the Information Technology and Telecommunication presented a summary before the committee based on recommendations by a cross-stakeholder committee for addressing critical issues of cellular mobile industry for digital enablement such as reduction in national database and registration authority (NADRA) biometric verification charges (BVC), licence renewal under further spectrum price, etc.

After a detailed discussion, the ECC constituted a sub-committee under the chairmanship of the Adviser to the prime minister on institutional reforms and austerity Ishrat Hussain with secretary IT, secretary finance and a representative from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) as its members to deliberate further and present a report before the ECC accordingly.

The ECC approved Ministry of Commerce’s summary seeking permission for import of cotton from Afghanistan and Central Asian States through land route via Torkham border to bridge the gap between supply and demand and to ensure sufficient availability of cotton for promoting textile exports with the subject to fulfillment of codal formalities.

The ECC had granted such permission earlier to work out necessary arrangements with reference to Plant Quarantine Rules to meet Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) requirements for import of cotton via land routes.

Ministry of Commerce requested to extend the above permission for import of cotton via land route during the current financial year. The Secretary Ministry of Communications updated ECC on National Freight and Logistics Policy (NFLP) discussed in earlier meeting held on January 20, 2021 and stated that the Ministry of Communications has segregated the proposals into two broad categories in line with the earlier directive of the committee.

The ECC directed to discuss the proposals for evolving consensus among all stakeholders including provincial representatives for a way forward.

The ECC decided to revise OMCs’ and dealers’ margins on the basis of 85% of the latest average core inflation with immediate effect, and directed to expedite a study by Pakistan Institute of Development Economic (PIDE) in this regard.

The Power Division submitted another summary about re-targeting of Power Sector subsidies (phase-I). The ECC considered and approved the proposals and recommended that Power Division will complete an analysis based on the listed principles and submit specific recommendations on thresholds and rates for the consumers before the ECC by 31st March, 2021.

Earlier, Petroleum Division updated the ECC about the recommendations firmed up by a sub-committee regarding review of Oil Marketing Companies’ (OMCs’) and dealers’ margins on POL products.

The ECC approved technical supplementary grants which include (1) Rs1056 million for the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training for completion of Projects related to Covid-19; (2) Rs1.5 billion for the Ministry of Housing and Works for disbursement of interest-free loans to the borrowers under the Prime Minister’s Low-Cost Housing Scheme; (3) Rs334.306 million for the Ministry of Interior for the payment of salaries/subsistence allowance to the Civil Armed Forces deployed in the Peacekeeping Missions; (4) Rs31.50 million for meeting expenses of Federal Insurance Ombudsman Secretariat working under the Ministry of Law and Justice; (5)Rs9.685 million for Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Karachi to clear the dues of M/s Coniston against PSM; (6) Rs67.358 million for the Cabinet Division for meeting various expenses; and (7) Rs419 million was approved to facilitate Pakistan Central Cotton Committee to carry out its research and development activities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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