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ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved Ramadan Relief Package of Rs 7.8 billion to provide subsidy on 19 essential commodities through Utility Stores Corporations (USC).

This was stated by Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhary and Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar while briefing media about the decisions taken by the federal cabinet presided by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The ministers said that USC would reach the break-even point by the end of this year as its sales had gone up from Rs 10 billion when the present government came to power to Rs 100 billion now. The USC would overcome its losses by the end of this fiscal year, said Chaudhary.

He stated that the cabinet has expressed its concern over the surge in the number of corona cases during its third wave and stressed the need for adopting all the precautionary measures so that the country could avert the worst as was done during the first and second waves owing to government’s timely decisions.

The prime minister, he added, also stressed the need for bringing about reforms in the electoral system to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

The minister said the federal cabinet also decided to carry out forensic audit of 10 loss-making SOEs and ministry of finance was instructed by the prime minister in this regard.

Fawad Chaudhary said that this exercise would be completed by the end of June and then the forensic audit of Quetta, Hyderabad and Sukkur electric supply companies would be conducted to know the causes behind their losses. He added that out of the total 85 SOEs, 51 SOEs are profit-making entities.

He said the cabinet also gave its approval to some arms licenses and directed ministry of interior to devise a policy in this regard and approved issuance of smart cards to those Afghan refugees who had Proof of Registration (PoR) cards so that their life can be made easy and for swift resolution of their problems. Tax exemption was granted on auto-disable syringes to prevent spread of various diseases.

He said that under gas development projects, the meeting was told that so far four and half lac gas meters have been installed. At present, only 27 percent of the total population has access to piped gas, he added. The government is developing a mechanism to extend this facility to majority of the population, he said, adding that cabinet also validated decisions of the Institutional Reforms Committee and Prime Minister Imran Khan directed to expedite the reforms process in the AGPR. He said the cabinet gave ex post facto approval with regard to 17 platoons of Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts for security duty.

He said the cabinet meeting also directed ministry of petroleum in the light of a report for taking action against oil marketing companies involved in illegal practices.

In reply to a question, he said that “those people who are talking about resignations from the assemblies do not have any stake in the system” and added that he was confident that two big parties, PPP and PML-N, “would not make decisions in haste”.

He said the government would move the court to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the Chief Election Commissioner if he did not resign as he had “failed to discharge responsibility in Senate election”.

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said that during Ramazan, subsidy would be provided on 19 essential commodities at USC against five items currently. He expressed the hope that USC would be operating at breakeven point by the end of this year.

He said that there was a huge sale of urea – highest in ten years – during the Rabbi season and entire demand was met through local production. The government, he added, also made two small fertilizer plants operational from March to meet the urea demand.

Azhar stated the cabinet was informed that LSM growth was 9.1 percent in January 2021 and 7.8 percent during July-January 2021 and the entire industry was operating at full capacity. He said the government is optimistic that LSM growth would help revise forecast upward or projections for the current fiscal year.

The federal cabinet also directed provinces, especially Sindh, to arrange sasta bazaars during the month of Ramazan to provide relief to people. Azhar said the economy is moving in the positive direction with rupee trading at Rs 156 against the dollar and adequate foreign exchange reserves and IMF programme back on track.

APP adds: The Federal Minister for Science and Technology said forensic audit of 10 loss making entities would be held under the directives of federal cabinet.

He said Pakistan Railway, Sui Southern Gas Pipeline Company, Pakistan International Airlines are among the enterprises which are running in loss, adding that the audit would be completed by June 30 this year.

Briefing media persons after federal cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, he said 51 out of 85 loss-making State Owned Enterprises have become profitable due to prudent policies of the government.

He said the pandemic had played havoc with the health systems and economies of many developed countries but Pakistan due to timely action and effective policies was successful in saving the lives and livelihood of the people.

Chaudhry Fawad said at the start of the meeting the Prime Minister highlighted the issue of transparency in the electoral system. PTI had two important points in its manifesto which included accountability and transparency in elections.

The prime minister directed for introduction of electronic voting system and also focused that every week the cabinet should be apprised of the process of introduction of electronic voting machines.

He said there were some political forces which would always disputed the election process but the government wanted to ensure transparency for the satisfaction of the general public.

He said the cabinet gave approval to the proposal of appointment of Raja Mazhar as Managing Director of National Book Foundation.

He said the cabinet also discussed the issue of improper use of petroleum companies CSR. Now rules have been changed and Minister for Petroleum has been authorized to monitor the entire process of CSR utilization.

The cabinet was informed that this year 400,000 new gas connections have been given whereas the target was 600,000 by the end of the current fiscal year.

He said the cabinet also briefed on structural reforms and it was decided that in future latest audit paragraphs would come up before the public accounts committee to promote the timely process of parliamentary supervision and accountability.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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