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ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, on Friday, approved sugar import of 200,000 metric tons to replenish strategic reserves and minimise the role of speculative elements in the domestic market.

The meeting presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin gave approval to a summary by the Ministry of Industries and Production for importing 200,000 metric tons of sugar to build strategic reserves and minimise the role of speculative elements in the domestic market. In case of need, more reserves will be built up through import, the ECC decided.

The ECC also approved increase in prices of three essential commodities at the Utility Stores Corporation (USC): wheat flour (atta) 20kg bag to Rs950 from Rs800, ghee per kg packet to Rs260 from Rs170, and per kg sugar to Rs85 from Rs68 per kg. It stated that an increase was made owing to an increasing gap between the subsidised prices offered by the USC and the prevailing market prices.

The secretary Ministry of Industries and Production presented a summary regarding extension of the Prime Minister’s Relief Package-2020 providing subsidies on five essential commodities from 15th July 2021 to 30th September 2021. The ECC also deliberated and approved revision in prices of three essential commodities to rationalise provision of subsidies by the USC. The ECC considered and approved a summary, presented by the Ministry of Commerce regarding the elimination of documents attestation fee for goods imported into Pakistan from Kenya as this Non-Tariff Measure (NTM) increases cost of business and transaction time. The decision would facilitate trade between the two countries and enhance Pakistan’s market share in the region. The ECC approved a summary tabled by the Power Division regarding non-cash settlement for power sector re-lent loans against subsidies payable by Government of Pakistan equal to Rs116 billion.

The ECC approved “Kamyab Pakistan Program” to extend micro-loans to entrepreneurs and farmers under “Kamyab Karobar” and “Kamyab Kissan” schemes, respectively.

The programme shall also provide low-cost housing loans through Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority (NAPHDA).

The meeting was informed that the Kamyab Pakistan Programme also includes ongoing skill development programme for educational and vocational training under the title, “Kamyab Hunarmand”.

The Kamyab Pakistan Program is aimed at extending loans to four million households at the lowest strata, as registered with the National Socio Economic Registry (NSER) of Ehsaas.

Loans worth Rs0.5 million, Rs0.150 million and Rs0.2 million through micro-finance providers for Kamyab Karobar and Kamyab Kissan at 0 percent mark-up will be provided.

The third component of the scheme is introduction of a new tier in Naya Pakistan Low Cost Housing Scheme, wherein, the loans of Rs2.7 million (for NAPHDA) and Rs2 million (for non-NAPHDA) projects will be given at subsidised rates.

The salient features of the Kamyab Pakistan Program include loan size of Rs150,000 (per crop) for purchase of agricultural inputs.

The commutative disbursement under the programme would be Rs1.6 billion over the period of three years. It will benefit 30,00,000 families. The ECC commended to adopt “bottom-up approach” for reducing poverty as envisaged by the prime minister.

The Finance Ministry stated that Shaukat Tarin stated that the consultative process was followed in working out modalities of the Kamyab Pakistan Program, ensuring that all relevant stakeholders are on board and micro-loans shall be disbursed as per the given criteria.

The ECC also considered and approved the Draft Policy Directives related to Auction of Next Generation Mobile Services (NGMS) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) as submitted by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication before the Committee.

This is the first time that the NGMS will be auctioned in the AJK and it will improve mobile broadband services in the region.

Moreover, the ECC also decided that for the payment of the auctioned licence fee, the method in vogue in the earlier auction processes will be followed.

The Ministry of Maritime Affairs presented a summary regarding the award of Engineering Consultancy Service contract for up-gradation of Port Qasim Authority (PQA) amounting to Rs86.6 million.

The ECC approved the execution of the project.

The ECC allowed Port Qasim Authority, Karachi Port Trust, and Gwadar Port Authority boards to transfer their marine assets to the Pakistan Marine and Shipping Services Company Private Limited (PMSSC), a subsidiary of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation.

The maximum rates to be charged by the PMSSC from the public sector ports and harbours shall be determined from time to time by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs through a notification in the official gazette.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (Ministry of NFS&R) presented a summary regarding procurement of 200,000 cotton bales by the TCP to promote cotton production and bring stability in the domestic market.

The ECC also approved formation of Cotton Price Review Committee (CPRC) with a mandate to review market price and propose intervention at a fortnightly basis.

The ECC approved the amendment in its earlier decision dated 19-02-2021 regarding the “Prime Minister’s fiscal package for agriculture in the wake of COVID-19 Kharif”. As per the amendment, farmers can avail subsidy on any phosphatic fertiliser according to their choice.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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