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ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance has put off approval of the proposed State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Governance and Operations Bill, 2021, after the committee members expressed serious reservations over giving powers to the SOEs for making independent procurement policy.

The committee meeting presided over by Faizullah was informed by senior officials of the Finance Ministry that 95-98 percent losses of the SOEs were coming from distribution companies (DISCOs), the National Highways Authority (NHA), and net losses were recorded at Rs141 billion in 2018-19.

The accumulative losses of DISCOs are Rs400-500 billion with top major loss-making companies included DISCOs, PIA, and NHA, etc. However Rs300billion profit in the energy sector was coming from the OGDCL and the PPL.

The meeting was further informed that Rs400 billion losses were causing fiscal problems.

Cabinet seeks report on performance of SOEs

The meeting was informed that of the total 200 SOEs, 84 SOEs are commercial in nature and remaining are either their subsidiaries or non-commercial and the proposed law provide framework for their monitoring and had nothing to do with their business plan.

Member of the committee Syed Naveed Qamar said that it was unfortunate that the government has been unable to tame the circular debt and losses of the SOEs. The members also said that haste being shown for the approval of law from the committee indicates that it was trying to meet the timeline. This law is being brought on the instructions of the IMF, said Syed Naveed Qamar. The Secretary Finance said that the purpose of this law is to provide institutionalise structure, so as to reduce their losses.

However, the members had serious reservations and disagreement over giving powers to the SOEs for making independent procurement policy with the approval of the federal government.

Hina Rabbani Khar said although they have problems with the PPRA rules and wanted them to be reformed but a normal standard should be applicable across the board.

The members suggested that there is a need to reformulate this specific section and bring it to the committee for approval with consensus tomorrow (Wednesday).

The Committee was also given presentation on the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (Amendment) Bill, 2021. The meeting was informed that at present, the government guarantees stood at six percent of the GDP and total stock of the public debt at 72 percent. The meeting was further informed that stock of outstanding guarantees is proposed to be increased to 10 percent of the GDP from existing six percent.

The meeting was further informed that stock of the total public debt and guarantees is proposed at 70 percent of the GDP.

The meeting decided to defer the approval of the proposed bill till its next meeting for further deliberation.

The meeting was also given a briefing regarding Export-Import Bank of Pakistan Bill, 2021 and this was also put off till its next meeting for detailed discussion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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