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ISLAMABAD: A body constituted by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet with respect to suggestion of an option for payment of salaries and pensions to the employees of the Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC) is yet to make its submission.

The ECC meeting president over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on January 25, 2023 gave 15 days to the committee headed by SAPM on Government Effectiveness, Dr Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan to evaluate viable options for the financial sustainability of PCCC. The Ministry of Food and Security has sought a technical supplementary grant (TSG) for the PCCC employees’ salaries and pensions.

Earlier, sources said that the PCCC has written a letter to the Ministry of National Food Security and Research secretary that the PCCC is facing a serious financial crisis due to non-payment of cotton cess by the textile industry. The letter added that the pending payment of the cess money has risen to almost Rs3.5 billion. Consequently, the employees of the PCCC have not been paid salaries since July 2022.

The employees are in serious financial stress and are unable to meet both ends and could not pay fee for the children’s education, and payment of utility bills in this era of the highest inflation rate.

The employees are in a very distressful condition, therefore, under the given circumstances, it is requested that; (i) PCCC may be provided an emergency grant to meet its liabilities; (ii) a system may be defined to recover pending cess money from the textile industry; (iii) a sustainable solution may be sorted out to ensure enough funds for salaries of the PCCC employees and cotton R&D programs; and (iv) and alternatively, federal government may take responsibility for payment of salaries and pensions of the PCCC employees.

In the summary, the Ministry of NFSR stated that there is no allocation in the federal budget for PCCC and the organisation derives its financial resources through levy of cotton cess at the rate of Rs50 per bale on textile mills in respect of all cotton consumed or exported. However, the textile mills have stopped paying cess and the matter is under litigation since 2016; resultantly, cess collection has declined from Rs631.722 million in 2014-15 to Rs207.201 million in 2021-22. During the month of July 2022, the actual income from cess collection was only Rs16.33 million.

The situation has adversely affected the working of the PCCC and its research programmes and plans, even as operational expenses have been curtailed to a minimum. The situation has deteriorated so much that the salaries and pensions of the PCCC employees and pensioners have been reduced to just 30 percent from July onwards, making it difficult for them to meet their needs in these inflationary times. This has created unrest and the serving as well as retired employees are continuously agitating.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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