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ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet which is scheduled to meet on Monday (today) is likely to approve Rs 23 billion supplementary grant for 7th Population and Housing Census, urea import for 2023 and Solar Panel and Allied Manufacturing Policy 2023, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, administrative Ministry of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), has submitted a summary to the ECC for supplementary grant for Census, which has already started across the country.

Ministry of National Food Security and Research (M/o NFS&R) has submitted urea fertilizer requirement for calendar year 2023, which is a mix of imported urea and domestic production through subsidized RLNG to fertilizer plants.

ECC approves Rs5bn for first-ever digital population census

The ECC will also consider Technical Supplementary Grant of Rs 3.244 billion for Fiscal Year 20222-23 for National Poverty Graduation Program.

To be presided over by Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, ECC will also consider a summary of Ministry of Industries and Production on Solar Panel & Allied Equipment Manufacturing Policy 2023, according to which the government is likely to exempt solar equipment from all taxes aimed at achieving the target of 10,000-MWp from solar plants and promote local industry.

According to the draft policy, the prevailing severe energy crisis, global hike in fossil fuel prices and resulting ballooning of energy import bill have triggered pressure on the county’s balance of payment (BoP). Resultantly, government has focused on increasing the share of indigenous energy resources from existing 40% to 90.2% by 2031 as part of Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP), which will be achieved primarily through Renewable Energy (RE) sources.

In this context the prime minister has approved to generate 10,000 MW of solar energy to overcome energy crises. The country has already witnessed a surge in the use of solar energy during the last few years.

The expected demand is expected to create huge potential market of solar modules and allied equipment as investors (local as well as foreign) are showing interest in investing in installing solar PV panels and ancillary equipment manufacturing facilities in Pakistan. To make local manufacturing feasible, policy intervention from the government is needed.

Existing tax and tariff structure on import of solar equipment reflects that 17% sales tax is levied on imports of parts/ components of solar modules/ panels whereas imports of complete modules/ panels are at zero percent duties and taxes. However, India and Turkey are applying up to 40 percent tariff differentials in order to promote their local industry.

To leverage policy formulation, the Prime Minister constituted a committee on “indigenous production of solar panel and allied equipment” on December 16, 2022. In pursuance of PM Office notification of the committee, a consultative meeting under the chairmanship of the federal minister for Industries and Production was held on December 22, 2022 to deliberate upon the promotion and implementation of solar panel and allied equipment manufacturing policy 2023. Moreover, stakeholders’ consultation was held on different occasions.

The policy is proposed with following interventions to promote solar panels and allied equipment manufacturing in Pakistan: (i) a consistent 10-year policy framework to enable long-term investment by domestic & global companies; (ii) exemption from duties and taxes on import of inputs (CKD & raw materials, sub-components, components, sub-assemblies) used in manufacturing of solar panels, parts and allied equipment. Currently, complete solar power systems including PV modules, batteries, inverters, wires/ cables, etc., are exempted from customs duty under fifth schedule of Customs, on import; (iii) exemption from all duties and taxes on import of plant, machinery and equipment for new and BMRE plants used for manufacturing of solar panels, parts and allied equipment. Currently, only solar cell manufacturing equipment is exempted from customs duty under fifth schedule of Customs, on its import. For manufacturers, solar cells and parts of PV Modules are also exempted from customs duty under fifth schedule of Customs, whereas local manufacturers of inverters, batteries and allied equipment/ parts are subject to payment of duties on the import of their inputs; (iv) equal treatment in Sales Tax for local manufacturers and importers. Currently, solar cells and PV modules are exempted from sales tax under sixth schedule of Sales Tax Act,1990 on import and supply whereas local manufacturers are subject to payment of sales tax on import of inputs of solar panels, inverters, batteries and allied equipment/ parts); (v) ten year Tax Holiday for existing, setting-up new plants and BMRE of Solar Panel and allied equipment manufacturing concerns; (vi) bank financing/ loans at low interest rates for setting up local manufacturing and installation; (vii) supporting exports through adequate incentives in the shape of R&D support, DLTL, etc; (viii) preference (at least 30% share) to the locally made solar panels and allied equipment in government procurement as per SRO 827(1)/2001; (ix) incentivising establishment of international standard and accredited laboratories, (preferably in North and South), for certifying the quality/ standards of Panels and Allied equipment according to IEC standards/ TUV accredited laboratories (tentative cost $ 10-15 million approx.) or upgrading a couple of existing labs (tentative cost $ 5-8 million approx). Till the time local industry may be supported through subsidizing the testing/certification of their products from international laboratories in other countries; and (x) constitution of Implementation and Review Committee to guide the policy.

The sources said proposed policy is designed to promote local industry. The implementation of this policy is expected to help the government to provide its citizen with clean and cheap energy, address climate change issues, reduce the CO2 emissions, save foreign exchange and support export enhancement through local and foreign investments.

The proposed initiative would also galvanize commercial activities in already existing Industrial sectors like aluminium frame, tempered glass, cable, etc.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Salman Nazir Mar 06, 2023 09:22am
Besides the growing Solar energy needs, all deployment needs to be systematic and based on the Integrated Energy Planning. Moreover, initiative to promote local manufacturing is positive.
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