ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P) Tuesday said it is still clueless about lifting of restrictions on forex payments by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in real terms, saying that with inflows of dollars a breathing space will be available which was not there for nearly 8-10 months.
Testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production, presided over by Senator Khalida Ateeb, Additional Secretary MoI&P, Asad Rafique Chandna said there is no indication from SBP about lifting of restrictions as of today.
“We are hoping that after agreement with the IMF breathing space will be available to the economy as plants are shut down and people are being deprived of their jobs,” Chandna added.
Senator Zeeshan Khanzada inquired from the Ministry of Industries and Production about future prospects of lifting of SBP restrictions on foreign exchange as the entire industry is waiting for final outcome of IMF-GoP pact. He further maintained that there are expectations that by July 14-15, 2023, it will be clear if agreement with IMF is finalized.
Additional Secretary MoI&P said that when dollars will come situation will improve as recent Letters of Credit (LCs) were not being opened due to which goods were not cleared from the ports and importers were facing demurrages. In addition, more duties have been imposed in the budget 2023-24.
“Things are now out of control but we hope that with new IMF program a breathing space will be available to the economy,” Chandna maintained.
The Committee also discussed issues being faced by Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) including retrenchment, theft etc. However, the Committee decided to hold a meeting in Karachi to discuss PSM in totality in the presence of Management and Union as the officials representing PSM could not satisfy the Committee members.
Additional Secretary MoI&P briefed the Committee that the government had approved Rs 19.656 billion for retrenchment of 5282 employees (workers and officers) in PSM.
A tranche of Rs 14.218 billion was released out of which Rs 12.051 billion has been disbursed to 4734retrenched employees Furthermore, Rs 1.55 billion was disbursed to employees who opted for VSS. The Committee was further informed that 1591 employees did not process their case to receive their dues.
For seeking permission to retrench remaining 50.1 per cent staff as per law, PSM has filed a petition before Sindh Labour Court. The Supreme Court of Pakistan on September 9, 2022 passed direction to the Labour Court to decide the case expeditiously. Case is pending at argument stage in Labour Court. Next hearing of the case will be July 25, 2023.
Senator Khalida Ateeb questioned as to whether the new appointments after the retrenchment have been made or not to which officials failed to respond. She directed the Pakistan Steel Mills Officials to provide complete details of employees before the retrenchment in the next meeting.
Furthermore, Senator Khalida Ateeb highlighted the alleged copper theft worth around 10 billion rupees from Pakistan Steel Mills. Officials stated that the FIA is investigating the matter and the final report will be submitted before the committee once the investigation completed.
Senior General Manager, Utility Stores Corporation (USC), Anayat Daula informed the Committee that USC is facing dearth of sugar at its utility stores as prices quoted in three or four previous tenders were on the higher side. USC’s monthly sugar requirement is 30,000 MT.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023