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A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Tue-sday approved measures to boost the cotton crop in the country and decided that Ministry of National Food Security will present a plan within 30 days for strengthening research and development services for different crops with particular focus on cotton. The ECC presided over by Finance Minister Asad Umar further decided that the ministry will also submit plan for revitalisation of federal institutions tasked with the responsibility of developing the cotton sector. The ministry was directed to expedite efforts for implementing PB Ropes technology to counter the pink bollworm which impedes cotton growth.
The meeting further directed that Ministry of Industries and Production would take measures for recovery of cotton cess from textile mills so as to give impetus to cotton promotion activities, which are to be funded through the cess.
Secretary Ministry of National food Security & Research gave a detailed presentation on issues and challenges in the cotton sector. Experts in the field of cotton growing, who were specially invited to the meeting, also gave their input for developing the cotton crop.
The ECC also decided to approve additional guarantees of Rs 5.6 billion to PIAC against the request of Rs 14.5 billion, and directed for working out medium to long term requirement of LNG before taking decision on setting up new LNG terminals.
Sources said that the Finance Minister was requested by Aviation Division for (i) additional guarantees of Rs 5.6 billion for repair and maintenance of engines and acquisition of related spare parts as explained and (ii) additional guarantees of Rs 8.4 billion for sustainable operations and cash grant of Rs 485 million. However, the ECC decided to approve Rs 5.6 billion additional guarantee and wanted details backed by data as to how much revenue would be generated if Rs 8.4 billion are provided.
The meeting was told that route rationalisation initiatives are being undertaken, however, grounded aircraft are limiting the capabilities. The airline is striving to operationalise the grounded aircraft on urgent basis. For recovery of these grounded aircraft, an additional guarantee to the extent of Rs 5.6 billion is required for the maintenance of engines and acquisition of related spare parts.
Additionally, the ECC was requested that PIACL is also faced with the challenges of accumulated liabilities, whereas on one hand, default notices are being served on by Aircraft Lessor, while on the oilier, pressure is being exerted by the vendors/service providers like General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Saudi Ground Services (SGS) and international fuel suppliers regarding suspension of services. Owing to cash flow crisis, it is becoming difficult to run day-to-day operations of the airline. Hence, an additional guarantee is required to the tune of Rs 8.4 billion for payment to vendors/suppliers, and repair/acquisition of ground support equipment.
The Aviation Division also stated that in order to improve the passenger travel experience, it is intended that in-flight entertainment system (IFE) be repaired for which cash grant to the tune of Rs 485 million is required.
The ECC was given a briefing by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs about location of any new LNG terminals in the country as well as the assessment of requirement for relocation of the existing terminals. Subsequently, the ECC directed the relevant ministries to work out the medium to long term requirement of LNG in the country and present the same to the committee.
The Ministry of Maritime Affairs briefed the meeting about various concessions granted to the Gwadar Port and Gwadar Free Zone. The ECC directed the Board of Investment (BoI), Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Law Division and FBR to review the proposals and revert to the committee.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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