ECC surprised as ministry suddenly withdraws request for sugar import
           
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By Khaleeq Kiani | 3/19/2020 12:00:00 AM
ISLAMABAD: Amid rising prices, the Ministry of Industries and Production on Wednesday withdrew its request for sugar imports at the last moment leaving the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet to approve a couple of technical supplementary grants.

The meeting presided over by Adviser to PM on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also approved payment of Rs1.696 billion by the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) to Port Qasim Authority in 10 years.

Informed sources said the industries ministry had moved a case to the ECC for duty and taxfree import of 300,000 tonnes of sugar to check rising prices in the country despite the fact that sugarcane crushing season was currently in full swing.

Just before the ECC meeting formally began, cabinet secretary reported that the industries minis-try had withdrawn the summary, an official told Dawn. No reasons were officially given but informed sources said an announcement by the federal cabinet on Tuesday that it had inducted a representative of the Inter-Services Intelligence in a committee probing the sugar price hike compelled the Industries Division not to pursue sugar import when crushing season was in progress.

In the last week of February, PM Imran Khan had constituted a committee comprising senior representatives of Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau and Anti-Corruption Establishment, Punjab to investigate reasons behind sugar price hike in the middle of crushing season and suggest if anybody was behind the price manipulation or cartelisation and identify culprits.

The meeting took up the requestfromMinistryofMaritime Af f airs (MMA) for the recovery of outstanding wharfage of Rs1.696bn on import of LNG by the PSO and directed that out-standing amount be paid in 10 equal installments without interest over a period of next ten years as recommended by a committee led by Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar.

However, on the request of the MMA, the ECC modified recommendations of the committee to the extent that in January 2023 a committee would review the circumstances and suggest any possibility for early repayment of the remaining sum. The MMA had been demanding full disbursements along with late payment surcharge within the tenure of the current government i.e. 2023.

However, the decision was taken on the recommendations of the committee constituted under chairmanship of economic affairs minister which found it unfair to charge mark up to a public sector organisation whose own receivables had gone beyond Rs350bn most of which from the public sector.

The ECC also approved a Technical Supplementary Grantof Rs4.152bn for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) from the World Bank-funded Pakistan Raises Revenue Programme to meet the mandatory and inevitable expenditures for the achievement of disbursement-linked indicators and supplement budgetary resources for expenditures in this regard.

The ECC also directed FBR chairperson to give a detailed briefing on the initiative to the ECC in the next meeting. Another technical supplementary grant worth Rs44.447 million was also approved by the ECC for Islamabad Capital territory (ICT) to execute `National Programme for Improvement of Watercourses Phase-II in ICT for productivity enhancement of wheat, Prime Minister`s Initiative for Save the Calf, Calf Feedlot Fattening in Pakistan and Development of Backyard Poultry in ICT`.

The meeting was apprised by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development Task Force onOverseas Employment and Welf are of Overseas Pakistanis.

In February 2019, the ECC had constituted an inter-ministerial task force under the chairmanship of special assistant to PM to look into the issues of overseas employment and make recommendations in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

The meeting was told that measures had been taken to identify trades and skill sets in demand to meet the requirements of international job market and develop a centralised technical education certification and verification system and improved regulatory mechanism for curbing sub-standard certifications and helping provincial TEVTs in developing their skill development capacities.

It was reported that arrangements had also been made for developing a mechanism for sharing data among various agencies concerned at the federal and provincial levels on employment opportunities and available skills.
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