Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has given go-ahead to the private sector to import wheat to control prices of wheat and flour in the market and to ensure availability of wheat and flour at a reasonable price across the country throughout the year.
The ECC chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also decided not to restrict the import of wheat to any limit by the private sector and further decided to monitor the situation on monthly basis to ensure availability of wheat and flour in all parts of the country at a reasonable price. The ECC further decided on the following:
- Provincial governments to be requested to announce their “Wheat Release Policy” immediately.
- Punjab to release 900,000 tons of wheat to flour mills of the province during the next two months at a release price as proposed by the Punjab government in order to prevent a surge in the price of wheat/flour as proposed by Punjab.
- The government of Sindh should also be requested to announce their policy.
- PASSCO to assess the immediate requirement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and arrange to improve supply wheat as per agreed targets.
- Movement of wheat to be facilitated between Punjab and KP/Balochistan.
- Overall free movement of wheat should be ensured across the border and to ensure movement across districts and provinces.
- Private wheat importers may be facilitated and arrangements between importers and KP/Balochistan should also be arranged and calculate the impact of subsidy for the import if any.
- Import of wheat by the private sector be allowed and the situation will be watched on a monthly basis. The financial implications of import/non-imports by the private sector should also be assessed.
- If there is no import by the Private sector, then the Government should import wheat itself.
- Monitoring and supply provisions are improved to ensure availability of wheat is available at shortage points and other market imperfections unconnected to supply and demand of wheat/flour should also be looked at.
- Focus on inter-relation between wheat and Atta and try to increase the conversion rate from wheat to Atta.
- Check the cross-border movement of Atta to ensure that Atta doesn’t flow out to Afghanistan and points of exit.
- Develop a group for a longer-term strategy for the whole year and also for the medium term.
The ECC also considered and approved five proposals by the Interior Division for technical supplementary grants, including one technical supplementary grant (TSG) of Rs. 2.5 billion to clear accrued verified liabilities of Punjab Mass-transit Authority (PMA) as federal share on account of the operation of Pakistan Metro-bus System; two separate TSGs of Rs. 200 million and Rs. 36.4 million for ICT Police to clear outstanding liabilities of Shuhada families; and two separate TSGs of Rs. 105.621 million and Rs. 60.581 million for ICT Police to clear outstanding liabilities during CFY 2019-20.
The ECC also approved a proposal by the Finance Division for TSG of Rs. 1300 to meet critical demands related to medical stores and utilities for the Pakistan Navy. On another proposal by the Defence Division.
CDA to Collect Charges for Farm from Directorate General of ISI
The ECC allowed the CDA to collect charges against allotment of 45 acres land in Jagiot Farm Islamabad to Directorate General of ISI as per Rs. 2250 per square yard rate with the total implication of Rs 490.05 million as already approved by the Prime Minister in May 2018. The ECC also approved a TSG amounting to Rs. 490.05 million for the purpose.
Supply of Oxygen
On a proposal by the Industries and Production Division, the ECC approved a package combining reduced duties and taxes for a period of three months to ensure an uninterrupted supply of oxygen gas and oxygen cylinders in the country for medical purposes.
The ECC also directed the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination and Ministry of Interior to clear all the outstanding dues payable to oxygen manufacturing companies as per the legal provisions of contracts. The ECC directed the concerned ministries and departments to ensure the supply of oxygen for medical purposes by actively engaging with the oxygen plants and with hospitals for keeping the oxygen charges at the minimum level.
New Lending Policy
The ECC also considered and approved a proposal by the Finance Division for a new lending policy to the provincial governments for their Ways and Means requirements and for the signing of agreements by Finance Division and the State Bank of Pakistan to implement the new lending policy.
Under the new policy, the existing Ways and Means limit for Punjab has been changed from Rs. 37 billion to Rs. 77 billion, from Rs. 15 billion to Rs. 39 billion for Sindh, from Rs. 10.1 billion to Rs. 27 billion for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and from Rs. 7.1 billion to Rs. 17 billion for Balochistan.