Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar addresses a press conference along with Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif on Thursday. – APP Photo
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar Thursday announced to fix single slab of electricity at Rs10.50 per unit including General Sales Tax for the agriculture sector removing confusion created by a letter issued by the previous government.
Addressing a press conference along with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the finance minister said these electricity charges for the agriculture sector will remain intact till June 30, 2014 whereas no surcharge on the present due bills would be taken from the farming community.
The minister said it was also decided that the farmers would pay their electricity bills in ten installments.
Nine month electricity bills of farmers were overdue as they stopped paying bills in protest against illegal tariff hike introduced by the last government without taking them into confidence.
Senator Dar said the government will bear Rs23 billion subsidy on the electricity charges to the farming community besides it has also allocated an amount of Rs30 billion subsidy for purchase of fertilizer in the 2013-14 budget.
He said cases registered in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against farmers who have defaulted on their electricity bills would be withdrawn, provided the farmers pay their outstanding dues as agreed with the government.
Dar said in order to meet domestic requirements of fertilizer the government has also decided to import 300,000 tons of it, besides asking the local manufacturers to produce further 200,000 tons of fertilizer to fulfill domestic needs.
Replying to a question, the minister said that there will be no increase in the electricity tariff for domestic consumers using up to 200 units.
In this regard, the federal government will pay a subsidy of Rs140 billion from its own resources to facilitate the domestic consumers, he added.
Senator Dar said that IMF has approved US$ 6.64 billion loan to Pakistan giving much needed financial space. Pakistan would receive first installment of US$ 547 million within next few days which would further help improve the foreign exchange reserves position and also help stabilize the national economy.
Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif said in the last five years, Punjab government took revolutionary steps to strengthen agriculture and support farmers.
20,000 subsidised tractors were provided through transparent computerised balloting to farmers owning 12 1/2 acres or less of land, he added.
Sharif said billions of rupees were spent on wheat procurement of six million tons so that farmer is saved from middlemen and he gets the right price for his commodity.
He said Punjab government also spent billions of rupees on providing subsidised agricultural implements and for brick lining of water courses.
The chief minister said energy crisis badly affected economy, agriculture, trade and industry and created difficult conditions for the farmer.
Power tariff hike would only affect the wealthy as poorest of the poor will get direct subsidy so that they are protected from adverse effects of inflation, said Shahbaz Sharif.