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ECC refuses to extend wheat export period

Updated July 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD, July 11: The Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet has refused to extend by three months export of 400,000 tons of wheat and declined to approve a Rs16 billion bailout for Pakistan International Airlines because of inadequate homework by the authorities concerned.

But the meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar agreed to take up the issue of PIA package again on Friday. He also asked ministry of commerce to complete all formalities to justify its case for extending the wheat export period.

The meeting took notice of a complaint by a former managing director of Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) about unusual cost escalation of Nandipur Power Project from Rs21 billion to Rs57 billion which was approved by the Central Development Working Party and Executive Committee of the National Economic Council. The minister ordered a detailed investigation into the matter.

An official said the commerce ministry had sought 90-day extension in the wheat export period, but Mr Dar was not convinced by the proposal. He asked what was the guarantee that this quality of wheat would be exported in another 60 or 90 days and in the event of failure what fine or penalty would be imposed and how the quota allocated for export would be transferred to mills and what benefit consumers or the country could possibly get.

As the minister’s questions prolonged, Commerce Secretary Qasim Niaz told the meeting that he had joined the ministry only a couple of days ago and would like to study the entire issue before taking a position or suggesting a way forward. The ECC allowed the commerce secretary to withdraw his summary.

Sources said that the ECC did not formally take up the issue of PIA package because of ill-planned meetings of the ECC and the board of directors of PIA.

“Two meetings were taking place at the same time and by the time the PIA management joined these meetings were already in the winding up phase.”

The PIA team informed the ECC that some necessary approvals were required for the bailout package of about Rs15 to Rs16 billion. The finance minister told the PIA management that its case for funding might be justified but the ECC could not take up its case without completion of basic formalities relating to summary and decided to hold another meeting on Friday.

The ECC discussed the Nandipur project on a complaint of the former managing director of Pepco, Munawar Baseer, before the Supreme Court, alleging irregularities in the cost escalation.

He had pointed out that the machinery for the project had been imported several years ago and, therefore, there was no justification for a colossal increase in its cost.

“The ECC decided that the matter should be immediately looked into by the Ministry of Planning and Development and facts should be brought before the ECC and shared with the people,” an official statement said.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal was asked to personally look into the issue since the planning commission had cleared its revised cost.

During a review of the Ramazan Relief Package, the committee was informed that under an earlier decision of the ECC the Trading Corporation of Pakistan would procure 100,000 tons of sugar through two tenders of 50,000 tons each from local mills.

The ministry of commerce reported that the Trading Corporation of Pakistan had issued a tender notice on July 3 for procurement of 50,000 tons of white sugar from local sugar mills. The bid will be received and opened on July 18. The second tender for 50,000 tons will be issued on that day.

The ministry of industries reported that tenders for procurement of 300,000 tons of urea had been floated.

The ECC ordered allocation of gas, within 24 hours, for production of 50,000 tons of urea per month.