ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday ordered immediate transportation of imported urea into the market.
The directives were issued when the meeting of the ECC, presided over by Finance Minister Asad Umar, was informed about the arrival of imported shipments.
The government had ordered about 100,000 tonnes of urea in September to beef up supplies in the market in view of some domestic shortages.
Informed sources said the committee was told that handling of imported urea quantities at the port facilities faced some initial delays because of liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies. Whenever an LNG ship is either berthing or sailing, the channel is closed to other vessels for safety reasons. However, the issue has now been resolved and arrangements were now in place for supplies across the country.
The ECC directed that the process should be sped up to ensure sufficient stocks in the market. It was reported that transportation would begin within 24 hours.
The Ministry of Industries briefed the meeting about fertiliser situation in the country. It was informed that imported shipments of urea have reached Karachi and arrangements are in place for supplies across the country.
The meeting deferred a proposal of the Power Division seeking increase in electricity tariff for Azad Jammu and Kashmir from Rs2.59 to Rs5.79 per unit and the mechanism for settlement of about Rs90 billion arrears piled up since 2011 due to non-payment of subsidies by the Finance Division.
The ECC also approved three-year budget estimates of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC). The committee approved NTC’s budget estimate for 2018-19 amounting to Rs12.39bn and revised estimates for 2017-18 amounting to Rs12.08bn. The committee also gave ex-post facto approval for NTC’s budget for 2017-18 amounting to Rs11.99bn and revised estimates for 2016-17 amounting to Rs11.454bn.
The ECC observed that the NTC being an autonomous and self earning body should be empowered like other public sector corporations to formulate and approve its own budget. It directed that necessary authorisation be issued so that in future the budget is considered and approved by the NTC Board.
The meeting was informed that the NTC was established under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re- organisation) Act 1996 and was mandated to provide Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to federal government, armed forces, defence projects, provincial governments and to all public institutions (autonomous/semi-autonomous bodies, etc). In accordance with Rule 41(7) Rule (8) of Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-organisation) Act, 1996, NTC shall, prepare its budget and submit it for approval of the Federal Government before June 1, every year. NTC got approval of its budget up to 2016-17 from the Finance Division.
Accordingly, the NTC submitted its proposed budget 2017-18 to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) after its approval from the NTC Audit Committee and Management Board for its subsequent approval from the Finance Division.
However, in the wake of Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment, the Finance Division returned NTC’s budget for the year 2017-18 with remarks that it was a self-earning organisation and the division had neither any role in budget preparation process of NTC nor provided any budgetary grant.
Therefore approval of Finance Division in particular was not required. However, approval from the Federal Cabinet would be required in the light of SC’s above referred judgment.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018