ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday allowed tax and duty- free import of wheat. The committee placed a complete ban on wheat export as the commodity’s price in local markets shot up.
The ECC “allowed import of wheat by the private sector for unlimited period after waiving different taxes and duties”, said an official statement after the meeting. It further issued directives to remove restrictions on the movement of wheat and flour within the country.
The ECC meeting, presided over by Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also rejected the Ministry of Petroleum’s request for quarterly fuel price adjustment to bailout out the oil industry. It approved about Rs29 billion worth of additional funds for 12 ministries and divisions just two days ahead of the new budget.
The meeting was given a presentation on the status of wheat procurement by the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) and provinces for which the government had announced an allocation of Rs286bn funds as part of the Covid-19 Relief and Stimulus Package.
Request for quarterly fuel price adjustment denied
Passco and the provincial food departments had procured a quantity of 6.5 million tonnes or 80 per cent out of the assigned target of 8.25m tonnes of wheat, the meeting was briefed. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Passco will continue wheat procurement till end June this year.
The meeting was informed that domestic prices of wheat and flour hovered between Rs1,800-2,100 per 40 kg and the trend was rising.
On the recommendation of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, the ECC directed that food departments of KP and Balochistan should achieve their procurement targets as early as possible. The ECC also approved supply of 10,000 tonnes of wheat to the World Food Programme for Emergency Relief Operations.
Covid-19 ‘risk allowance’ approved
The meeting approved an amount of Rs480.55 million to be paid as ‘risk allowance’ equal to a month’s salary to all healthcare workers of the federal government performing Covid-19 related duties. The decision for risk allowance had already been taken by the Prime Minister Imran Khan as chairman of the National Coordination Committee on Covid-19 in a meeting held on March 26. The amount shall be provided out of the Rs50bn Fiscal Stimulus Package through a technical supplementary grant and shall be paid to 3,432 employees.
A committee under Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar was formed to recommend an appropriate variable contribution margin for urea to ensure sufficient fertiliser availability in the coming months.
The meeting also changed the key terms of the Kamyab Jawan Programme on the premise of providing relief to small and medium enterprises during the ongoing pandemic. Now instead of two tiers — Rs100,000 to Rs0.5 million and Rs0.5m to Rs5m — there will be three tiers of the loans — Rs100,000 to Rs1m, Rs1m to Rs10m and Rs10m to Rs25m. $10.9m for capital increase in National Bank of Pakistan’s operations in Bangladesh was also approved.
The meeting okayed the Electric Vehicle Policy for two and three-wheelers and Heavy Commercial Vehicles. The policy was proposed by Ministry of Industries after consultation with various stakeholders.
Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2020