ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Tuesday approved Rs50.1bn local currency cover for $300 million financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, Rs215m grant for local government elections of cantonment boards and $10m temporary funds for Roosevelt Hotel to meet emergency expenses.
The ECC meeting presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin was attended by three other members of the 14-member body of the federal cabinet.
The Aviation Division presented a summary requesting for provision of funds to clear emergency liabilities of the Roosevelt Hotel Corporation, including payment of local taxes and utilities. The PIA-IL requested the ECC to allow it to utilise $10m available with the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) to clear the immediate financial liabilities.
The ECC approved the summary with a directive to exercise due diligence in clearing emergency liabilities and submit utilisation report to it regarding funding support by the government duly verified by the external auditors of the entity. It also directed that $10m would be returned to the NBP at the earliest as this amount was out of $142m loan to address strategic requirements of the New York-based asset.
Approves Rs215m grant for cantonment boards polls, $10m funds for Roosevelt Hotel
The Committee also directed to engage a world class consultant to meet the financial and operational challenges faced by Roosevelt Hotel. Roosevelt Hotel, at upscale Manhattan in New York, had been closed down last year even though the government had approved $142m through a loan to be arranged by the NBP, excluding annual carrying costs and mark-up, etc.
On June 16 this year, the ECC had discussed the Roosevelt Hotel issue and directed the Aviation and Finance Divisions to work out the mode of financing for utilisation of $142m for the hotel and come back with recommendations to it. The matter remains unsettled so far.
The ECC also approved a technical supplementary grant (TSG) of Rs215m in favour of the Election Commission of Pakistan for holding local government elections of cantonment boards on Sept 12.
The Committee approved another TSG of Rs50.1bn for extending rupee cover against financing by the ADB of $300m for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine and ancillary goods and services.
On August 5, the ADB had approved and immediately signed a $500m loan to help Pakistan procure and deploy safe and effective vaccines for the coronavirus disease and strengthen the country’s capacity to implement its vaccination programme.
The loan will support Pakistan’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan through purchase and delivery of estimated 39.8m doses of Covid-19 vaccine, safety boxes and syringes, sufficient to vaccinate at least 18.1m people from priority groups.
Soon after the approval of the Covid-19 Vaccine Support Project under the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility, the financing agreement was signed by the two sides. The signing had taken place within three hours, on a fast track basis, after approval of the loan by the ADB’s Board of Directors.
Late last month, the ECC had directed the ministries of economic affairs and national health services to acquire donor funding for the vaccine procurement to ward off a run-down on the country’s tight foreign exchange reserves.
Under the loan agreement, the ADB will disburse up to $150m as retroactive financing for already procured vaccines while remaining $350m will be utilised in coming months for procurement of new vaccines.
The government has been aiming to vaccinate the entire eligible population, around 119m people comprising all those aged 18 and over, prioritising frontline healthcare workers, the elderly, marginalised groups including refugees and internally displaced persons, and people with comorbidities.
The loan is financed through the ADB’s $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility launched in December 2020 to offer rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries. The ADB’s assistance will also help strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, and the Federal Expanded Programme on Immunisation to effectively implement the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2021