KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet on Thursday allowed the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the K-Electric authorising the power utility to collect conservancy and fire taxes through electricity bills.
Chaired by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at CM House, the meeting was attended by all provincial ministers, advisers, special assistants, chief secretary and secretaries of the departments concerned.
Administrator KMC Murtaza Wahab briefed the cabinet about the proposed collection of the taxes and said their rates would be reduced to ensure minimum burden on citizens. He said the objective was to financially strengthen the KMC.
The cabinet approved an amendment to the Rule-4 of the Fisheries Rules 1983 to extend validity of fishing licence from one year to three years. It also approved an amendment to the Education City Act 2013 to appoint Higher Education Commission Sindh’s chairman as the chairman of the Education City Board in place of the chief minister, who appeared unable to hold the board’s meetings due to his busy schedule.
Issue of provincial renewable energy projects to be referred to parliament’s joint session
The cabinet was told that to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Pakistan-China diplomatic relations, the Sindh government had decided to declare Sindh and Hubei province of China “sister provinces”.
It also approved the “sister city” relationship of Karachi with Shenyang, Tianjin and Chongqing; Badin and Sukkur with Kunming; and Thatta with Zhanjiang.
Developing the Khan Chowrangi, Clifton, as “Pak-China friendship square” was also approved.
Procurement of buses
Transport Minister Awais Qadir Shah told the meeting that the chief minister had already allocated Rs8 billion in 2020-21 and Rs6.4 billion in 2021-22 budget for the procurement of 250 diesel hybrid electric buses under the Sindh Intra-district Peoples Bus Service Project for Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad.
The cabinet approved awarding of the project to the NRTC to procure the buses by December 2021 and invest Rs3 billion on the development of infrastructure, such as depots and bus stops, and operate the buses.
Subsidy to farmers
Adviser to the CM on Agriculture Manzoor Wassan told the meeting that the federal government had approved subsidies to farmers during the Kharif crop 2021. He said that the subsidy on fertilizers (DAP) for rice and cotton would be given at a rate of Rs1,500 per acre against which the federal government would give 75 per cent (or Rs2.7 billion) and the provincial government would share 25 per cent (or Rs902 million). Similarly, subsidy on cotton and rice seeds as well as white fly control would be given at a rate of Rs1,200 per acre.
Mr Wassan said that the Board of Revenue (BoR) had collected the data of the farmers at taluka level and growers had been categorised in two slabs -- 1 to 16 acres and 16 to 50 acres. He said that Sindh Bank had designed an E-card and prepared a list of its designated branches for disbursement of the subsidies. He proposed “Peoples Hari Card” as the name of the E-card which was approved by the cabinet.
NAB to be asked to allow wheat releases
Food Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla informed the meeting that a stock of 33,917.41 tonnes of wheat existed in the warehouses of Naushahro Feroze and Kashmore. He said the food officials concerned had stored the grain without the department’s approval and, therefore, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had sealed the warehouses.
The cabinet authorised the food minister to hold talks with NAB in order to get the grain released.
Alternate & renewable energy projects
Expressing its serious reservations over the federal government’s decision unilaterally amending the Alternate & Renewable Energy (ARE) Policy 2019 approved by the Council of Common Interest (CCI), the meeting noted that several cheap projects of Sindh were unfairly excluded and costly hydro power projects were included in the Indicative Generation capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP).
The cabinet decided to refer the matter to a joint session of parliament.
“The federal cabinet or its committee on energy is not competent to amend any policy approved by the CCI,” Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said.
Minister for Energy Imtiaz Shaikh, briefing the meeting on the issue said that the NTDC had submitted the IGCEP-2047 in April 2020 based on certain assumption sets but it was withdrawn following objections raised by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra). He added that after a public hearing, Nepra had directed the NTDC to update the plan.
He said that the federal energy ministry’s power division presented the IGCEP 2021-30 Assumption Set to the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) on April 20, 2021 and the same was approved on April 22, 2021.
The meeting was told that the CCI in its 47th meeting approved the National Electricity Policy (NEP) on June 21, 2021 mandating that the IGCEP 2021-30 Assumption Set would be approved by the CCI. Accordingly, the assumption set was circulated among the provinces for the inputs/comments so that the same may be processed/considered.
The chief minister said the provincial government believed that federal government or CCoE could not unilaterally amend the ARE Policy 2019, which was approved by the CCI.
He said the presumed unilateral inclusion of hydel power in the ARE Policy 2019 would destroy the whole structure of the policy which was based on least cost and competitive bidding principles. Therefore, separate policy and targets should be introduced for Hydro projects, he suggested.
After a thorough discussion, the Sindh cabinet decided to refer the matter to a joint sitting of parliament.
Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2021