ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordi­nation Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Thursday decided to pay $2.58 million to the families of Chinese workers slain in the Shangla attack in March this year and also approved about Rs88 billion in other supplementary grants to various ministries.

The meeting of the ECC, presided over by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, approved $2.58 million compensation package for the families of five Chinese workers of the Dasu Hydropower Project and Rs2.5 million to a local national (driver) killed in a terrorist attack near Shangla.

The approval of compensation for five Chinese workers of China Gezhouba Group (contractor) was approved at the rate of $516,000 per head, as a goodwill gesture. This is on the pattern of $11.6 million previous such payments to Chinese workers (10 killed and 26 injured) in 2021 working on the same project and to two Chinese workers of Gomal Zam Dam, killed in 2004.

The compensation announcement came a day before the 13th joint cooperation committee meeting of the CPEC and ahead of the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to Beijing early next month to push for the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that has been going through a rough patch for almost five years.

ECC approves Rs88 billion in supplementary grants for various ministries

The supplementary grant would be arranged by the finance ministry itself as the Ministry of Water Resources did not have such funds in the budget.

“The amount would be transferred immediately to the account of the Pakistani embassy in Beijing for onward payments to the families of the deceased Chinese nationals through appropriate channels,” a top finance ministry official said.

The ECC also approved the summary presented by the Ministry of Aviation to allow the utilisation of $8 million available with the National Bank of Pakistan to pay severance and other operational expenses of the Roosevelt Hotel.

The meeting was told that the process of re-opening the hotel was in progress when PIA-IL Management reported to the ECC in 2023 that an opportunity had arisen whereby the New York City had sought utilisation of the hotel (1,025 rooms) for immigrants at the rate of $200 per room per day for 36 months.

As per the draft contract shared by the city, the guarantee period was’ fourteen months with four months’ notice if the city intended to terminate the contract.

The PIA-IL Management had also reported that the Roosevelt workers’ union and the city were fully in the picture about the precarious financial position of the hotel, and as such, were assisting the hotel in securing immigrant business which in turn would help the union in seeking a financial settlement with the hotel.

The estimated financial exposure of the hotel for achieving a global settlement with the union, as advised by Aimbridge (consultant), and subject to agreeing with the union, appeared to be $56 million based on the assumption that of the total 469 union employees who were severed, 77 would be recalled, and remaining 392 employees would accept severance.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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