ISLAMABAD: The government on Friday repealed 10 paisa per additional unit of electricity and raised the price of ghee by Rs30 per kg (15 per cent) for sale in Service Stores.
Decisions were taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) chaired by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh who also approved about Rs 850 million in additional technical grants to various entities.
The committee increased the price of ghee from Rs170 per kg to Rs200 per kg instead of Rs220 per kg requested by the industry ministry.
However, the ECC waited until after Eidul Fitr’s increase in wheat and sugar flour prices demanded by the Ministry of Industry and Manufacturing (MOI) and the Service Stores Corporation (USC).
MIA had requested an increase in the price of sugar by over 10 pieces at Rs 75 per kg from the existing rate of Rs68.
He had also demanded that the price of wheat flour at USC be linked to the price announced by the Punjab Food Department while those of rice and pulses should be kept Rs15-20 per kg lower than the market price.
ECC expects increase in flour, sugar prices until after Eidul Fitr
The Secretary of Industries and Production presented various proposals to rationalize the prices of wheat flour, sugar and ghee in view of the constant fluctuations in international commodity prices, an official statement said.
Informed sources said the meeting was told the cabinet had already set subsidized prices for the five essential items on February 11th. However, he insisted that it was possible to fix the price of flour with a reliable reference price announced by the Department of Food in Punjab but the reference market prices for sugar and gin were quite amorphous and volatile. Therefore, to avoid frequent price volatility and accounting issues, a hybrid four-item price review approach should be adopted.
After a detailed discussion, the ECC approved only partial rationalization and headed to provide maximum relief to consumers, despite the significant price difference between the USC-subsidized price and the prevailing prices in domestic markets, a statement said. This is in line with the Prime Ministers Assistance Package -2020 to provide affordable basic goods through a network of Service Stores across Pakistan.
The Ministry of Energy presented another summary regarding the cancellation of the additional tariff of Neelum-Jhelum at the rate of 10 paisa per unit of electricity. The ECC considered and approved the cancellation of the additional fee of Neelum Jhelum with immediate effect.
The add-on was under widespread criticism from various parliamentary bodies because it was decided for eight years, but has remained part of the energy tariff for 14 years.
The addendum was decided in 2007 for the financing part of the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project with a sunset clause on 31 December 2015, the goal of completing the project started at that time with an estimated cost of Rs 130 billion. It was envisaged that half of the funding would be generated through this payment in each unit of electricity sold to consumers in eight years.
The running cost of 969 megawatts of the Azad Kashmir River project, however, continued to rise and was completed in 2018 at a cost of Rs500bn. 10 paisa per additional unit was extended for one year and then another 18 months until 1 July 2018, but has continued so far. By 2018, a sum of Rs 75 billion had been raised. Depending on energy consumption, the annual NJ additional generates about Rs 10 billion per year.
The ECC also approved another summary by the Ministry of Industry and Manufacturing for unpaid payments of $ 580,000 for M / s Germany’s Overseas Transport Services from Pakistan Steel Mills to meet a contractual obligation for coal transportation in 2010.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications presented a summary on tax issues of the telecom sector. The ECC had previously set up a sub-committee in October last year, chaired by Prime Minister Adviser Dr. Ishrat Hussain, for the proper discussion. The subcommittee presented its recommendations to the ECC which approved the recommendations adopted by the Federal Revenue Board (FBR).
The ECC considered a summary by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) regarding the tax on payments to the offshore supply contractor to meet the contractual obligation and formed a sub-committee, composed of the Prime Minister’s special assistant for oil, secretaries of law and separation of powers and a representative of the FBR, to evaluate the proposal and make workable recommendations.
The Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Safety and Research (MNFSR) set out a summary before the ECC regarding a mechanism for disbursing subsidies in accordance with the Prime Ministers’ Fiscal Package for Agriculture against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic. The summary was approved by the ECC for timely disbursements of subsidies to the provinces by the MNFSR subject to clearing by the Finance Division.
The ECC also reviewed and approved a summary regarding the sovereign guarantee of governments for a Public Sector Development Program project entitled Pakistan National Electronic Complex and executed by the National Engineering and Science Commission.
The ECC also approved an additional Rs 550 million for the Special Communications Organization from the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom, Rs 200 million Special Technology Zones and Rs 109 million from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to clear the remaining bills related to media campaigns on behalf of Ehsaas Program during FY2019-2020.
Published in Agim, 20 February 2021
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