ECC approves gas supply to PSM, ends regulatory duty on cotton import

5pc regulatory duty on cotton yarn import removed

LAHORE: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved the release of Rs410-million grant to the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) for supply of gas to the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM).

The decision was made during the ECC meeting which was held under the chairmanship of Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to discuss a 10-point agenda.

Planning Minister Asad Umar, Industries & Production Minister Hammad Azhar, Privatisation Minister Muhammadmian Soomro, Adviser to PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Power & Petroleum Minister Omar Ayub Khan, Maritime Affairs Minister Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar, SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood and Adviser to PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain were also present on the occasion. State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Reza Baqir joined the meeting through a video link.

Earlier in the meeting, the Ministry of Industries had suggested the ECC to defer the grant till the privatisation of PSM, and to release an overall grant of Rs984 million through technical supplementary grants (TSG). However, the ECC instructed the finance ministry to immediately release Rs410 million to clear SSGC’s dues.

It may be mentioned that the SSGC had warned PSM of disconnecting their gas connection if the company fails to pay outstanding gas bills.

According to sources, a low flame gas supply of 2MMCFD is being supplied to PSM for primarily preserving coke oven batteries and refractory kilns at an average monthly bill of Rs82 million despite the fact that the production activity had been discontinued in 2015.

The government had recently released Rs11bn for retired employees of PSM on court orders. Of the total, Rs3.85bn has been disbursed to employees.

Meanwhile, the committee approved a commerce ministry proposal regarding the removal of 5pc regulatory duty on import of cotton yarn till June 30, 2021, to enhance value-added exports.

Separately, the ministry submitted a summary seeking reconsideration of a decision regarding the procedure for registration under the concessionary regime of electricity, RLNG and gas in export-oriented sectors – erstwhile zero-rated sectors.

After due deliberation, the finance advisor directed to maintain status quo on the condition that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) may register new manufacturers or exporters in five export-oriented sectors in coordination with the Ministry of Commerce till June next year.

Moreover, the Communication Division requested the ECC for conversion of National Highways Authority (NHA) loans into a government grant or a complete waive-off for much-needed fiscal space. A detailed presentation was made before the forum to remodel NHA as a self-sustaining and performance-based organisation in this regard.

The committee directed the ministry to constitute a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Asad Umar to prepare within a month a proposal suggesting revenue generation roadmap for NHA. The NHA was also granted a one-month moratorium to work out details and present recommendations regarding its financial viability before the forum.

Furthermore, the finance advisor approved the allocation of up to 9.5MMCFD gas from M/s Pakistan Petroleum Limited’s Benari X-I discovery to SSGC. Similarly, the allocation of 10MMCFD gas from PPL’s Hadaf X-I to SSGCL was also approved.

The ECC also accorded approval for allocation of additional funds for maintenance of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) building and judges residences through TSG as requested by the Ministry of Housing and Works.

Among other decisions, the committee directed the logistics committee to ensure berthing of wheat and sugar vessels on priority while making sure that other imports are not affected.

However, due to shortage of time, the agenda item on Karachi Transformation Plan was deferred till the next meeting for a detailed discussion.

Later in the day, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement on his official Twitter account said that the removal of regulatory tax from cotton yarn will facilitate exporters of the apparel sector.

“This is in line with our policy of getting more value-added products. The ECC decision will now go to the cabinet for ratification, after which it will be notified,” he added.

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