ISLAMABAD  -   The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Monday decided that Board of Investment would reduce the time frame for approval of special economic zones (SEZs) applications from 90 days to 45 days.

The meeting of ECC was held here on Monday under the chair of Finance Minister Asad Umar. Chairman Board of Investment (BoI) gave a detailed presentation to the ECC on development of SEZs in the country and related issues. ECC decided that BOI will reduce the time frame for approval of SEZ applications from 90 days to 45 days. Further, it will propose certain changes in SEZ Act to make it more investor friendly. It was also decided that SEZs of Islamabad and Bostan will be included in the list of priority SEZs under CPEC.

The ECC also asked BoI to revisit the requirements for setting up of tourism, IT and health related entities within SEZs. The ECC directed Petroleum and Power Divisions to devise a road map, within 30 days, for provision of electricity/gas to all industrial estates.

The ECC has approved payment of Rs 833 million sought by Pakistan Machine Tool Factory (PMTF) contingent upon the revival plan by the organisation. Sources said that Ministry of Industries and Production presented a proposal to the ECC, requesting approval of Rs 737 million on account of the retirement benefit till December, 2018 as a grant and the remaining Rs 96 million for salaries as a loan. The ministry stated that since 2007-08, PMTF has been accumulating losses mainly due to non-diversification of products & therefore has a narrow customer base. Additionally, the PMTF was also on privatisation list and the banks did not extend the credit limit and the supply chain was also affected. Resultantly it failed to settle dues of retired employees.

The PMTF reportedly has orders in hand and, given the above breather, it is likely to overcome its financial problems. The Ministry, therefore, proposed that ECC may allow a grant of Rs 833 million for PMTF. The ministry requested to the ECC that dues admissible should be settled irrespective of the fact whether the eligible claimants are litigants or not. Therefore, the amount of Rs 737 million on account of the retirement benefit till December 2018 may be allowed as a grant and the remaining Rs 96 million for salaries as a loan.