ISLAMABAD-The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Wednesday approved funds of Rs9.6 billion for an incentive package aimed at promoting home remittances through formal channels.

The ECC meeting, held under the chair of Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, has approved the incentive package for promoting home remittances through banking channels. In order to encourage and facilitate the overseas Pakistanis in sending their remittances through official banking channels, the ECC has approved different proposals for enhancing the home remittances.

Under the decision, prevailing TT charges have enhanced from 10 to 20 Saudi riyals for transactions between $100 and $200. It will cost an additional Rs3 billion to the government.

The ECC has approved existing incentive scheme for home remittances ie Re1 against $1 of remittance beyond 15% growth over last year may now be based on tiers ie Rs0.50 on 5% growth, Rs0.75 on 10% growth and Re1 on 15% growth. It will cost the government an additional Rs600 million.

Under the incentive package, the e amount of the remittances transferred into bank accounts will be exempted from withholding tax with effect from July 1, 2020. Meanwhile, a “National Remittance Loyalty Program” will be launched from September 1, 2020 with collaboration of major commercial banks and government agencies through which various incentives will be given to remitters through mobile apps and cards.

The ECC approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs.9.6 billion during the current financial year to finance the above mentioned initiatives.

Taking up other agenda items, the ECC approved a proposal by the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training for a technical supplementary grant of Rs 5 billion in favour of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the current Financial Year 2019-20 with instruction for a judicious and need-based distribution of funds among the universities.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the National Security Division for a technical supplementary grant amounting to Rs 15 million for the Strategic Policy Planning Cell (SPPC) created in the National Security Division with the approval of the Prime Minister to act as an intellectual hub for evidence-based policy input on key national security issues.

On a proposal by the Ministry of Defence, the ECC okayed a proposal for a technical supplementary grant amounting to Rs 34.528 million for Internal Security Duty Allowance to the Pakistan Air Force.

On a proposal by the Petroleum Division, the ECC approved allocation of gas to SSGC and Provisional Tight Gas Incentive for Rehman-4 Well in Kirthar Block subject to the finalization and approval of requisite third-party certifications for Tight Gas for the same well.

The ECC also discussed a proposal regarding quarterly adjustments of the K-Eectric Limited for the period from July 2016 to March 2019 and in the light of input and discussion by the members, set up a committee including Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan, Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Secretary Finance and a representative from the K-Electric to examine the issue in detail and recommend to ECC within a week a solution and roadmap for resolving the issue.

The ECC also deliberated upon a proposal by the Ministry of Energy to further extend till June 2020 the grant of subsidy to agricultural tubewell consumers in Balochistan. Earlier, the ECC was briefed that nearly 30,000 agri consumers in Balochistan had been given subsidy since 01.01.2015 with 40 % of the burden of subsidy born by the Government of Pakistan and the remaining 60% picked up the Balochistan government. However, the recovery of dues from the farmers for the electricity consumed over and above the limit of subsidy had been negligible and attempts to recover these dues from defaulters in the past had not been successful. The ECC discussed the issue in detail and set up a Committee, including the Minister for Power, to discuss the issue with the Government of Balochistan to ensure a credible solution to the problems impeding a judicious execution of the scheme for which the federal government alone was contributing Rs 9 billion annually, and also allowed the extension of subsidy until a solution to the issue was found by the Committee and put in place.

On a proposal by the Ministry of Industries and Production for revival of M/s Tuwairqi Steel Mills Limited (TSML) - A Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Unit, the ECC discussed the issue and asked the Ministry of Industries and Production to resubmit the proposal in the light of recent and ongoing development on different issues among stakeholders on the proposal.