ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar Thursday announced to fix single slab of electricity at Rs. 10.50 per unit including General Sales Tax for the agriculture sector, removing confusion created by a letter issued by the previous government.

Addressing a press conference along with Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif here, the Finance Minister said these electricity charges for the agriculture sector will remain intact till June 30, 2014 whereas no surcharge on the present due bills would be taken from the farming community.

The minister said it was also decided that the farmers would pay their electricity bills in ten installments. Nine month electricity bills of farmers were overdue as they stopped paying bills in protest against illegal tariff hike introduced by the last government without taking them into confidence.

Senator Dar said that Federal Government will bear Rs 23 billion subsidy on the electricity charges to the farming community besides the government has also allocated an amount of Rs 30 billion subsidy for purchase of fertilizer in budget 2013-14.

Ishaq Dar said cases registered in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against farmers who have defaulted on their electricity bills would be withdrawn, provided the farmers pay their outstanding dues as agreed with the government.

He said that in order to meet domestic requirements of fertilizer the government has also decided to import 300,000 tons of it, besides asking the local manufacturers to produce further 200,000 tons of fertilizer to fulfill domestic needs.

Replying to a question, the minister said that there will be no increase in the electricity tariff for domestic consumers using up to 200 units.

In this regard, the federal government will pay a subsidy of Rs. 140 billion from its own resources to facilitate the domestic consumers, he added. Senator Dar said that IMF has approved US$ 6.64 billion loan to Pakistan giving much needed financial space. He said that Pakistan would receive first installment of US$ 547 million within next few days which would further help improve the foreign exchange reserves position and also help stabilize the national economy.

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif said in the last five years, Punjab government took revolutionary steps to strengthen agriculture and support farmers. 20,000 subsidized tractors were provided through transparent computerized balloting to farmers owning 12 1/2 acres or less of land, he added.

Shahbaz Sharif said billions of rupees were spent on wheat procurement of six million tons so that farmer is saved from middlemen and he gets the right price for his commodity.

The Chief Minister said the Punjab government also spent billions of rupees on providing subsidized agricultural implements and for bricklining of water courses.

He said energy crisis badly affected economy, agriculture, trade and industry and created difficult conditions for the farmer.

The Chief Minister informed that the government amicably resolved issue of electricity bills paying by farms during negotiations with the representatives of Pakistan Kissan Itehad.

He said increase in power tariff would affect the wealthy segment of society which affords to pay as they will not benefit from the power subsidy. The Chief Minister said poorest of the poor will get direct subsidy so that they are protected from the adverse effects of inflation.