ISLAMABAD     -    The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved to increase salaries of doctors and nurses in federal hospitals, and revising margins of Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and Dealers on motor spirit (MS) and high speed diesel (HSD).

The ECC, which was held under the chair of Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, has discussed long agenda.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) for revising margins of Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) and Dealers on motor spirit (MS) and high speed diesel (HSD) on the basis of annual average of the Consumer Price Index (General).

Petroleum Division has proposed that OMC margins on petrol and high-speed diesel may be jacked up by Rs0.25 per litre while dealer margins may be increased by Rs0.34 per litre and Rs0.29 per litre for petrol and diesel respectively. With the proposed increase, the OMC and dealer margins on petrol would go up to Rs2.89 and Rs3.81 per litre respectively whereas the high-speed diesel margins will rise to Rs2.89 and Rs3.22 per litre respectively.

The ECC decided that in future the margins of OMCs and dealers would be worked out on the basis of annual average inflation of fiscal year, and also tasked relevant stakeholders, including Petroleum Division, Finance Division, Planning Division, Industry and Production Division, Bureau of Statistics and OGRA to finalise recommendations within two months and resubmit the case to ECC. Earlier, the ECC was told that the revision in margins on MS/HSD for OMCs and Dealers was carried out annually in accordance with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the respective period. The fresh revision had been necessitated by a substantial increase in the cost of doing business due to rise in inflation and devaluation of rupee since the last revision done on 1st July 2018.

During the meeting, the ECC approved a proposal put forth by the Ministry of Energy to raise finance facilities of Rs136.454 billion and Rs30 billion for adjustment of existing finance facilities of Power Holding Limited worked out between the latter and a consortium of local commercial banks in pursuance of separate ECC decisions taken in November 2016 and February 2017 for the purpose of funding repayment liabilities of DISCOs on terms and conditions as approved by the Finance Division. Earlier, the ECC was told that terms and conditions of the PHL finance facilities had a five-year tenure, inclusive of two-year grace period which had been completed, and the installment payments on account of principal portion had become payable. Under the latest arrangement approved by the ECC, the principal installment payments would be deferred for further two years from the date of execution of fresh facilities and this would be a cash neutral transaction as the disbursement of fresh facilities would be used for adjustment of outstanding principal portion of existing PHL finance facilities of Rs136.454 billion and Rs30 billion.

On a proposal by the Commerce Division, the ECC took up the import of used vehicles under personal baggage, transfer of residence and gift schemes which require the payment of duties and taxes to be paid out of foreign exchange arranged by Pakistani nationals themselves or local recipients producing proof of conversion of foreign remittance to local currency, and allowed the importers to meet any shortfall in arrangement of required foreign remittance for payment of duties and taxes through local sources in case of a scenario where the Pak rupee depreciates or government increases the import duties and/or taxes after the receipt of remittance and before the filing of the good declaration, which results in shortfall of remitted amount vis-a-vis payable duties and taxes. The ECC decision would help clear up a total of 1017 vehicles currently stuck at Karachi port because either no foreign remittance had been received or the remitted amount had been rendered insufficient due to depreciation of PKR before the filing or goods declaration or increase in the rate of duty in the Finance Act 2019.

On another proposal by the Commerce Division, the ECC accorded ex-post approval to an SRO issued by Commerce Division on 21st August 2019 for extending till 31st August 2019 the implementation of quality standards on the import of solar PV equipment into Pakistan under an SRO issued by the Commerce Division on 28th May 2019. The Commerce Division had issued the SRO in late August following instructions from the Prime Minister to resolve the issue of several containers stuck up at ports due to lack of clarity amongst stakeholders, pre-shipment companies and border agencies regarding documents required for observance and implementation of the quality standards introduced on 28th May 2019 as per a decision of the federal cabinet.

The ECC also approved a proposal authorising the Ministry of Communication/National Highway Authority to proceed for Procurement of Consultancy Services for Section-III Kalkatak-Chitral (48 km) under the Chakdara-Chitral Road Project (N-45) being funded by EXIM Bank of Korea and loan assistance from Economic Development Cooperation Fund (ECDF), as the proposal was in accordance with the Public Procurement Rule-5 which allows for obligation or commitment of the federal government arising out of an international treaty or an agreement with a state or states, or any international financial institution, to override public procurement rules as contained in Public Procurement Regulations 2011.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the Finance Division for acquisition of 8.5 per cent additional shares of EPCL South Africa by Packages Pakistan through AHL Mauritius by enhancing Standby Letter of Credit (SBLC) by USD 2.7 million which would bring the aggregate investment of Packages Limited to USD 17.7 million, with the stipulation that due to the current foreign exchange constraints, Packages Ltd might arrange the required foreign exchange from abroad. 

The ECC also considered and approved two separate proposals by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination for one technical supplementary grant of Rs784 million to pay for increase in the allowances of doctors and another technical supplementary grant of Rs228.547 million to pay for the increase in allowances and stipends of regular and student nurses and of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Federal Government Polyclinic (FGPC), National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (NIRM) and Federal General Hospital (FGH). The increase in allowances and stipends of doctors and nurses had been approved by the Prime Minister to overcome scarcity of nurses and to bring salaries of doctors and nurses working in federal institutions at a par with their fellow colleagues in provinces.

The ECC also considered and approved a proposal by the National History & Literary Heritage Division for a technical supplementary grant of Rs255.315 million after an equal amount of funds was surrendered by the Information & Broadcasting Division in pursuance of a Cabinet Division memorandum issued on 15th July 2019 transferring the administrative control of Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) and Lok Virsa from the Information & Broadcasting Division to National History & Literary Heritage Division. The ECC also approved another technical supplementary grant of Rs 75.616 million to National History & Literary Heritage Division for establishment of development works at PNCA and Lok Virsa after the surrender of equal amount of funds by Information & Broadcasting Division.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the Ministry of Narcotics Control for a technical supplementary grant of Rs14.906 million as operational cost of Anti-Narcotics Force after a similar amount was transferred by International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs (INI-P), US Embassy, Islamabad to the Finance Division under assistance package to help Anti Narcotics Force/Special Investigation Cell to implement ongoing counter narcotics operations as per a mutual agreement.

The ECC also took up separate proposals of Defence Division for one technical supplementary grant of Rs 6.210 billion to pay for recurring cost of the Special Security Division (North) and another technical supplementary grant of Rs 4.966 billion to pay for Internal Security Duty Allowance to the Army troops deployed at the western border. The ECC discussed the matter and asked the Defence Division to bring up the matter in the next ECC meeting after having discussed and finalised with the Finance Division the mode of arranging funds for the subject supplementary grants.