ISLAMABAD-The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has approved a special relief package to further continue provision of subsidised electricity until June 2020 to five export oriented sectors.

The ECC meeting, chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, has approved the proposal of Power Division to announce relief package for providing subsidized electricity. Export industries and a ministerial committee had recently reached to an agreement over energy tariffs.

Under the agreement, the zero-rated industries would be provided electricity at an all-inclusive rate of 7.5 cents per unit (Kwh) and gas at $6.5 per unit (million British thermal unit) until June 30. The agreement required immediate withdrawal of electricity bills issued to export sector with backdated effect from January 2019 which had included a series of surcharges, quarterly adjustments and fuel price adjustments. The government had also accepted industry’s demand to allow import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) directly by the private sector. It was estimated that LNG could be available to industry at about $5.5 per mmBtu through private sector imports compared to $8-10 per mmBtu through the public sector.

The ECC has discussed proposal to increase wheat support price to Rs 1400 per 40 kg and will convene a special session today (Thursday) to discuss a detailed plan to keep the flour prices at the lowest possible level throughout the year in view of any increase in support price and incidental charges for supply of PASSCO procured wheat to provinces and allied issues related to procurement of wheat by provinces and the private sector.

The Ministry of National Food Security and Research on Monday had recommended the ECC to set Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat crop 2019-20 at Rs1,400 per 40-kg. Earlier, in November 2019, the ECC had raised the MSP to Rs1,365 per 40kg from Rs1,350 per 40-kg to support farmers. Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had informed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research that the expected weather condition in the end of March was likely to adversely affect the standing wheat crop especially in central Punjab. Rains during this time are not good for farmers, as humidity not only affects the quality of wheat, but can also cause rust and fungus in the crop, which may cause serious damage to the total output.

ECC also approved a proposal by Ministry of Energy (Power Division) for two amendments aimed at providing ease of doing business to upstream petroleum sector. The amendments are related to extension of exploration licences beyond two years by ECC rather than the Minister in Charge of Petroleum Division and creation of a new Zone-1 (F) for onshore licensing regime and consequent revision in the Zonal Map.

The ECC also okayed National Telecommunication Corporation’s revised budget estimates for 2018-19 and 2019-20. The ECC also gave an in principal approval for a proposal for SAR 22.5 million equity investment abroad by Eastern Products Pvt (Ltd) Pakistan.