ISLAMABAD   -  The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Wednesday has approved the budget estimates of the National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC).

The ECC, which was chaired by Finance Minister Asad Umar, has cleared proposal of Ministry of Information Technology (IT) regarding approval of budget estimates of National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) by the federal cabinet. The ECC however, observed that NTC being an autonomous and self earning body should be empowered like other public sector corporations to formulate and approve its own budget. The Committee directed that necessary authorization may be granted so that in future the budget is considered and approved by the NTC Board.

The NTC established under Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996 is mandated to provide ICT services to Federal Government, Armed forces, Defense projects, Provincial Governments and to all Government Institutions (autonomous/semi-autonomous bodies etc.

It is worth mentioning here that NTC had submits its budget for approval of the Federal Government before the 1st June every year. NTC got approval of its budget upto 2016-17 from the Finance Division. However, later, after the Supreme Court of Pakistan's Judgment, the approval of Finance Division was not required. However, the approval from the Federal Cabinet would be required in the light of Supreme Court of Pakistan's above referred judgment. The cabinet referred the issue to ECC.

Meanwhile, Ministry of Industries briefed the meeting about fertilizer situation in the country. It was informed that imported shipments of urea have reached Karachi and arrangements are in place for supplies across the country. The ECC directed that the process should be sped up to ensure that sufficient stocks are available in the market.

Earlier, the government had given approval for importing 150,000 tons of urea fertilizer to address its shortage in the country. Of the approved quantity 50,000 tons arrived on December 2, 2018 and another 50,000 tons is expected to arrive on December 18. According to a report, 50,000 tons which has already arrived has been shifted to the National Fertilizer Marketing Limited (NFML) warehouses and is not being shipped to the farmers. The main reason for this is the lack of issuance of the price for the commodity by the government. This inaction on the part of the Government is amplifying the already existing shortage of urea in the country. The price of urea today in the Punjab market is Rs. 1780 per bag of 50 kg, versus company to dealer selling price of Rs. 1712 per bag which implies urea is being sold at around Rs. 55 per bag over the company recommended price to the farmers.