ISLAMABAD - The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet on Thursday accorded approval in principle for import of 50,000 tons of gram pulse in view of hike in its price due to shortage in the local market. TCP will carry out the import.

The ECC meeting chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, while according approval to Ministry of Food Security’s proposal with consensus of the house, directed that the Ministry of National Food Security, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industries may make arrangements for the import of gram pulse at the earliest.

On a proposal moved by the Ministry of Water and Power, the ECC approved adoption and implementation of quality standards for import of solar PV equipment into the country. The Committee also gave direction to the Ministry of Water & Power to liaise with Ministry of Science and Technology and the FBR to ensure well coordinated process for adoption and implementation measures in two weeks time. The Ministry of Water and Power shall present to ECC its report on adoption and implementation of quality standards, the Chair further directed.

Taking benign consideration of proposal by the Privatization Division, the ECC approved payment of two months salaries for employees of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). The chair on this occasion remarked that the relevant ministry and the Pakistan Steel should find a way out of the current stalemate as the government just could not afford to continue providing finances to meet the liabilities of PSM. Considering another such proposal from the Privatization Division, the ECC also allowed payment of two months salaries to the employees of Pakistan Machine Tool Factory.

The decision came after the Privatisation Commission forwarded two summaries to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on 10th September 2015 requesting for an approval of around Rs1 billion for two month salaries for PSM employees and Rs96 million for PMTF employees. The ECC has approved Rs960 million for PSM and Rs64 million for PMTF.

Muhammad Zubair, Chairman Privatisation Commission, said that employee welfare remained a high priority for the government. “We fully understand the difficult situation, which thousands of employees of PSM and PMTF are currently facing. Due to ongoing losses in both companies, thousands of workers are in distress, as the companies are financially unable to pay salaries and wages to their employees. Protecting the welfare of the employees has been a great concern to us, which is why we have been pushing for staff salaries to be released. This is however not a permanent solution,” said Zubair.

On a summary of Ministry of Railways, the ECC approved the recommendations of the Ministry supported by Ministry of Law and Justice to recall Committee’s decision of 1st January 2013, relating to the Business Express Train. The Ministries had stated that recall of the decision, which was not formally implemented, would help the judicial settlement of the matter.

Earlier, at the outset of the meeting, the chair informed members of the ECC that the leading international rating agency Fitch had upgraded Pakistan’s rating to “B” on the basis of its economic performance. The minister while congratulating them on this development said, the new rating was reflective of the robust economic policies adopted by the government. He also added that as of Thursday, Pakistan’s forex reserves had reached $18.56 billion which was a record.