ISLAMABAD - The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Thursday approved the much-delayed National Aviation Policy (NAP), which would be implemented after 15 years aiming to turn the aviation sector into a truly vibrant sphere of the economy.

The ECC, which met under the chair of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, approved the National Aviation Policy 2015 submitted by the Aviation Division. The NAP had taken 22 months in formulation, as the PML-N government started formulating the policy since assuming the charge of the government in June 2013.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation, Capt Shujaat Azim, in interview with The Nation back in July 2013, had claimed that National Aviation Policy would be out in four months, 120 days. However, the policy was approved after 22 months.

The previous NAP was last launched in 2000 and Pakistan operates without any aviation policy for the last 15 years.

Due to numerous changes in the aviation industry all over the world, the new policy has been developed by the Aviation Division after seeking inputs from all the stakeholders, said Shujaat Azim, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Aviation. He briefed the meeting about salient features of the policy and added that smaller aircrafts would provide air travel service between smaller cities. Cargo facilities will be enhanced and cargo villages established in northern and southern parts of the country. With the new aviation policy the current capacity of handling 130,000 metric tons of cargo will be doubled, Azeem told the Committee.

The draft policy offered tax-free investment in the aviation sector and outsourcing of all major airports, landside and buildings to prominent foreign companies active in the airport business through a transparent process. The policy also recommended developing quality repair and maintenance facilities in the country to save huge expenses on seeking such services abroad.

The finance minister said, “We are hoping that in the next budget which is just two months away, we will be announcing incentives for the aviation sector in line with the new Policy.”

The top economic decisions making body of the country, the ECC, also approved proposal put forth by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research for extending the period for export of 1.2 million tons of wheat for Punjab and Sindh by one month. The new cutoff date for Sindh will now be 30th April and for Punjab, 15th of May. On another proposal for imposing regulatory duty on import of wheat and wheat products, ECC, while lifting ban on the import of wheat products, approved that a uniform 25% regulatory duty on the import of wheat and wheat products would be charged henceforth. The decision was taken to support the local farmers, who had been adversely affected by the decreasing international wheat prices, said the finance minister.

ECC also approved an amount of Rs. 96 million for the payment of three months’ salaries to the employees of Pakistan Machine Tool Factory (PMTF) Karachi. The proposal by Privatization Division for levy of 12.5% regulatory duty on import of hot rolled products, pipes and all such imported items also received a nod of approval from the ECC.

ECC also gave consent for the provision of another 40,000 metric tons of wheat to the United Nations World Food Program for the temporarily displaced persons of North Waziristan Agency and KP.

ECC approved the proposal submitted by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research for providing commodity finance for public sector procurement of wheat of the 2014-15 crop. The financial requirements for this year’s procurement will be around Rs. 222 billion and it is expected that the four provinces and PASSCO will procure around 6.600 million tons of wheat.

ECC, on a proposal from the Ministry of Water and Power, approved the standardized project agreements for solar energy based projects under the policy for development of renewable energy for power generation. Accordingly AEDB was authorized to make any project specific amendments in these standardized project agreements for solar power projects as required during negotiations that do not increase GoP obligations or liabilities beyond those stipulated in the said project agreements. It may be mentioned that GOP Policy for Developing Renewable Energy For Power Generation (2006) provides for standard agreements for grid-connected renewable energy IPPs. These standardized agreements include the Implementation Agreement (IA) and the Energy Purchase Agreement (EPA) which provide the legal and contractual framework for the design, financing, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of power projects based on solar energy.

Similarly ECC on another proposal from the Ministry of Water and Power, accorded approval for Standardized Security Documents for Coal Power Projects under the Policy for Power Generation Projects 2015. Simultaneously ECC approved Supplemental Agreement with the provision that the revolving account (equal to 22% of monthly invoicing) for the CPEC power projects be opened and maintained by the power purchaser for which the Ministry of Finance would provide the guarantee to fund such revolving account in case the power purchaser failed to place and / or maintain the required funds in such account. Further as requested in the proposal ECC authorized Board of PPIB to make and approve project specific amendments in the standardized coal security package documents required during negotiations provided GOP obligations or liabilities were not adversely affected.