ISLAMABAD-A parliamentary committee on Tuesday has recommended the government to give preference to SMEs while formulating policy by providing financial incentives.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs was held under the chairmanship of MNA Faiz Ullah. Ministry of finance secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch briefed the Committee about the allocation/utilisation of Rs1200bn (COVID-19 Relief Package) announced by Prime Minister to deal with Corona Virus pandemic.

He said that Government has released Rs25 billion to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), further Rs50bn for medical equipment and incentives for workers were under process with M/o Health and NDMA. He further informed that Rs15 billion has been allocated for 61 medical items exempted in withholding tax and additional custom duties on import of certain food items including reduction of withholding tax for Utility Stores Corporation supplies.

Finance secretary further informed that government has allocated Rs200 billion for providing financial assistance to daily wage workers/employees, however the same would be released after proper identification and screening through filters by Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).

He also informed that Government has already been disbursed financial assistance to 4.4 million families out of Rs150 billion apportion for vulnerable families and panagah. He stated that Government has already been given Rs70 billion in shape of petrol and diesel relief since 25th March this year.

While talking about the funding to Utility Stores Corporation, wherein, the Government has released Rs10 billion for full stock of flour (Atta) procurement out of Rs50 billion allocated for further subsidy on household items. The Committee Members have expressed their grave concern about the performance of Utility Stores Corporation. The Members were of the stance that Utility Stores Corporation has only provided subsidy on flour, whereas, the other products were available on full price.

The Finance secretary informed that government has allocated Rs280bn, Rs100bn and Rs100bn for payment to farmers regarding procurement of wheat, relief to exporters and relief to SMEs and agriculture sector, respectively.

Governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) briefed the Committee about the measures taken by the SBP during ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 regarding relief to business community. He said SBP has directed the commercial banks for enhancing the date of returns of loans from 90 days to 180 days.

He added that SBP has also announced a support package of salaries for employees in different entities on lower mark-up. The Governor SBP informed that Government has brought down its policy rate from 13.25 per cent to 9 per cent. The Committee Members have given some suggestions for further strengthening the policies of SBP with regard to business community in current scenario.

The Finance Secretary, while responding the question made by the Hon. Member regarding subtraction from the share of Provinces in NFC, he categorically denied this impression. The Committee decided that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Special Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishter may be invited in the next meeting of the Committee for briefing about disbursement of financial assistance to general public in the country.

Member FBR Ms. Seema Shakeel briefed the Committee about the details of Rs100bn disbursement to the exporters in shape of refunds. She said that in order to mitigate impact of outbreak of COVID-19, the Hon. Prime Minister has approved relief package i.e. Rs.70bn for refunds related to FBR, Rs.30bn DLTL related to M/o Commerce.

She informed that the Custom Duty Drawback processing was earlier manual but in order to ensure transparency entire process was made electronically without any human intervention.