The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Monday gave go ahead to the private sector to import wheat to control prices of wheat and flour in the market and ensure availability of these commodities at reasonable price across the country throughout the year.

The ECC meeting, chaired by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, also decided not to restrict the import of wheat to any limit by the private sector and further decided to monitor the situation on monthly basis to ensure availability of wheat and flour in all parts of the country at a reasonable price.

According to the ECC decision, the provincial governments to be requested to announce their “Wheat Release Policy” immediately, while Punjab province would release 900,000 tons of wheat to flour mills of the province during next two months at a release price as proposed by the Punjab government in order to prevent surge in price of wheat/flour as proposed by Punjab.

In addition, the Singh government would also be requested to announce their policy; PASSCO to assess the immediate requirement of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan and improve supply wheat as per agreed targets.

The ECC decided that movement of wheat would be facilitated between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Balochistan while overall free movement of wheat should be ensured across the border and to ensure movement across districts and provinces.

The ECC decided that private wheat importers may be facilitated and arrangements between importers and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa /Balochistan should also be arranged and calculate the impact of subsidy for the import (if any) while import of wheat by private sector be allowed and the situation be watched on monthly basis. The financial implications of import/non-imports by private sector should also be assessed.

According to ECC decision, if there is no import by Private sector, then the Government should import wheat itself while the monitoring and supply provisions would be improved to ensure availability of wheat at shortage points and other market imperfections unconnected to supply and demand of wheat/flour should also be looked at.

Focus on inter-relation between wheat and Atta and try to increase conversion rate from wheat to Atta; check the cross-border movement of Atta to ensure that Atta doesn’t flow out to Afghanistan and points of exit and develop a group for longer term strategy for the whole year and also for medium term were the other decision taken by the cabinet committee during the meeting.

The ECC also considered and approved five proposals by the Interior Division for technical supplementary grants.

These include one technical supplementary grant (TSG) of Rs 2.5 billion to clear accrued verified liabilities of Punjab Mass-transit Authority (PMA) as federal share on account of operation of Pakistan Metro-bus System; two separate TSGs of Rs 200 million and Rs 36.400 million for ICT Police to clear outstanding liabilities of Shuhada families; and two separate TSGs of Rs. 105.621 million and Rs.60.581 million for ICT Police to clear outstanding liabilities during CFY 2019-20.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the Finance Division for TSG of Rs 1300 to meet critical demands related to medical stores and utilities for the Pakistan Navy.

On another proposal by the Defence Division, the ECC allowed the CDA to collect charges against allotment of 45 acres land in Jagiot Farm Islamabad to Directororate General of ISI as per Rs 2250 per square yard rate with the total implication of Rs 490.05 million as already approved by the Prime Minister in May 2018. The ECC also approved a TSG amounting to Rs 490.05 million for the purpose.

On a proposal by the Industries and Production division, the ECC approved a package combining reduced duties and taxes for a period of three months to ensure uninterrupted supply of oxygen gas and oxygen cylinders in the country for medical purposes.

The ECC also directed the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination and Ministry of Interior to clear all the outstanding dues payable to oxygen manufacturing companies as per the legal provisions of contracts.

The ECC directed the concerned ministries and departments to ensure supply of oxygen for medical purposes by actively engaging with the oxygen plants and with hospitals for keeping the oxygen charges at the minimum level.

The ECC also approved a proposal by the Finance Division for a new lending policy to the provincial governments for their Ways and Means requirements and for signing of agreements by Finance Division and the State Bank of Pakistan to implement the new lending policy.

Under the new policy, the existing Ways and Means limit for Punjab has been changed from Rs 37 billion to Rs 77 billion, for Sindh, from Rs 15 billion to Rs 39 billion for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Rs 10.1 billion to Rs 27 billion and for Balochistan from Rs 7.1 billion to Rs 17 billion.