ISLAMABAD      -          The government has expressed its helplessness in reducing automobiles prices in the country by saying it has no role in fixing prices, officials briefed a parliamentary committee on Thursday.

Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production in its meeting discussed at length the issue of prices of cars being assembled in the country. The cars prices are on the rise despite the claims by the manufacturers that most of the parts are manufactured locally. The officials informed the committee that there is no legal provision available with the ministry or Engineering Development Board (EDB) to control or fix prices of automobiles in the country. “Car manufacturers are in private sector and they fix the prices after keeping in view different things in mind,” an official informed the committee.

He further informed that mostly the engine parts and some critical parts which require heavy investment and hi-tech parts are imported while other parts including structure, interior, exterior, suspension, brake system are being manufactured locally.

Moreover, it was told that exchange rate and imposition of levies fall within the purview of Federal Board of Revenue also play role in fixing the prices of automobile in the country.

The Committee heard the ministry as well as the Engineering Development Board on the matter and decided to call vehicle manufacturers to hear their side of the view before reaching a conclusion.

Later, it was decided that the discussion on decline in the sale of cars and other vehicles will also be clubbed with the vehicle manufacturers in next meeting.

The Committee was given a bi-annual review of the budgetary allocation and its utilisation by the ministry of industries and Production, with special focus on Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocation for 2019-20 along with details of PSDP proposals for 2020-21.

An amount of Rs14.358 billion was allocated to the ministry for 2019-20 around half of which (Rs7.526 billion) has been utilised. For the year 2020-21, the ministry has proposed an allocation of Rs20.764 billion in PSDP for 34 different projects. The details of projects were shared with the committee and will be discussed in coming meetings.

The matter of progress of revival plan and payment to all retired employees within 120 days in the light of direction given to the chairman PSMC, Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders in its meeting held in October 2019 was also discussed in the meeting.

The ministry told the committee that a number of steps have been taken time and again to resolve the financial crisis of PSM and the issue of pending salaries and outstanding dues of former employees but the dues have heavily increased standing currently at Rs20.87 billion.

The Committee was told that a fresh summary for the said amount has also been moved and in meetings held at finance division proposals were considered to develop a comprehensive plan for settlement of dues and liabilities. The Committee decided to continue discussing the matter until the grievances of retired employees are addressed.

The Committee was also briefed by Managing Director Utility Stores Corporation of Pakistan on the matter relating to taxation and subsidy being given by the government. The Committee was told that the government has released 6 billion for subsidy and procurement. PM Relief package has been launched which includes subsidy on five basic food items; wheat, sugar, ghee, rice and pulses.

The basic food items are available at Utility Stores at prices lower than open market. The government has also allocated additionally an amount of Rs15 billion to the corporation out of which Rs5 billion will be used for inventory purchases and Rs10 billion will be used for subsidy on essential commodities. The Committee appreciated the corporation for ensuring better quality and having better sales over the course of past few months.

The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Khan here at the Parliament House on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Behramand Tangi, Aurangzeb Khan, Seemi Ezdi, Keshoo Bai, Sitara Ayaz, Advisor to Prime Minister Abdur Razzak Daood, Secretary Ministry of industries and production and senior officials from the ministry and its departments.