ISLAMABAD - The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) on Tuesday approved export of 0.2 million metric tonnes of sugar and one month salary for employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills.

The ECC, with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the chair, approved a proposal of the Ministry of Commerce about further export of 0.200 MMT of sugar (without any subsidy). The export of sugar would be made within 60 days after approval of export quota by the State Bank of Pakistan or by 31st of May 2017, whichever is earlier. It was further decided that only those mills would be allowed to export that had cleared outstanding dues of farmers from the last season and had crushed at optimum capacity.

It may be recalled that ECC in December 2016 had allowed export of 0.225 MMT sugar till 31st March 2017 with the condition that the Inter-Ministerial Committee, constituted vide directive by Prime Minister's Office (dated 25.11.15) under chairmanship of the Minister for Commerce would recommend to ECC stoppage of further export if domestic price of sugar was negatively impacted. The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) made subsequent requests to extend the export period to 31st May 2017 and also sought increase in export quantity. The requests were referred to the Sugar Advisory Board (SAB) for advice. The aforementioned inter-ministerial committee considered requests of PSMA and inputs provided by SAB, making its own recommendations. The ECC gave approval for extending the timeline and enhancing the quantity of exports in the light of these recommendations.

The committee reiterated that a close watch would be maintained on the domestic sugar prices with a view to suspend exports in case of adverse impact on domestic prices.  In consideration of a proposal submitted by the Revenue Division, the ECC gave approval to extend applicability period of reduced rate of withholding tax i.e. 0.4% for non-filers up to 30th June 2017.

Approval was also accorded by the ECC for disbursement of one month’s (December 2016) salary amounting to Rs380 million to employees of the Pakistan Steel Mills, Karachi.

After discussion on a proposal put forth by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, the ECC gave approval for public sector procurement of wheat (2016-17 crop) against the target of 7.05 million tonnes. The financial requirements for the proposed target calculate to Rs224.86 billion. It may be mentioned that public sector wheat stocks help augment flows during the lean period of wheat supplies as well as fulfil the food requirements of deficient areas.

The ECC approved a proposal put forth by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources (P&NR) for changes in existing procedures for sampling and testing of imported petroleum products. Accordingly, the product would conform to approved specifications notified by the Ministry of P&NR. The quality of the product for all importers shall be tested by HDIP laboratory prior to unloading. Sampling of the product for quality analysis would also be carried out by HDIP in the presence of importer’s surveyors. In case of quality dispute if the sample testing by HDIP fails, re-sampling would be made by a third party surveyor in the presence of authorized representatives of concerned stakeholders including HDIP. The fresh sample, so taken, would be tested in the presence of nominated representatives of the importer and HDIP by another independent laboratory, pre-approved by the authority i.e. OGRA. Test results of fresh sample would be final and binding. Further, OGRA shall also independently carry out random sampling from vessels carrying imported petroleum products for testing through any of the laboratories approved by the authority for effective monitoring, quality assurance and greater transparency in the process.

The ECC also considered another proposal from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources regarding allocation of gas from PPL’s Kandhkot field. The ECC approved that the allocation of 150 MMCFD to Thermal Power Station Guddu, TPSG (100 MMCFD directly through PPL and 50 MMCFD through SNGPL), which expired on 7th of May 2013, may be validated. Further, PPL will supply 50 MMCFD additional gas along with 150 MMCFD, directly to TPSG with effect from 1st of June 2017 or the date of commissioning of TPSG’s new pipeline, whichever is earlier. The entire 200 MMCFD direct gas supply would be subject to minimum 72.5% take-or-pay quantity. Moreover, the outstanding receivables against supply of gas to TPSG would be settled forthwith subject to reconciliation.