ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday agreed to divert Rs460 million to deal with the emerging situation due to insect attacks on crops in nine districts of the country which, if not property tackled, may create food shortages.
To thwart the desert locust threat in Pakistan, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet approved a technical supplementary grant of Rs459.5 million on a proposal moved by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, according to a finance ministry statement.
Newly appointed Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has not yet started attending the ECC meetings. On a proposal sent by the Ministry of Interior, the ECC approved allocation of Rs300 million through the technical supplementary grant for raising a special wing of the Pakistan Rangers for the (protection of) Kartarpur Corridor on the recommendation of General Headquarters.
The ECC directed that a three-member committee, consisting of Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Ishrat Husain, finance secretary and a representative of the Ministry of Interior, would look into details of the Kartarpur special force proposal and further rationalise the cost.
The ECC directed the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to brief it in the next meeting on the measures taken so far, including the areas treated with spray and pesticides, to tackle the threat of desert locust in different parts of the country.
The ECC was informed that nine districts of the country were affected by the locusts and the Department of Plant Protection had been given the responsibility of dealing with the threat. So far, 170,000 hectares have been cleared and the ministry has been provided updates on a daily basis.
The insect attacks on crops have the potential to affect food production, which can create problems at a time when food inflation is already very high, ranging from 16.6% to 19.3% in various parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the ECC again did not begin the process of reviewing the prices of essential commodities. In the past, the Ministry of Finance used to give updates on the supply of essential commodities and the price situation to the ECC. However, this process has been discontinued.
The Sensitive Price Indicator, which monitors prices of 51 essential items in 17 urban cities, surged 18.57% last week as compared to the same period of previous year. The ECC also approved the enactment of Pakistan Single Window Bill 2019, which would be sent to the cabinet for final approval. The bill will highly facilitate businesses in Pakistan.
The ECC was apprised that 42 government agencies were involved in granting approval for different businesses. Through the single window, all parties involved in trade and transport can lodge standardised information and documents with a single-entry point to fulfil all import, export and transit-related regulatory requirements.
The Customs Wing in the FBR developed the PSW Roadmap and Implementation Framework in April 2018 with the help of international experts. This initiative is expected to improve Pakistan’s ranking on the Ease of Doing Business Index. It is expected that the project will be completed by December 2021.
The ECC allowed the continuation of funding facility by Government Holding Private Limited (GHPL) for Inter State Gas Systems (Private) Limited for another two years.
There will be a provision in the agreement that as soon as the first project reaches closure, ISGS needs to be financially self-sustaining and it should put forward a business plan as to how it will return the loan it has taken. The ECC approved the placement of the annual report of the National Economic Council (NEC) – as required under Article 156 of the Constitution – before the cabinet after the chair was briefed that the points raised regarding the report, for its placement before the cabinet, had been duly addressed.
The Ministry of Energy got approval for a proposal for extension and rehabilitation of the gas network in the oil and gas producing districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (phase-I).
Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited was allowed to execute the gas development schemes recommended by the Departmental Working Party and endorsed by the company’s board of directors along with an appropriate share of funding shared between SNGPL and the K-P government.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2019.