ECC puts off more wheat imports

Approves $17m for paying liabilities of Roosevelt hotel in New York

Shahbaz Rana June 17, 2021
In its budget proposals, the board suggested that the agriculture credit should be increased to $25 billion. PHOTO: AFP


The federal government on Wednesday pended a decision on allowing import of another one million metric tons of wheat but approved over $17 million for paying liabilities of the closed Roosevelt hotel, New York.

Headed by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet also approved Rs40 billion supplementary grant for Karachi nuclear power plants.

“The ECC approved the request of Ministry of National Food Security & Research for import of three million metric tons of wheat subject to approval by PPRA Board for building up the strategic reverses of wheat in the country,” according to a handout issued by the Ministry of Finance.

However, the ECC did not take any new decision for the wheat import, as the cabinet had already approved wheat import in February this year but the import has not begun yet.

The Ministry of Food had in fact placed the summary before the ECC for increasing the import limit to four million metric tons, which Tarin pended for the time being.

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He said that the decision will be taken in consultation with the cabinet, particularly after wheat production stood at 27.3 million metric tons this year.

Still, the government will be importing three million metric tons of wheat in the new fiscal year to meet the gap between demand and supply and enhance strategic reserves.

On May 3, headed by Tarin, the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) had taken the decision to import four million metric tons of wheat, which would have cost $1.2 billion on that day price.

The ECC also reviewed the local procurement position. It was informed that so far the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) and four provinces have bought 5.65 million metric tons of wheat against the target of 6.3 million tons for the new crop. Punjab has exceeded its 3.5 million tons procurement target but Passco and Sindh were falling far behind their targets.

ECC approved the request of Ministry of National Food Security and Research for the provision of 500,000 metric tons of wheat to the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) out of Passco stock during the crop year 2021-22 on the usual terms and conditions.

All charges, including incidental charges will be borne by the Food Department, K-P. Similarly, 500,000 metric tons imported wheat was also allocated to Food Department, K-P to meet the provincial requirement.

ECC approved the “Policy for Regulation of NGOs/NPOs receiving Foreign Contributions-2021”. The NGO Policy, 2021 has been designed with the aim to fostering a sense of partnership between government and non-government sectors.

Furthermore, under the new policy approval process (for registration) will be completed within 60 days, maximum, through online submission of application and consultation, doing away with manual processing and eliminating long delays. The new policy seeks to expand space for credible organisations for playing an effective role in socio-economic development while deterring NGOs with dubious credentials.

The ECC appreciated efforts of the Economic Affairs Division for designing the much-needed policy and directed that any further suggestions/positive feedback from all the relevant stakeholders may also be incorporated in the policy and a report on the same may be shared with the forum in 4-8 weeks.

ECC approved the summary of Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) for allowing operational losses up to a maximum of 0.5% for gasoline transportation through WOP & MFM pipelines through Inland Freight Equalization Margin (IFEM).

The same will be adjusted against actual based on physical inventory of pipelines to be undertaken periodically.

The actual rate will be determined by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) based on actual losses and excess margin would be brought before ECC.

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The ECC approved $17.3 million for PIA-Investment Limited for payment of recurring as well as one-off liabilities in respect of Roosevelt Hotel New York, USA, as verified by the auditor and recommended by PIA-IL Board. So far, the government has injected $160 million into the Roosevelt Hotel.

The ECC also directed that Finance, Privatisation Commission, PIA/Aviation Divisions should consult with each other and propose a strategy in a month’s time for deciding the future of the asset.

According to an earlier decision of the federal cabinet, the Roosevelt Hotel had been closed since December last year after settling its $142 million worth of dues.

The facility is located at a prime location in New York. The ECC approved to prematurely repay $105 million loan and also cleared $37 million in severance cost.

The Aviation Division had demanded $35.5 million for clearing financial challenges with variable options.

The ECC approved Rs1.4 billion supplementary grant to provide wheat subsidy to the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan. It gave Rs1.6 billion to the Ministry of Industries and Production for clearing the bill of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL) for the month of May 2021.

The ECC approved Rs49 billion for Karachi Coastal Power Project Unit 1 & 2 as requested by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, according to the Ministry of Finance.