ISLAMABAD - The government on Wednesday approved one month salary for the workers of Pakistan Steel Mills, which is closed since June 2015 due to multiple reasons.

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, which met under the chair of Finance Minister Asad Umar, approved the salaries of PSM’s workers. The government will release Rs367 million for salaries of PSM employees for the month of September 2018. The ECC has also approved to release Rs1 billion for widows of pensioners. The government would release the Rs1 billion to pay off 4 months worth of pension to the widows of retired employees.

The ECC further decided not to bring up the issue of PSM employees’ salaries during the committee’s meetings for the next 3 months. The top economic decisions making body of the country decided that the matter of salaries should be resolved by the Finance Division and Ministry of Industries. The PSM is dysfunctional since June 2015 due to many reasons. The total losses and liabilities of the PSM have gone beyond Rs465 billion, besides around $2.5 billion foreign exchange loss per annum because of steel imports which could have been produced by the PSM.

The incumbent government had recently decided to delist the PSM from the privatisation list along with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and other public sector entities.

The ECC directed Ministry of Industries to take immediate action for disbursement of outstanding dues to widows of PSM's deceased employees which have been pending for the last almost 4 years. The ECC also directed the Ministry of Industries and Production to submit a detailed proposal for putting the PSM back on track.

The ECC also approved immediate import of 50,000 tonnes of urea to meet domestic demand in Rabi season. The Committee also authorised Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Industries to allow import of an additional quantity of 50,000 tons of urea if required. Further, the ECC also directed that fertilizer plants might be kept fully operational for whole of Rabi season for adequate production of urea to prevent its shortage. The ECC maintained that no undue increase in prices of urea would be tolerated on the pretext of increase in gas prices. It decided to allow supply of gas to Fatima Fertilizer and Agri Tech Fertilizer to increase the local production of urea.

The ECC also approved proposal of Ministry of Food Security for enhancing Pakistan’s share of wheat for the SAARC Food Bank Reserve from 40,000 tons to 80,000 tons, adjusting it in the existing quantum of one million metric tons of national strategic reserves assigned to PASSCO.

The Chairman FBR briefed the meeting on tax collection from the sugar industry. He suggested that a revised mechanism be put in place to ensure that full amount of due taxes is recovered from the industry. The ECC directed FBR to place the matter before the Cabinet after consulting the stakeholders within one week.

The ECC directed the Power Division to actively engage with companies/entities concerned to facilitate clearance of PSO’s outstanding receivables (over Rs300 billion) as early as possible to guard against any risk of disruption in supply chain of petroleum products and energy supply.

The ECC also decided to maintain support price of wheat at 1,300 rupees per 40 kilograms. It was noted that wheat prices in the international market were considerably lower and the government of Pakistan was incurring a huge expenditure in wheat procurement process to protect the interests of the farmers.

The ECC also issued orders to the provinces, asking them to keep a check on cement prices after it was found that dealers were involved in hiking up the price of the product. During the meeting, the Ministry of Industries and Production said that dealers were involved in the recent increase in cement prices.