ISLAMABAD - The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of Cabinet on Friday allowed constituting a high-level negotiating committee comprising representatives of key ministries, board of investment and gas utilities to finalise the LNG import deal with Qatar.

The ECC, which met under the chair of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, has approved the summary of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources for constituting the price negotiating committee. A source informed The Nation that the move is apparently aimed at shifting the responsibility of price negotiations to all the ministries concerned, which will be involved in importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar.

The top economic decisions making body of the country decided to comprise the committee as petroleum secretary as chairman and members should include representatives of the Board of Investment, ministries of finance, law and water and power (or their nominees, not less than additional secretary), legal consultant and managing directors of Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS). The ECC approved the summary after excluding Secretary Law or his nominee from the 9-Member Price Negotiation Committee as they may become stakeholders in the process and be replaced by any legal firm for giving input regarding legal issues for the sake of upholding the transparency of the project. It may be mentioned that the Law Division will be whetting on behalf of GOP any future agreement in this regard.

The sources further informed that ministry of petroleum and natural resources wanted to include representatives of the finance ministry in the face of major challenges like negotiating a contract with consultants and arranging three-month letters of credit amounting to around $800 million. Giving the justification behind the proposal, he added fast-track LNG import from Qatar was a capital-intensive project of national importance, underlining the need for a price negotiating committee.

Meanwhile, the ECC considered and approved in principle, GOP sovereign guarantee against financing facility of Rs.17 billion from local banks for implementation of 500KV double circuit transmission line from Neelum Jhelum Hydro Power Plant to Gujranwala subject to approval of terms and conditions of borrowing by the Ministry of Finance. The project has the total cost of Rs.22,582 million including Rs.13,553 million as FEC. As per Prime Minister’s directive, first unit of 969 MW Neelum Jhelum Hydro Power Project would be operative by December 2015 for which national Transmission and Dispatch Company Limited (NTDCL) has to complete the priority portion of transmission line on or before 30th September 2015 for evacuation of power from the above said hydro power project. As NTDCL is implementing the project through its own resources, local banks have shown their willingness to provide funding against sovereign guarantee by GOP. The chair directed that the Committee formed under the chairmanship of Dr. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development to expedite work on National Energy Plan and to submit its report within the time period of two months as promised by the Committee on its inception.

On a summary submitted by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources for the allocation of Extended Well Testing (EWT) Wafiq X-I Gas to M/s Pakistan Petroleum Limited for setting up of a 50 MW Power Plant, the chair directed Secretary Petroleum and Natural Resources to take on board PPIB, Ministry of Water and Power, NEPRA and the Ministry of Law for their effective feedback and submit in the next meeting, the changes required in Power Policy 2009 for the implementation of this proposal.  The Finance Minister was informed that the committee headed by Khawaja Asif, Minister for Water and Power has prepared a draft of the Auto Industry Policy which will be submitted in the next meeting for approval. The Finance Minister on a briefing to ECC on incidental and financial cost of imported urea directed that adequate gas supply should be made available to the domestic fertilizer companies for utilising the maximum production capacities of the national fertilizer manufacturers. The Finance Minister said “using the installed capacity of the domestic fertilizer producers should be our first priority after calculating the actual demand; it will not only save the much needed foreign exchange and the amount given in subsidies but will also support and strengthen our domestic industry”.

The Finance Minister was also briefed during the ECC that the pending payments on account of Rs.2 billion subsidy for relief package of Ramadan 2014 will soon be released to Utility Stores Corporation (USC) subject to final adjustment based upon reconciled claims by cost and accounts Organisation of Finance Division. It is pertinent to mention that Finance Division had already released Rs 1 billion on 9th July to USC for Ramadan Package.

The ECC was also informed that Ministry of National Food Security and Research has released 25,000 metric tons of wheat to World Food Programme and PASSCO for displaced population of FATA and KPK from the Government of Pakistan and Rs.800 million have been released to National Food Security and Research Division for the purchase of this quantity by GOP.

The Finance Minister directed that for the quick implementation of decisions taken by the ECC the relevant Secretaries and their staff should come well-prepared and they are responsible for the timely implementation of the decisions taken on this forum.

The meeting was also attended by Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Zahid Hamid, Minister for Science and Technology, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, Khurram Dastagir Khan, Minister for Commerce, Minister for National Food Security, Abbas Khan Afridi, Minister for Textile Industry, Ms. Anusha Rehman Khan, MOS for IT and Telecom, Federal Secretaries and senior officials of the government.