ISLAMABAD - While terming the revival of Pakistan Steel Mills a serious issue, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Thursday once again failed to decide its fate as the industrial complex has almost come to a halt.

However, the ECC directed the Finance Ministry to release 45 days salaries of workers of PSM against their due salaries of around 120 days. The ECC which met under chairmanship of Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar once again failed to decide the fate of Pakistan Steel Mills. Sources revealed ECC considered several options for restructuring of PSM, but failed to take a decision before its privatisation as already decided by the government.

The ECC once again constituted a committee consisting of Privatisation Commission chairman and officials of Ministry of Industries to work together and come out with a reasonable proposal.

Pakistan Steel Mills has almost come to a halt as it is running at less than 2 percent capacity and its employees have not been paid salaries since October.

The finance minister gave a categorical assurance at the ECC meeting that the interest of workers shall be protected in any future arrangement at all costs.

Meanwhile, the meeting decided that both imported and locally manufactured urea would be sold to farmers at a uniform price of Rs 1,786 per bag with immediate effect. To ensure the uniformity of prices, the government will bear a subsidy of Rs 741 per bag as the present estimated cost of imported urea is Rs 2,527/per bag.

This will not only eliminate a source of corruption but also save farmers from exploitation of middlemen, besides providing relief to the common man. The meeting was told that average cost of 150,000 tons presently being unloaded at the port and another 100,000 tons expected to dock on January 19 was estimated at Rs 2,527 per bag.

The ECC at its last meeting had deferred the decision on concessionary gas sale price to Engro Fertiliser by Sui Northern Gas due to absence of opinion of the Law Division. The matter had been referred to the ECC by the Ministry of Petroleum.

In the light of the recommendations of the Law Division and recommendations of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, it was decided that the concessionary period of 10 years be extended by the number of days for which SNGPL could not supply gas for operation of the plant.

The ECC reviewed the present policy of exports to Afghanistan under which facility of rupee had been allowed to that country. The Ministry of Commerce, with the concurrence of FBR and the Khyber Paktunkhwa Chamber of Commerce president, recommended that this facility be discontinued as it is causing loss of US $ one billion foreign exchange to Pakistan.

The ECC confirmed the decision of the finance minister taken on January 8, 2014, that after March 17, 2014, payments against exports to Afghanistan would no longer be possible in Pak rupee and the normal trading regime would apply.

The current restriction (of allowing export of cement only) to Afghanistan from Ghulam Khan Customs check post will be removed, thereby enabling export of all permissible items through it. The facility is being provided to encourage exports and encourage economic activity in the backward areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The ECC considered the summary submitted by the Revenue Division on withdrawal of concession of custom duty on import of BOPET Film-SRO 565(1)/2006 by a committee constituted under the chairmanship of secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production, with secretary, Commerce, and chairman FBR as members to carry out a comprehensive study in the matter and bring a proposal based on consensus among all concerned before the ECC.

The ECC decided that concessionary rate of customs duty provided to flexible packaging industry and gypsum board industry to import BOPET film at 5% may be withdrawn. Withdrawal of concessionary rate of duty will mean that the customs duty on import of BOPET film by these industries will be 20% and concessions available to metallic yarn industry and magnetic strip/scratch cards industry should continue as it is, because withdrawal of concession to these industries would adversely affect cascading of the tariff structure. However, misuse of concession to metallic yarn and magnetic cards industries be avoided by observing strict allocation of quota based on survey of the registered manufacturers and post-import performance verification through sales tax returns.

The ECC, on a summary moved by the Ministry of Defence, approved providing sovereign guarantee of US $26,805,444 in favour of M/s China Electronics and Technology Corporation (CWTC) Beijing, China, to pay back loan in seven years, including two years grace period.

The water and power secretary informed the ECC that CDWP had approved proposal for Jamshoro Power Plant to be fueled by coal and construction of the power project, which would be presented before the ECNEC at its next meeting for its approval.

The ECC decided to approve the standardized security agreements (project agreements) for Up-Front Tariff regime-based wing energy projects under Policy for Development of Renewable Energy for Power generation 2006 following Nepra’s upfront tariff determination. AEDB was also authorised to approve any project-specific amendments, in the standardized security agreement (project agreements) for upfront tariff regime-based wind energy projects which do not increase GoP’s financial and contingent liability beyond those stipulated in the project agreements.

The Ministry of Water and Power placed a summary before the ECC for gas pricing issues of the Liberty Power Limited (TNB) 235 (MW).

The ECC decided to amend its original decision as under:

“The Qadirpur gas price for sale to Liberty Power Plant Limited be fixed equal to 67.50% of the weighted average of a basket of crude oil import during 6 months, which shall be notified on six-monthly basis as per mechanism prevalent for fixation of well head gas price of other fields.”

This will remove discrimination towards TNB. The decision has been taken after consultation with all stakeholders.