[Business Recorder 29 November 2019] ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has increased the wheat support prices for the second time during the last two weeks to Rs 1,365 per 40 kg due to increase in cost of production.

Wheat support price was increased to Rs 1,350 per 40kg from Rs 1,300 for the next crop on November 13 for the first time and now again on Thursday a meeting of the ECC presided over by Advisor on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on the feedback that wheat production cost has gone up to Rs 1,349 per 40 kg and there was a demand from farmers and government forums including cabinet and Special Committee of the National Assembly on Agriculture, decided to increase the wheat support price to Rs 1365 per 40 kg.

The meeting also viewed a presentation from the Ministry of Finance on the government commodity operations, which had over the years resulted in a Rs 757 billion debt and liabilities and recommended for reducing the debt.

The ECC also considered a proposal from the Ministry of Energy with regard to increasing power tariff for the first quarter of the current fiscal year by 15 paisas per unit. The meeting approved proposal for notifying the National Electric Power Regulation Authority (NEPRA) approved quarterly adjustment of 15 paisas per unit after incorporating an additional charge of 11 paisas per unit for maintaining uniform tariff on all categories of consumers except lifeline and domestic consumers. The increase will be effective from December 1, 2019 for the next twelve-month billing.

A ministerial committee was also constituted with the adviser on finance in the chair with Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Abdul Razak Dawood and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar as members to review and examine existing framework of determining power tariff to make it simpler in line with the practice in mature markets.

The ECC considered a set of proposals of Power Division for risk mitigation of post-privatization of National Power Parks Management Company on fuel basket price owing to none or reduced off-take of 66 percent generation under the PPA till 2024 and cost of diversion of Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) to other sectors with workable options to mitigate the risk.

The meeting approved the proposals with a proviso that any other option that could be considered as part of the mitigation plan by the Power Division could also be taken into account and approved, if found suitable, by the ECC.

The ECC constituted an inter-ministerial committee for preparation of a policy framework for promotion of steel and iron in the country through foreign direct investment.

The ECC also constituted a committee on a request by the Ministry of Communications for converting its loans whether direct or relent, including interest accumulated up to June 30, 2019 into grant. The committee would examine the proposals and submit their recommendations to the ECC.

The ECC also took up a proposal from the Ministry of Industries and Production for a technical supplementary grant of Rs 6 billion to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) for subsidy and procurement of essential commodities, including flour, ghee/oil, rice, sugar and pulses, to be sold at a fair price to the poor segment of the society.

The ECC asked the USC to prepare within the next few days a practical and comprehensive mechanism involving use of information technology to ensure the disbursement of specific food items to the poorest of the poor.

The ECC also constituted a committee comprising adviser to prime minister on industries and production, governor State Bank of Pakistan, chairperson Benazir Income Support Program and representatives from NADRA and PPRA to advise and assist the USC to firm up their proposals and present them to ECC.