ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has approved a reduction in withholding income tax on the commercial import of white and raw sugar from 5.5pc to 0.25pc.
Finance and Revenue Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired the ECC meeting on Wednesday, a statement issued by the finance read.
The Ministry of Industries & Production had presented a summary before committee regarding the necessity of sugar import in order to lower the upward trend in sugar prices and to buffer up carryover stocks before the arrival of the fresh crop.
The ECC not only approved the reduction in withholding income tax on commercial import of white and raw sugar, but also removed value-added sales tax on the import of white sugar.
“The reduction in taxes will incentivise sugar mills for the import of 300,000MT raw sugar up to 30th June 2021,” the statement read.
The ECC directed the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to import white sugar up to 500,000MT, if and when needed, during the current season.
Among other agenda items, the forum approved the Aviation Division’s request for approval of additional funding of $35 million to Pakistan International Airline. It also okayed technical supplementary grants worth billions of rupee for the ministries of interior, law & justice, planning & development and industries & production.
However, the ECC deferred the draft Textiles and Apparel Policy, 2020-25, submitted by the Ministry of Commerce, till the next meeting for a detailed discussion.
Earlier in the meeting, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony presented a summary for scaling up the ‘Road to Makkah Pilot Project’ from Islamabad airport to two more cities — Karachi and Lahore — in order to facilitate the pilgrims under the government’s scheme.
One of the pre-conditions for scaling up of Road to Makkah Project was the grant of special exemption on the import of technical equipment in Pakistan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
The ECC decided that FBR would hold a separate consultation with the Ministry of Religious Affairs to work out the details, and that the matter would be placed before the next ECC for approval.
The communications secretary on the occasion presented a detailed National Freight and Logistics Policy (NFLP) framework before the ECC, members of which appreciated the ministry’s efforts in drawing up a comprehensive draft policy. The forum directed the communications ministry to identify and segregate actionable items that fall under its domain and place before next ECC for final approval.
Meanwhile, the ECC approved a draft policy on equity investment abroad by residents/firms, “which caters to the needs of the business community and aims to improve the ease of doing business, promote exports, facilitate resident companies in raising capital from abroad”.
The forum also approved the Ministry of National Food Security & Research’s summary to authorise TCP to make immediate arrangements for the import of 300,000MT of wheat through the tendering process as ratified by the cabinet, and to nominate PASSCO as a recipient agency for the imported wheat to replenish its stock as needed.
Moreover, the ECC approved another food ministry summary regarding the allocation of 60,000MT of wheat for Balochistan Food Department from PASSCO’s existing stock on the subsidised rate as per previous practice.
The committee decided that gas rate of Rs772/MMBTU will be applicable on Agritech and Fatima Fertilizer post-November 2020 till January 2021, as requested by the Ministry of Industries & Production.
It also accorded approval for the exemption of 17pc sales tax and 3pc additional sales tax on the import of 52 fire fighting vehicles by Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL).
Furthermore, the Ministry of Communications updated the ECC regarding progress made in conversion of National Highway Authority (NHA) loans into government loans as per last ECC held on 2nd December 2020.
The NHA requested a grant of nine months to prepare a commercially viable business plan in consultation with other ministries. NHA’s debt restructuring would be linked with the outcome of the said business plan. The request was approved by the committee.
The ECC also approved an NHA proposal that the outstanding mark-up accrued till date on all CDL/FRL on NHA would be capitalized as on 30 June 2020. There will be a moratorium on further accrual of mark-up till the finalization of the business plan.