LAHORE: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Wednesday allowed the private sector to import 0.5 million tonnes of white sugar and cotton from India.
This was announced by Finance Minister Hammad Azhar while addressing a presser at the Press Information Department (PID). “The basis of our decisions will be the interest of the country and its people,” he maintained, adding that Pakistan is importing cotton from all over the world except India, which is hurting the small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) sector.
The finance minister said that the country will import cotton from India starting June this year.
Previously, cotton, yarn and sugar imports were allowed from all countries except India.
According to details, the government has decided to let the private sector import 0.5 million metric tonnes of sugar from India, lifting a nearly two-year-old ban.
“In comparison, there’s a Rs15 to Rs20 difference in the price of sugar in the two countries. The price of the commodity in India is lower than what it is in Pakistan and this is the reason behind the decision,” Azhar explained.
According to a local media report, dealers said that Pakistani buyers have already started making inquiries about buying Indian sugar and cotton, which is being offered at lower prices than supplies from other countries.
The minister also announced to slash the price of petrol and diesel by Rs1.5 per litre and Rs3 per litre, respectively.
The finance minister further said that the government will soon release sukuk bond, but declined to issue a release date as of now. “Pakistan is witnessing stability in the current account deficit and foreign exchange reserves,” he observed.
The reserves of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) before the PTI government came into power, he said, were based on borrowed money. “After we came into power, this money was cleared and an increase of Rs9 billion was seen in the reserves.”
The minister said that the Pakistani currency is not dependant on dollars anymore.
Answering a question about the recently promulgated bill to make the central more autonomous, he said it had been drafted while keeping in view the “world’s best practices”.
Azhar said the government will present it to the Parliament for debate and ensure that all stakeholders are heard on the matter. “The Parliament is sovereign, no other institution in the country is sovereign,” he said, adding that if the government felt there is a need to revise the bill, it would “with an open mind and an open heart”.
Moreover, the ECC meeting fixed the minimum support price for wheat at Rs1,800 per 40 kg which Azhar termed as a “relief for our farmer brothers”.