ECC reduces tax on commercial sugar imports to 0.25%; directs TCP to import white sugar

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet Wednesday approved reduction of Withholding Income Tax on commercial import of white sugar and raw sugar form 5.5% to 0.25% besides approving removal of Value Added Sales Tax on import of white sugar.

The approval was given on the presentation of summary by Ministry of Industries and Production for import of sugar with an aim to reduce upward pressure on prices of sugar and to buffer up carryover stocks before the arrival of the fresh crop.

The reduction in taxes will incentivize the sugar mills for import of 300,000 MT Raw Sugar upto 30th June 2021, said a statement issued by the Finance Ministry adding, the committee further directed Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to import white sugar upto 500,000 MT if and when needed during the current season. Minister for Finance and Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, chaired the meeting while among others, it was attended by Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Minister for Privatization Mohammad Mian Soomro, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Minister for Petroleum Omer Ayub, Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, SAPM on Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood, SAPM on Energy Nadeem Babar, Adviser to the PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr. Ishrat Hussain and Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam participated in the meeting. Governor State Bank of Pakistan Reza Baqir also participated through video link.

On the occasion, the Ministry of Religions Affairs and Interfaith Harmony presented a summary for scaling up of ‘Road to Makkah Pilot Project’ from Islamabad airport to two more cities i.e. Karachi and Lahore to facilitate Hujjaj for performing Hajj under Government Scheme. One of the pre-conditions for scaling up of Road to Makkah Project was grant of special exemption on the import of technical equipment in Pakistan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

The cabinet committee decided that FBR would hold a separate consultation with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony to work out details and matter would be placed before next ECC for approval. The cabinet committee approved the request by Aviation Division to reconstitute a high powered committee headed by the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission including Secretary Finance, Secretary Aviation and Secretary Law & justice Division to deliberate on financial challenges faced by the Roosevelt Hotel, New York, USA.

Secretary, Ministry of Communication presented a detailed National Freight and Logistics Policy (NFLP) framework before ECC, which was appreciated by the members.

The committee directed the ministry to identify and segregate actionable items which fall under its domain and place before next ECC for final approval. The proposals pertaining to other Ministries and Provinces would be considered separately under some institutional arrangement at an appropriate forum.

ECC also 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. It will also fulfill legitimate investment needs of the individuals. The committee approved summary moved by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research presented for authorizing TCP to make immediate arrangements for import of 300,000 MT of wheat through tendering process as ratified by the Cabinet and nominate PASSCO as a recipient agency for the imported wheat to replenish its stock as needed.

ECC also approved another summary by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research regarding allocation of 60,000 MT of wheat for Food Department, Balochistan from PASSCO’s existing stock on the subsidized rate as per previous practice. ECC also decided that gas rate of PKR 772/MMBTU will be applicable to Agritech and Fatima Fertilizer post November 2020 till January 2021 as requested by the Ministry of Industries and Production.

ECC accorded approval for the exemption of Sales Tax @17% and additional sales tax @3% on the import of 52 fire fighting vehicles by Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL).

Ministry of Communications updated ECC regarding progress made in conversion of National Highway Authority (NHA) loans into Government loans as per last ECC held on 02 December 2020.

NHA requested for a time period of 09 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. ECC also accorded approval of the proposal that 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.

The cabinet committee also approved various technical supplementary grants including Rs.10 million for the purchase of Spare Parts for the helicopter maintenance by HQ Frontier CORPS Balochistan; Rs.67,459,100 to Ministry of Interior for the payment to hired solicitors for pursuing cases in the UK and Rs.81.40 million to Ministry of Law and Justice for the establishment of 3 new Courts.

The committee also approved Rs.16.628 billion to the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives for the completion of 21 schemes of Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited; Rs.82.5 million for the completion of the Project titled “1000 Industrial Stitching Units all over Pakistan” by Ministry of Industries and Production and Rs.300 million for the completion of the Project titled “KA7151 Establishment of 132 KV Grid Station at Bin Qasim Industrial Park” by Ministry of Industries and Production.

A draft Textiles and Apparel Policy, 2020-25 by the Ministry of Commerce was postponed to the next ECC for a detailed discussion.