PM Khan wants to ease setting up of “private farm markets”

By Staff Reporter
Wednesday – February 10, 2021
ISLAMABAD: The prime minister (PM) Imran Khan, Tuesday, tasked provincial governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) to present an implementable plan for increasing number of farmer markets, allowing private sector to establish their own markets and rationalisation of the regulatory regime with a shift towards compliance regime, doing away with the condition of obtaining a no objection certificate (NOC) from the government for setting up farm-market.

According to a press release, the decision was taken during a high level meeting chaired by the PM to review the progress of administrative measures for bringing down prices of essential commodities.

PM Khan tasked the provincial chief secretaries to present a comprehensive plan for rationalisation of wheat grinding ratio to enhance production of flour, on one hand, and to bring down flour prices on the other.

He expressed serious concern over the existing price difference at wholesale and retail level, varying even at district level.

PM Khan observed that existence of huge price difference at the two levels pointed towards weak implementation mechanism and inefficient regulatory mechanism.

He observed that limited number of farmers’ markets in the major cities was one of the causes of exploitation of farmers, undue profits being made by the middlemen and resultant price hike that adversely affected the poor.

PM Khan took serious notice of the complaints of non-adherence to officially determined price list of essential commodities, at retail level, and directed that strict action be taken against violators.

The chief secretaries briefed the meeting about action taken against various flour mills over violations including less grinding of wheat released by the provincial governments.

The PM inquired from Sindh chief secretary about the reports of release of 6 years old 32,000 tons wheat which was unsuitable for consumption.

The federal ministers, advisors, provincial ministers and senior officials were present during the meeting.

The provincial chief secretaries of four provinces attended the meeting via video link.

Separately, the federal cabinet expressed serious concerns over the report, Tuesday, according to which Sindh government released 32,000 tons of wheat that was a 6 years old stock and unfit for human consumption.

According to a press release, the PM chaired the meeting of the cabinet in the federal capital.

The cabinet noted that Sindh did not release wheat timely for public need and did not share wheat and sugar stock position with the federal government which resulted in artificial price hike and issues of hoarding, on one hand, and wastage of available wheat stock that could have been utilised for public good.

The cabinet was apprised about the updated status of actions taken pursuant to sugar enquiry committee report.

It was informed that several sugar mills had approached courts of law and action is underway after completion of court proceedings.

The cabinet was informed that the national accountability bureau (NAB) was looking into the issue of subsidies.

The forum approved Tax Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2021. The amendments are aimed at facilitating transaction under digital Roshan Pakistan scheme.

It was apprised that $500 million have been transacted through digital Roshan Pakistan scheme so far.

The task force on information technology (IT) and telecom chairman briefed the cabinet about progress made for development of IT and telecom sector.

The cabinet was updated on vacant positions of heads/chief executive officers (CEOs) of public sector organisations. It was informed that since 2018, 56 heads/CEOs have been appointed to public sector organisations in a merit based and transparent manner.

The meeting was informed that at present 86 posts of heads/CEOs were vacant.

PM Khan expressed displeasure over the vacant positions and directed establishment division secretary to furnish a report before the cabinet citing reasons for delay in appointments.

The cabinet was apprised about federal capital’s metro bus project. The national highway authority (NHA) chairman informed that infrastructure work has been completed and the project is ready to be handed over to the capital development authority (CDA).

The interior minister was tasked by the cabinet to present a road-map for handing-over of the project from NHA to CDA and the operationalisation plan.

The cabinet accorded approval for mutual legal assistance requests from non-treaty countries.

The forum approved appointment of chief metropolitan officer (CMO) as federal capital’s metropolitan corporation administrator for 6 months or till the time new local government setup is in place, whichever is earlier.

The cabinet approved establishment of 30 additional accountability courts in implementation of Supreme Court’s orders. These courts are to be established in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Sukkur, Hyderabad and Quetta.

PM Khan directed that first phase of establishment be completed on priority.

The cabinet approved appointment of Masroor Khan as chairman of oil and gas regulatory authority (OGRA).

The forum accorded approval for three months’ extension of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA 2010). The existing agreement is due to expire on February 11, 2021.

The cabinet was briefed about the measures taken to control smuggling at Pakistan-Iran and Pakistan-Afghanistan borders.

The forum ratified decisions taken in economic coordination committee (ECC) meeting held on February 3 and 8, 2021; and cabinet committee on energy meeting held on February 4 and 8, 2021.

The cabinet was briefed on negotiations held with independent power producers (IPPs).

It was informed that the government will benefit to the tune of Rs. 800 billion over a period of 20 years.

It was apprised that the present government is clearing a liability of approximately Rs. 400 billion after pre-audit.

The cabinet was apprised that a high level committee has been established comprising of two Supreme Court judges and the auditor to decide on the disputed amount of Rs. 57 billion claimed by IPPs.

The forum was informed that as a result of negotiations, the government saved Rs. 32 billion against an adjudicated claim of Rs. 92 billion by IPPs.

It was clarified that the government has not surrendered any of its rights in the negotiations process.

The cabinet was informed that the process will result in a direct benefit of reduction in energy prices for the consumers.The forum appreciated efforts of the negotiations committee.

PM Khan directed that unscheduled load shedding should not be practiced in any part of the country and directed energy minister to conduct in-depth investigations for load-shedding occurring due to technical reasons.

The cabinet accorded approval for exemption of public procurement regulatory authority (PPRA) regulations for import of 300,000 tons wheat and 500,000 sugar.

PM Khan apprised the meeting that relevant ministries have been directed to present proposals for reducing the burden of indirect taxes, particularly on food items in order to provide relief to the masses.