The Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet expressed concern on Monday over non-implementation of its decisions and observed that it was being dragged into issues outside its jurisdiction. �The overall sense of an ECC meeting was that the decisions were falling prey to the bureaucratic system,� an official said. The members were so upset over the situation that they decided to make their point of view public, albeit through a soft official statement which said: �The minister for finance, as the chairman of the committee, observed that the pace of the implementation of the decisions is slow and instructed the secretaries concerned to accelerate it.� The meeting presided over by Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh approved the sale and export of 200,000 tons of wheat currently lying with the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation to create space for the fresh stock procured from farmers. The committee decided to ban institutional investments in the National Saving Schemes (NSS) because of its higher returns, although investments by individual funds like pension, gratuity, superannuation, contributory provident funds and trusts would remain unaffected. According to sources, the committee held a prolonged discussion on the criteria on which summaries were being brought before it and on reasons for the slow pace of implementation of its decisions. It was observed that many cases which should be disposed of by the ministries or taken to the cabinet for policy decisions were also brought to the ECC. The minister expressed disappointment over lack of preparation by federal secretaries to defend their summaries as most of the questions raised by ECC members were not responded to satisfactorily, the sources said. Minister for Housing and Works Makhdoom Shahabuddin and Minister of State for Foreign and Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar also expressed disappointment over lack of implementation of ECC decisions. The summaries for disposal of Passco�s wheat stock, provision of Rs12.22 billion subsidy on urea prices and ban on institutional investment in the NSS were elaborately discussed, an official said. The sources said the committee remained at a loss about fixing fertiliser prices. �Who determines the urea prices? Is there a board or a committee or is it the private sector that controls the prices?�, a member was quoted as having asked the industries ministry. �The Trading Corporation of Pakistan and the secretaries of the ministries of industries and food and agriculture did not have an answer,� the official said. The ministry of industries and production had sought a subsidy of Rs12.22 billion on urea for the last two crop seasons and then a uniform price comparable with the private sector from now onward. The ECC was also perplexed that the price of urea imported through open tenders was much less than that of 225,000 tons imported from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) � a government-owned manufacturer of Saudi Arabia. The committee had been informed that urea had been imported through open tenders during January-July last year at Rs1,902 per 50kg against Rs2,102 of Sabic. The urea price charged by local manufacturers averages at Rs2,350.As a result, the 313,000 tons of urea imported from Sabic for Kharif 2010 involved a subsidy of Rs4.72 billion against Rs3.18 billion for 287,000 tons imported through open tenders. Another Rs4.32 billion subsidy was involved in import of 400,000 tons of urea through open tenders between June and December, taking the total amount to Rs12.22 billion. The industries ministry had also proposed to sell imported urea at official storages at Rs50 less than the domestic price to allow the dealers to absorb the transportation cost. In view of the complexities and because of an impression of vested interests, the ECC constituted a committee comprising the secretaries of finance, planning, commerce, industries and food and agriculture and the TCP chairman to submit a detailed report on the subject at the next meeting. A participant said the decision on institutional investments in the NSS should have been taken by the prime minister. The finance ministry had earlier submitted the proposal to the prime minister who had said it should be discussed by the ECC.
By: Dawn News