April 08, 2014
Ministry of Commerce (MoC) and Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P) have been directed by National Assembly”s Standing Committee on MoI&P to send the case of sugar subsidy to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for a detailed investigation.
Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, under the leadership of the then Finance Ministers Dr Hafeez Sheikh and Saleem Mandviwalla, had approved billions of rupees of financial incentives for a politically-influential sugar industry through the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Commerce Ministry with the consent of the MoI&P.
The sources said MoI&P has received recommendations of the committee on the issue of sugar subsidy from the Standing Committee secretariat last week; Secretary Industries and Production, Shafqat Naghmi confirmed that he received a letter on April 7, 2014. The committee discussed this scam in its meeting on March 17, 2014 but its minutes were signed on April 4, 2014.
Though, Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf has not accepted Chaudhry Qamar Zaman as Chairman NAB, its stalwart, Asad Umar, forcefully recommended that this case should be handed over to the anit-graft body. “The committee was of the view that the government has not provided complete information regarding a subsidy provided on sugar, therefore the committee recommended to furnish the said matter to NAB,” sources quoted the Standing Committee as saying in writing.
Secretary Ministry of Commerce, Qasam Niaz and Secretary MoI&P, Shafqat Naghmi while talking to Business Recorder said the MoI&P has respect for the directions of the Standing Committee. Talking to Business Recorder, Asad Umar said he had asked the concerned Ministries to produce the record of sugar subsidy in the Standing Committee meeting from day one, and accused them of showing reluctance to bring the record because “big people” were benefiting from the schemes approved by the ECC.
Analysts have expressed reservations over the possibility of MoI&P and/or MoC handing over the record to NAB against a politically-powerful sugar mill lobby. Incumbent Commerce Minister Engineer Khurram Dastgir had also investigated “sugar subsidy scam” during the PPP government. Sources in Commerce Ministry told Business Recorder that caretaker Minister for Commerce and Textile Industry Maqbool H H Rehmatoola had imposed a ban on the release of inland subsidy on export of sugar.
The sources said ECC in its meeting on March 6 had approved inland subsidy of Rs 1.75 per kg on 1.2 million tons of sugar. Earlier, the ECC meeting presided over by the then finance minister, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, had approved Rs 8 billion incentives on export of 1.2 million tons of sugar on summaries prepared by the Commerce Ministry and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). However, an SRO issued by the FBR favoured only sugar mills of Sindh zone. Courtesy Recorder