July 15, 2014
National Assembly”s Standing Committee on Commerce was informed on Monday that Pakistan cannot import cheap urea from Iran because of restrictions on petroleum-related products but India is free to import Iranian urea. This was disclosed by Chairman Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), Rizwan Ahmad during a presentation to the committee. Minister for Commerce, Engineer Khurram Dastgir also attended the meeting.
The Chairman TCP maintained that urea is from the family of petroleum products and Pakistan is not allowed to import any such product from Iran. He said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is holding meetings to streamline bilateral trade with Iran. When the issue of urea import came under discussion, Minister for Commerce, Khurram Dastgir said the role of the Commerce Ministry is limited only to import, adding that other matters are dealt with by Ministry of Industries and Production and its attached department, ie, National Fertilizer Marketing Limited (NFML).
He, however, revealed that import or export of much needed commodities have lately landed in the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet due to which vulnerable sections of society do not benefit from government decisions. He said there should be a proper mechanism for import and export of commodities in time. “The government is evaluating different options including timing of export or import of commodities so that people can benefit,” he maintained.
The Commerce Minister also sought the opinion of the standing committee about the future of cotton procurement centres as, according to him, TCP has not been involved in cotton procurement operation since 2009. Standing Committee Chairman Siraj Muhammad Khan said that if these centres are not generating funds, there is no need to hold onto them. Some of the members of standing committee proposed that the government should give cotton procurement centres to private sector.
Chairman TCP informed the committee that he has already started revamping the godowns at Port Qasim Authority (PQA) and requested the Chairman PQA to get TCP godowns on rent. The commerce minister also sought collective wisdom of the standing committee on future of TCP”s regional office is Gwadar which is only meant to handle urea import as no other activity is currently ongoing at Gwadar Port.
The minister maintained that the cost of regional office is too high besides other issues which he did not mention. Chairman TCP informed the committee that six sugar mills did not allow lifting of 7,400 MT sugar procured in 2007-08 despite receiving the entire payment. He said the TCP cannot pay more than Rs 100,000 to the lawyer due to which the issue is pending in litigation. He said TCP has imported wheat since 2009.
Earlier, Secretary Commerce informed the committee that a summary has been sent to the Prime Minister for appointment of Chairman State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan. He said, Islamabad High Court had declared the notifications of 28 public sector entities null and void. However, the government has filed an appeal against the decision. He said the Commerce Ministry has amended SLIC Rules in consultation with Ministry of Law and Justice so as to run daily affairs of the organisation.
In reply to a question, representatives of SLIC informed the committee that railway passengers” insurance scheme has been abandoned. They maintained that accidental death insurance scheme of Rs 100,000 has been launched in Punjab and KPP as pilot project. Federal government is also considering launching insurance scheme for critical diseases.