A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet approved four major supplementary grants for security expenditures.

A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Monday approved four major supplementary grants totalling Rs38 billion for security expenditures. It also approved Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) for the staff of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

Presided over by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the meeting was attended by Minister for Industries & Production Hammad Azhar, Adviser to PM on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, SAPM on Revenue Dr Waqar Masood, SAPM Nadeem Babar and Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Dr Reza Baqir.

“The Economic Coordination Committee also approved four separate Technical Supplementary Grants for the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior for various projects during current FY 2020-21,” an official statement said.

Informed sources said the ECC approved a request of the Ministry of Defence for additional allocation Rs26.9bn technical supplementary grants for the second phase of fencing along the Pakistan-Iran border during the current fiscal year.

The ECC also approved another Rs6.2bn technical supplementary grant for recurring cost of Special Security Division (North) of Pakistan Army.

A few days ago, a similar supplementary grant of Rs16.6bn was also approved by the Economic Coordination Committee for Special Security Division (South).

These special divisions were raised a couple of years ago for fool-proof special security for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The meeting also approved allocation of Rs5bn technical supplementary grant for Internal Security Duty Allowance to the Pakistan Army.

The amount has become a regular feature of the supplementary budget for the past few years.

The flow of requests for supplementary grants at such an early stage of the fiscal year puts a question mark on the integrity of the government’s budget making exercise and normally leads to missed budget targets and higher than committed fiscal deficit, thus the need for excessive borrowing and debt-servicing cost.

Under another summary of the interior ministry, the ECC also allowed transfer of funds to the Ministry of Defence as a technical supplementary grant in the shape of logistic support for the maintenance of Cessna aircraft.

The Economic Coordination Committee also approved another summary of the interior ministry for expenditure for payment to hired solicitors for pursuing cases in the UK.

The ECC also approved a Rs53million budgetary allocation for provision of information communication technology (ICT) services at the Prime Minister Office for the PM’s Kamyab Jawan Programme. The funds would be utilised by National Information Technology Board (NITB) to provide ICT services at the PM Office during the current fiscal year.

The ECC discussed a summary of the Aviation Division for allocation of Rs12bn cash support from the federal government for VSS to about 3,500 employees of PIA.

The ECC approved in principle the VSS for PIA staff but did not approve Rs12bn demand with instructions that the offer should be made to the staff to know exactly how many employees were willing to avail the offer to ascertain the required funding.

The ECC also considered a summary presented by the Ministry of IT and Telecommunications regarding manufacturing of SIMs/Smart cards in the country and decided to set up a committee to examine the proposal and present a report for a way forward within two weeks.

Led by Minister of Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, the committee would include representatives from the Ministry of IT & Telecom., Federal Board of Revenue and Board of Investment (BOI).

The ministry of IT had advised starting local manufacturing of SIMs and smart cards to counter cyber attacks. The government has already introduced policy for manufacturing of smart phones in the country a couple of months ago.

The ECC also recommended forming a committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) to decide a timeline for export of mango and kinnow as deemed suitable by the committee after due consultations with stakeholders.

The ECC also approved a proposal of the Petroleum Division, in principal, regarding allocation of gas from Bashar X-IST to third party up to 1.0 MMCFD.

Originally published at Dawn