Locations for CPEC industrial zones being identified; National Assembly body told

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Islamabad: Secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production (MoI&P), Arif Azim has said that the Ministry has started the process to identify locations for country-wide industrial zones to be established under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. He shared this information with the members of Standing Committee on Industries and Production which met with Asad Umar in the chair in the committee room of the Ministry. Minister for Industries and Production.

Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi did not attend the meeting due to other prior engagements. Commenting on the controversy with respect to industrial zones or special economic zones, Asad Umar said that the government is talking about CPEC for the last two years and seven months but he still does not know where industrial zones will be established. Asad Umar, who is extending support to KP government in industrial sector, maintained that there is zero consultations with the “Pathans” on CPEC projects.

The committee did not go into details of proposed industrial zones being considered by the under pressure federal government. However, Secretary MoI&P spoke very little on the subject. “In house, planning is underway in the Ministry of Industries and Production to identify the locations for industrial zones,” he added. The committee also discussed the PSDP allocations for the ongoing fiscal year (2015-16) and next fiscal year 2016-17 and expressed serious reservations on allocation of Rs 22.9994 billion for the current fiscal year and projected allocation of Rs 22.773 billion in 2016-17.

The committee members including the standing committee Chairman argued that Rs 22 billion is being given to Punjab whereas the share of other provinces and FATA is neglected. One of the committee members, Muzammal Qureshi, registered his protest on the PSDP’s allocations. The committee was informed that out of Rs 22.7 billion Rs 21 billion is being allocated for the Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) which according to Secretary MoI&P is a national asset.

“The HMC is a national asset, we cannot say it is a province specific project. We are trying to turn it around. We need to save the HMC,” Azim added. The Secretary Industries, however, failed to sell arguments to the committee members as opposition members opposed heavy allocations to the HMC meant for up-gradation whereas treasury members opted to remain silent.

The government is making efforts to upgrade the HMC to develop local design and engineering capabilities for complete power plants. Presently, the HMC has won boiler contracts for two power projects. Asad Umar argued that he was not against the revival of the HMC but national resources should be given evenly. He pointed out that the PSM is also a national asset which is shut for the last seven months and the government is not giving money to revamp it.

The committee recommended that the PSDP allocations for projects be undertaken by the Ministry of Industries and Production should be based on National Finance Commission (NFC) awards. The Standing Committee also discussed issues being faced by the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) with respect to taxes. The chairman standing committee argued that tax amnesty scheme announced for the private sector should also be extended to the USC which is paying 4 per cent turnover tax on sale and purchase.

“It seems very unfair that state institutions pay much higher rates due to the scheme. Demand of equitability is that whatever rate is applicable to the private sector should also be given to the USC,” he added. If the tax amnesty scheme is applied to the USC, its turn over tax will be around 0.5 per cent, which is much lower as compared to the current tax. The committee recommended to the Finance Ministry that rate of tax on USC should be at par with the private sector. The committee further recommended that Rs 1 billion should be allocated for skill development.

The Chairman Standing Committee also decided to write a letter to Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for not sending any officer to update the committee on the inquiry into sugar inland subsidy case. During the meeting, briefing was given by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC), about the functioning of the Company and issues of salaries of its employees.

Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi proposed that the government also focus on FATA which is rich in marble and granite. The committee discussed “The Factories (Amendment) Bill, 2016″ (Amendments in sections 2 & 33Q, Act XXV of 1934) {moved by Ms Asiya Naz Tanoli, MNA}” and Scrutiny of the budgetary proposals of the Ministry, regarding the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for the Financial Year 2016-17. Members, who attended the meeting, included Isphanyar M Bhandara, MNA, Chaudhry Riaz-ul-Haq, MNA, Muhammad Muzammil Qureshi, MNA, Maulana Muhammad Gohar Shah and Iftikhar-ud-din.