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NA body on finance deplores procedure, delay in forming ZTBL board

By Our Correspondent
July 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: While severely grilling the top guns of Ministry of Finance for several years delay for constitution of Zarai Taraquati Bank Limited (ZTBL) Board, the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee on Finance on Thursday directed to special secretary Finance to intervene and submit summary for approval of board members to prime minister at earliest.

The NA Standing Committee on Finance met under Chairmanship of Faizullah MNA from ruling party PTI here at the Parliament House on Thursday in which the Committee deplored over procedural delays and directed the special secretary to intervene the matter and summary for the formulation of ZTBL’s Board may be tabled before the prime minister at the earliest for smooth and effective working of the Bank.

Special secretary Finance stated that the country’s growth heavily dependent upon agriculture sector and every effort would be made to ensure that ZTBL board would be constituted at earliest.

However, chairman of the committee inquired that why the ZTBL board was not formed during the last seven years upon which Ministry of Finance officials gave various excuses that caused delay but the committee members were not convinced with their arguments.

Earlier, Sohail Rajput, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Finance shared reasons for delay regarding formulation of Zarai Taraquati Bank Limited (ZTBL) Board, saying that the proposed nominations were sent to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for necessary actions including security clearance for last more than two months and they are still awaiting for clearance.

The chairman of the committee severely criticised that Cabinet was holding meetings regularly on every week but Ministry of Finance did not bother to bring these issues before the Cabinet.

The members of the committee were of the view that there was more than 40 percent reduction in loans of ZTBL and at this point in time immediate measures are required for providing relief to agriculture sector amid locust attack. The members of the committee said that ZTBL was being run on ad-hoc basis and Ministry of Finance policies have been causing harm to the bank.

Regarding FBR’s collection target, the FBR’s Member IR Policy Dr Hamid Ateeq Sarwar testified before the parliamentary committee that the FBR would achieve its envisaged target of Rs4,963 billion without imposing taxes and taking harsh measures.

Member Inland Revenue (Policy) Dr Hamid Ateeq Sarwar said that the revenue target was achievable on the basis of nominal growth (GDP growth plus inflation). The meeting was informed that in last fiscal year around 32 percent increase in sale tax collection was recorded and this year again around 30 percent increase in sale tax collection is expected to be achieved through use of technology. The meeting was also informed that withdrawal of zero rating regime for export oriented sector in the last fiscal year mobilized Rs188 billion whereas refund payment was Rs112 billion. The official of FBR said that FASTER Software contributed for improvement of refund payments.

The Committee offered Fateha on sad demises of the officers and officials of FBR during current pandemic of COVID-19 and admired the role of Shahuda. The Committee further recommended that special package should be provided to the families of 31, Shahuda of FBR, died during service, recently.

The Committee directed the Chairman, FBR to provide incentives to FBR employees those have worked hard during budget 2020-21. The committee was also briefed on the refunds issued by the FBR.

Member (IR) shared the details of the refunds issued to exporters during current fiscal year. The Committee also directed to furnish the details of pending refunds before 2014. Dr Sania Nishter, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection briefed the Committee about the Ehsaas Programme launched by the government for distribution of funds to vulnerable families in Pakistan, during current pandemic of COVID-19. She expressed the procedure of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Project, wherein, 16.9 million families would be catered by providing Rs12000/- per family (one time). She also shared the international practices with regard to cash transfer programme. She said that unconditional cash transfer programme have much lower cost per beneficiary than in kind of food distribution.

She explained the salient features of Ehsaas infrastructure leveraged for emergency cash. The Committee highly appreciated and admired the role of Dr Sania Nishter on her devotion and effective working for Pakistan and assured her its full cooperation in this regard.

The Committee members have expressed their concern about the functioning of USC, however, the Committee unanimously decided that an exclusive meeting would be called shortly to discuss the subsidy given by the USC to the common people and Rs50 billion package allocated to USC by the government. Some members said that when the sugar was being sold in the market at Rs70 per kg, USC procured sugar at Rs79 per kg and stated that USC subsided commodities were being sold at different shops of Faisalabad.

Umar Lodhi said that a large number of ghost employees were nabbed and added that computerisation of the USC was the only way to fix the functioning of USC. He said that USC got only Rs10 billion from the announced money during the last fiscal year.

The meeting was informed that out of 4000 USC, none was computerised with high ups of USC claimed that by December USC would achieve breakeven level as payables have been reduced significantly during the one year.