Just a day before the completion of its term and in preparation for upcoming general elections, the government has extended the Kissan Package by over Rs158 billion for an additional six months.
Alongside this, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, in a meeting chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, has made several key decisions, including granting a ‘single-entity’ export processing status to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) for mineral exports in Waziristan, reviving the modified SME Asaan Finance (SAAF) Scheme, and approving a ‘gradual sovereign guarantee’ for a $3.475 billion Chinese loan for a 1,200MW nuclear power plant.
The ECC meeting also endorsed the continuation of gas supply to two Punjab-based fertilizer plants belonging to the Fatima Group until October 15. Additionally, the committee approved a ‘State Support Agreement’ to provide financial assurance to the prospective foreign operator of Islamabad International Airport, which is set to be outsourced soon.
During the ECC meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar announced an extension for the financing schemes under the Kissan Package until December 31, taking advantage of the available fiscal space. These schemes, originally announced by the prime minister on October 31, 2022, had either expired on June 20 or were set to expire shortly.
The meeting noted that low disbursements under these schemes were due to a lack of awareness and banking procedures, and the extensions would not have significant fiscal implications, except for the PM Youth Business & Agriculture Loan scheme, which required financial allocations.
Furthermore, the ECC approved a proposal by the Ministry of Industries & Production regarding the North Waziristan District Single Entity Export Processing Zone for Degan Exploration Works, a subsidiary of FWO. This move aims to enhance mineral exports from the region, particularly copper.
Additionally, the ECC revived the SME Asaan Finance (SAAF) Scheme, designed to offer collateral-free lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The scheme was previously suspended for adjustments by the State Bank.
In terms of energy projects, the ECC approved the issuance of a gradual sovereign guarantee for the Chashma Nuclear Power Project Unit-5 (C-5). The project, in collaboration with China, will establish a 1,200MW plant with specific financial terms and conditions.
Lastly, in response to recommendations from the Fertilizer Review Committee, the ECC decided to extend the operating period for SNGPL-based fertilizer plants, specifically Fatima Fertilizer and Agritech, from August 31 to October 15.