KARACHI Sept 15 (TNS): Mr. Fazal Abbas Maken appointment as new Secretary of National Food Security and Research has been lauded, a press release said on Friday.
Mr.Fazal Abbas Maken has taken over the charge as the new Secretary of National Food Security and Research as he has wide ranging experience of administrative services at federal and provincial planes.
His appointment is expected to give a flip to the Government’s efforts in the sphere of national food security, as it has been focussed on agriculture development with the support of the fertilizer industry, being major contributor in this regard.
His arrival to the office, has been welcomed by fertilizer sector with high exceptions to resolve the subsidy issues, which is causing major financial challenges for the fertilizer industry, due to the long undue delays in the payment.
With this appointment, the Fertilizer industry is optimistic that the new Secretary will make concrete efforts to solve this matter on priority basis and the government will adopt a more supportive strategy to practically address the woes of this strategic industry, which is playing a key role in agricultural growth of the Country.
A more supportive strategy, applied by the government authorities, will help in the reimbursement of nearly 20 Billion Rupees that have been continuously stuck up in subsidy payments due to complexities of processes. The outgoing Secretary Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFS&R) Mr Abid Javed had promised to release all the pending amounts as per directive of Prime Minister’s Office. However, no payments have been released today. It is hoped that process initiated by him will be expedited, hence reducing the financial burden on the industry. It was decided in a high level meeting on 24th July, chaired by the Prime Minister’s Secretary – Mr Fawad Hassan Fawad, that 80 percent of the pending subsidy-claims will be immediately released and remaining twenty percent will be paid within three months. The Finance Division has already released the requisite amount. So now, there are no major hurdles in releasing these payments.
However, an unnecessary restrictive clause is still being applied in the scheme; where the government asks for National Tax Number (NTN) of every fertilizer dealer. This clause makes this scheme non-viable as it ignores the fact that; a big majority (over 90 percent) of the smaller dealers are operating in far flung areas and do not have NTNs being owners of minor businesses. Moreover, the subsidy claims are based on General Sales-Tax, which has no relationship with NTN. Hence, such a step may ultimately hamper the distribution of Urea, denying the subsidy-benefits to the farmers. The authorities are urged to timely start the external-audit process, which is required to resolve this subsidy-crisis. So, the MNFS&R must also expedite the issuance of the Terms of Reference (TORs) about this external audit of the fertilizer industry.
Although the fertilizer industry is facing numerous cash-flow challenges, these companies have acted very prudently and kept the urea prices down in the domestic market. Although, the government has promised to pay Rs. 100 per bag as subsidy, the fertilizer producers are cooperating with the government, by generously absorbing 106 rupees per bag to keep the prices low.
An official of the Fertilizer Manufacturers of Pakistan Advisory Council (FMPAC) appreciated the outgoing Secretary’s working relationship and friendly attitude and reiterated the industry’s pledge to work cohesively with the government to resolve the subsidy crisis, and stated that: “The government must appreciate that the fertilizer industry is the highest contributor to the national exchequer, as it plays a vital role in agriculture growth. The fertilizer companies have ensured uninterrupted supply of subsidized fertilizers to the farmers, despite the major cash-flow problems we are facing.”
The new Secretary is urged to find an amicable and early solution of the subsidy crisis. The Ministry of Finance, FBR, State Bank and the MNFS&R are expected to accelerate their efforts, to reduce this financial pressure and simplify the procedural complexities in the subsidy-scheme thereby ensuring the passage of benefit to the farmers.