Senate body discusses soaring auto prices

By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production discussed at length the soaring prices of locally assembled cars despite claims of producers that most of the auto parts were manufactured locally.
In its meeting on Thursday, the committee consulted the Ministry of Industries and Production as well as the Engineering Development Board (EDB) on the matter and decided to invite automobile manufacturers to hear their side of the story as well prior to reaching a conclusion.
The committee was told that engine-related parts and some other critical parts, which required heavy investment and hi-tech manufacturing units, were imported while other parts including the structure, interior, exterior, suspension and brake systems were manufactured locally. The meeting was informed that car manufacturers were in the private sector and there was no legal provision available with the industries ministry and EDB to control or fix prices of automobiles in the country.
Moreover, the imposition of taxes and levies fell within the purview of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The committee was presented a biannual review of the budgetary allocation and its utilisation by the Ministry of Industries and Production with special focus on the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) allocation for 2019-20 along with details of PSDP proposals for 2020-21.
An amount of Rs14.358 billion was allocated to the ministry for 2019-20, of which about half (Rs7.526 billion) has been utilised. For the 2020-21 fiscal year, the ministry has proposed an allocation of Rs20.764 billion in the PSDP for 34 different projects. Details of the projects were shared with the committee and would be discussed in upcoming meetings.
The meeting also discussed the progress on the revival plan of Pakistan Steel Mills and payments to all retired employees within 120 days in light of a directive given to the mill’s chairman, Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders in a meeting held in October 2019.
The ministry told the committee that a number of steps had been taken to resolve the financial crisis at the steel mill along with the issue of pending salaries and dues of former employees.
The dues have now soared to Rs20.87 billion. The committee was told that a fresh summary for the said amount had been moved and proposals were being considered to develop a comprehensive plan for the settlement of dues and liabilities.