ISLAMABAD: The much-trumpeted Rs341-billion Kisan package, announced by the premier around the time of local government elections, remains largely unimplemented even months after its announcement amid parliamentarians’ concerns over limiting the scheme to Punjab and making many initiatives, which were already under implementation, part of the package.
A briefing on PM’s Kisan package to a National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance revealed half-hearted attempts that the government was making to truly enforce the scheme. The briefing further helped unearthing the gimmick government played with farmers by claiming that it announced a package worth Rs341 billion.
Out of Rs341 billion, an amount of Rs206 billion was under the heads that were either already under implementation for years or have no implication on the budget, revealed the briefing given by acting secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Dr Hashim Popalzai.
Some of the components that had implications on the budget have not been implemented yet, the briefing further showed. “It is true that there is a delay in full implementation of the Kisan package but it will be implemented at a larger scale from April this year,” said Dr Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Ministry, in response.
Meanwhile, Rao Mohammad Ajmal of the PML-N quizzed as to how could a scheme be announced at the level of Prime Minister when it was not ready for implementation. The bureaucrats are playing games with the PM, he alleged.
The premier announced the Kisan package in an attempt to mitigate financial losses sustained by farmers due to consistently rising cost of production, falling exports and tumbling international commodity prices.
The standing committee recommended the government to remove all the bottlenecks in full implementation of the package and move fast to save farmers from huge financial losses.
The acting secretary of the Food Ministry admitted that some of the initiatives announced in the previous budget were also made part of the Kisan package. He further admitted that Kisan package was shared with the provinces after its announcement.
The Rs15 billion relief in taxes had been announced four and a half months before the announcement of the package but the government added it in the scheme. Similarly, Rs14 billion relief in electricity rate for agriculture tube wells has been announced in the budget. The Rs14.5 billion for subsidy on solar tube-wells was announced in the budget but remained unimplemented.
The Secretary Finance said that a mechanism to give subsidy on tube-wells was being devised.
The crop loan insurance scheme of Rs2.5 billion was also under implementation since 2008, said the acting food secretary. The government also made Rs101 billion increase in agriculture loans to farmers part of the package, which is again not a charge on budget and was included to just increase the size of the package.
The government had announced Rs5,000 cash grant per acre to small farmers of rice and cotton crops having up to 12.5 acres of land. The acting secretary food said that cash assistance was being provided only in Punjab, as the three other provinces did not contribute the money.
Another official of the ministry said that out of Rs40 billion so far Rs23 billion had been distributed in Punjab. The other component where some progress was made was giving subsidy on phosphate and the government has so far submitted Rs10.8 billion to State Bank of Pakistan for onward distribution.
A government that gave Rs13 per kilogram subsidy to support the sugar millers is reluctant to give financial assistance to poor farmers, said Ajmal.
The acting secretary Ministry of Food said that the ministry has drafted a summary for the approval of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet to allow import of fertiliser to the private sector. PTI’s MNA Asad Umar said that the local urea manufacturers were selling their product at higher than international market rates.
Source: The Express Tribune
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