The Pakistan government on Monday decided to continue with the policy of duty-free and subsidised cement imports in view of ‘failure of cement manufacturers to honour their commitments’. This was stated by economic advisor Dr Ashfaq Hassan Khan after a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Mr Khan said it had now been established that the cement price hike was unjustified but said no punitive action was considered against them because the relevant summary had not proposed any action. He said the ECC noted that “there was justification for increasing the price of cement in Pakistan because there was no increase in input prices, no increase in international cement prices and there was no extraordinary demand in the country”.
“Therefore, the increase in cement prices is totally unjustified,” said Dr Khan and added that prices had gone up to Rs400 per 50-kg per bag when the government last month had allowed duty-free import of cement on subsidised freight charges.
“The information effect of the April 14 decisions of the ECC has reduced cement prices to an average Rs300 per bag as of now, although not a single bag of cement has been imported as yet,” he said.
According to him, the cement import policy would be reviewed when the average retail price declined to Rs280-282 per bag and stabilised at that level. However, in reviewing this policy, all stakeholders would be consulted and in this process cement importers would have a big say, so that importers had already opened their letters of credit for import or imports in pipeline were not affected.