Senate committee addresses TCP’s rising debts, explores trade expansion initiatives

TCP debts soar to Rs281b since 2008

ISLAMABAD   -   Senate Standing Committee on Commerce was informed on Wednesday that debts of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) have soared to Rs281 billion since 2008, with an interest of Rs160 million accruing every day.

Senator Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan chaired the inaugural session of Senate Standing Committee of Commerce held at Parliament House. The primary focus of the meeting was to take comprehensive briefing from commerce ministry and its attached departments mainly Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company, Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP), State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan, National Insurance Company Ltd, Pakistan Reinsurance Company Ltd, amongst others.

The Additional Secretary Incharge Commerce Ministry Ahsan Ali Mangi briefed the committee that the commerce ministry is mandated to regulate imports and exports and formulate trade policies for the private sector as well as to find more avenues for Pakistani products in global markets. He informed the committee that the commerce ministry has proposed nine new missions, including Malaysia, Iraq, Oman, Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique. He stated that Pakistan’s exports reached $30 billion in the FY 2023-24, marking a 13.8 percent increase from $26.8 billion in FY 2022-23. More importantly, the exports of Agriculture and Food increased from 19 percent in FY 2022-23 to 26 percent in FY 2023-24 of the total exports of the country. Moreover, the ministry has finalized protocols for the export of donkey skins to China and is also planning to include donkey meat in the list. He further added that the ministry has finalised protocols for onions, potatoes, and chilies for their export to China. Senator Anusha Rahman, Chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Commerce, asserted that Pakistan produces only one-fifth of its demand for onions, making it quite difficult to justify the export of onions to China.

Officials briefed the committee that the Transit Trade agreement with Central Asian countries, mainly Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, has been finalised. Pakistani trucks move goods worth $2.2 to $3 million every month, and the ministry expects a rapid increase in trade to the Central Asian countries. Furthermore, the committee was briefed by the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) about its operations and performance. Syed Rafeo Bashir Shah, Chairman of TCP, apprised the committee that the primary objective of TCP is to import wheat, urea, and sugar as directed by the government to stabilise domestic demand. However, in pursuit of this role, the company’s debts have soared to Rs281 billion since 2008, with an interest of Rs160 million accruing every day. The TCP is owed by the Utility Store Corporation, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, KPK food departments, and Ministry of Industries and Production. He explained that despite several requests to provincial departments, reconciliation of outstanding amounts has not been achieved. Chairman TCP emphasised that TCP’s main role is that of a procurement agent, and TCP has procured basic commodities for provincial governments upon the federal government’s direction. Jam Kamal Khan, Federal Minister for Commerce, stated that the commerce ministry is facing a ticking time bomb, and if the issue is not resolved, it could turn into another circular debt. Senator Anusha Rahman Ahmad Khan decided to refer the matter to the Senate Finance Committee for immediate resolution.

Furthermore, the committee was briefed by officials of State Life Insurance (SLIC) and National Insurance Company Limited (NICL). The CEO of SLIC apprised the committee that State Life Insurance is one of the state-owned enterprise that is profitable, and public confidence in the company has increased significantly. SLIC is committed to upholding public trust and is working with provincial governments to implement the Sehat Card nationwide, which has subsequently also improved the performance of both public and private hospitals. The committee commended SLIC’s performance and suggested that data collected by State Life Insurance could be used to analyse the performance of hospitals, both public and private. Additionally, NICL briefed the committee on its operations and performance. The CEO of NICL stated that NICL is the second-largest insurance company in the country, with a growth rate of 20.29 percent in FY 2023-24, compared to 29.66 percent growth in FY 2022-23. Moreover, NICL is among the top ten companies with the highest profit before tax, having paid Rs700 million in dividends to the federal government. The committee commended the performance of the company and extended its full support and cooperation for the future.

The meeting was attended by Senator Zeeshan Khanzada, Senator Sarmad Ali, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla, Senator Faisal Saleem Rahman, Federal Minister for Commerce Jam Kamal Khan, Additional Secretary Incharge Commerce Ministry Ahsan Ali Mangi and other senior officials of attached departments were also in attendance.

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