ISLAMABAD - Senate Standing Committee on Economic Affairs was informed that following Covid-19 the government of Pakistan was able to reschedule $3,686 million of bilateral debt under debt service suspension initiative offered by G20 countries.

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Economic Affairs was held on Friday at Parliament House, Islamabad. Chaired by Senator Faisal Saleem Rehman, the meeting was attended by Senator Muhammad Akram, Senator Manzoor Ahmed, Senator Atta Ur Rehman and senior officers of the Ministry of Economic Affairs along with all concerned.

The Committee was briefed regarding the role, performance, mandate and functions of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. It also reviewed budgets, external debt and liabilities and details of multilateral and bilateral development partners. Steps taken by the Ministry to provide legislative cover to NGOs receiving foreign funding in the light of the Sindh High Court judgment was discussed as well. 

The Committee was informed that the Ministry’s mandate revolved around external public debt management and establishment and administration of Joint Economic Commissions to create platforms to promote bilateral economic cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, agriculture, industry, education, health, transport and communication and financial assistance. While being briefed on Pakistan technical assistance program, the committee was informed that foreign students attend programs offered by HEC recognised universities. During the discussion, the committee enquired whether foreign students attending madaris in Pakistan are also part of this program wherein the committee was informed that they weren’t part of it. Following this the committee directed that the ministry should work on inclusion of foreign students undertaking religious education at madaris in Pakistan and Pakistani students taking Islamic courses abroad and inform the committee on the progress made in this regard.

While deliberating on agenda item (ii) pertaining to legislative cover to the NGOs receiving foreign funding in the light of the Sindh High Court judgment, the committee was informed that EAD only deals with NGOs receiving foreign funding. Moreover committee was apprised that out of a total of 16,000 NGOs only 1,000 receive foreign funding and fall under the purview of the Economic Affairs Division. The Committee directed that details of these 1,000 NGOs should be shared with it.

While elaborating on public debt, the committee was informed that multilateral and bilateral were most preferred sources as they had lower mark up and longer repayment plan. Lastly the committee enquired if EAD had any role in financing of flood relief wherein it was informed that EAD is not a recipient of aid, charity or relief it only deals with debt. Furthermore, the committee enquired if there was any proposal to seek some relaxation in debt repayment and was informed that based on expert opinion it was not suitable as Pakistan was already availing debt rescheduling in bilateral loan repayment and multilateral institutions don’t offer such relaxations.