The government has planned for introducing targeted subsidies at the Utility Stores for the Prime Minister Ehsaas program beneficiaries by linking their Ehsaas Cards/national identity cards with the sale points.
This was revealed by senior officials of the Ministry of Industries and Production and the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) while briefing the Senate Standing Committee. The Committee meeting was held with Syed Faisal Ali Subzwari in the chair here on Thursday, in which the members were given a detailed briefing on the functions and performance of USC. The members expressed strong reservations over the substandard items being sold at the stores.
The Committee was also informed that the government was planning to link the national identity cards/Ehsaas Cards of the beneficiaries with Utility Stores, which would only allow them to purchase items at subsidized rates. The main objective of the initiative is to make the government’s subsidy more targeted.
The Committee stressed the need for the benefits of subsidies to trickle down to the neediest. It recommended franchising.
The Ministry informed the Committee that the government planned to make these stores a targeted subsidy tool.
Reviewing the performance of Utility Stores, the Committee was of the view that stringent measures must be taken to curb pilferage, theft, and other irregularities. It also recommended that the stores must adopt the ERP [enterprise resource planning] system to keep logistics in check.
The Committee was informed that there were around 4,500 stores in the country that cover a minimal percentage of the population. The total sales at the Utility Stores remained at Rs. 114 billion with a net profit of only Rs. 0.7 billion.
USC will focus in 2021-22 on the points of sale implementing a targeted subsidy, the revamped policies and procedures in line with the best practices, automation of supply chain, finance, human resource, administration, a shift from small stores to large ones for provision of better services to customers, and centralization to achieve better control on business decisions and cost.
The Committee was told that 90 stores were running losses as they were providing facilities to the residents of far-flung areas. Over 50 units were operating in erstwhile FATA and PATA. To control the losses, the government plans to cross-subsidize goods. The Committee, on request of the Ministry, agreed to take up the issue after 90 days on completion of the computerization and barcoding exercise, crucial for the progress of the organization.
Senator Falak Naz, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Faisal Saleem Rehman, Senator Muhammad Abdul Qadir, Senator Saifullah Sarwar Khan Nyazee, Senator Hidayat Ullah, Senator Imamuddin Shouqeen, and senior officers from the Ministry of Industries and Production attended the meeting.