ISLAMABAD: The government is again launching a programme to provide tractors on subsidised prices to the farmers of all four provinces under the Benazir Tractor Scheme, The News learnt on Saturday.

The ministry of food and agriculture has submitted a summary for the upcoming meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet with Adviser on Finance Shaukat Tarin on Tuesday (Feb 10) to consider and approve guidelines for the scheme, says a summary of the Ministry of Food & Agriculture.

Under the proposed Benazir Tractor Scheme, the summary says, “about 20,000 units of both imported and local tractors with a subsidy of Rs200,000 per unit will be offered and a total subsidy of Rs4 billion for the scheme will be sought from the ECC.” The summary further requested the ECC to formulate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the scheme.

A senior official of the ministry of food & agriculture had negotiated the prospect of importing tractors with private parties, an insider told The News, adding that this time also the scheme will meet the same fate like the previous one.

The slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had launched Awami Tractor Scheme in 1997 and imported 8,000 Ursus tractors from Poland but it ended with a string of investigations and arm-twisting of tractor suppliers by Saif-ur-Rehman of Mian Nawaz Sharif government and National Accountability Bureau of President General Pervez Musharraf.

The ministry of food & agriculture had sought Rs2.1 billion from the ministry of finance for purchasing 200 bulldozers for Balochistan and 100 units for NWFP but did not get the required amount for the said procurement.

A set of various offers of the interested parties for the supply of imported units is also tagged with the summary, as the local market witnessed a shortage of over 12,000 units annually and it is bridged by importing the Completely Built Units (CBUs) from various countries, said the summary.

The provincial government of Punjab under chief minister’s agenda for promotion of agriculture sector had launched Green Tractor Scheme to provide 10,000 units to small farmers on subsidised rates. The scheme was abandoned after the provision of 3,000 units when government of Punjab refused to give further subsidy due to financial constraints.

Leading organisations of farmers have expressed concern over the scheme. The extra burden on the tractor manufacturers in Pakistan will hurt the quality of products due to the easy-money phenomenon oozing out of government’s love for poor farmers of the country, they added.

“The policy makers in the ECC of the cabinet and financial wizard of the PPP government must make the system transparent and foolproof by not repeating the faults of last scheme implemented in 1997,” an official of the ministry of food & agriculture wishing not to be named told this correspondent.

Local manufacturers are rolling out 55,000 units annually and around 11,000 tractors are imported to meet the demand.