Daily "Layalpur Post"

Senate body directs for early completion of CPEC projects in Balochistan

The Special Committee on the Project of China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Friday discussed in detail CPEC Projects in Balochistan and directed the concerned authorities to complete all the ongoing projects on priority.

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12, 2021(APP):The Special Committee on the Project of China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) on Friday discussed in detail CPEC Projects in Balochistan and directed the concerned authorities to complete all the ongoing projects on priority. The Committee showed concern regarding delay in projects and stressed the need for maintaining timelines if progress is to be made. The meeting also considered and adopted the second interim report and the final report of the committee on CPEC.

The meeting was convened by Senator Sikander Mandhro and was attended by Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar, Senator Muhammad Akram, Senator Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi, Senator Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Nasar and senior officers of the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives (PD&SI) & Board of Investment (BOI), along with all concerned.

While discussing recommendations made in previous meetings; the committee took strong note of delayed responses from the ministries and departments. It also pointed out overlapping responsibilities; which was recognised as the main reason for slow progress of projects. Deliberating over the briefing made by the ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives regarding CPEC Projects in Balochistan; the committee was informed that four socio-economic projects have been completed so far, that included the Gwadar Smart City Master Plan, HUBCO Coal Power project, Surab-Hoshab Highway and Hoshab-Gwadar Motorway.

The Committee while discussing details of these projects showed grave concern regarding the Surab- Hoshab Highway. It was asserted that the road had already collapsed and was incredibly unfit for heavy vehicles as would be in the case of CPEC. About the Hoshab- Gwadar Motorway; the committee questioned NHA for its discretion and said it was not a motorway and that the committee was being misled. Reviewing the HUBCO Coal Power Project the Committee was of the view that in most cases such installations are designed to use imported raw material. It asserted that modifications must be made to use indigenous raw material that would conserve foreign exchange, essential for economic stability.

The Committee rejected the idea of barricading Gwadar and said that it was a ploy to dislocate the local population. It also objected to the bifurcation of Balochistan on the basis of North and South. Ongoing projects that were discussed included the New Gwadar International Airport, Eastbay Expressway, ML-4 Railway Project from Gwadar to Sukkur via Basima and Fresh Water Supply and Treatment Plants. Development of ML-4, was termed a strategy to cut off Gwadar from the rest of Balochistan.

The committee showed immense dissatisfaction with the management of the projects and the briefing given by the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives. The Convener also showed displeasure due to non-availability of the senior officers of the Ministry and the concerned departments. Therefore, the committee took serious notice and decided to defer the remaining agenda item, as any further discussion on these projects would be a waste of time.

Over 62 FMCs established for 9 agriculture business & value chain

ISLAMABAD, Feb10, 2021(APP,LPP): Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Provincial Government of Balochistan have established 62 Farmers Marketing Collectives (FMCs) for 9 different agriculture business and value chain in order to promote the agriculture and livestock sectors in most underdeveloped districts of the province. The initiative was aiming at to improve living standers of most vulnerable farm families of under privileged districts of the province through enhancing livelihood opportunists and addressing malnutrition issues particularly in women and children by introducing interventions in agriculture and livestock value added sectors.

The interventions were made under Australia Balochistan Agribusiness Program (AusABBA) Phase-II, initiated from 2017 to 2020 which had benefited 6,260 households comprising on 56,245 men and women in 09 different agri-businesses including onion production and processing, dates, grape production and processing. They were also provided training for the developments of fruit plant nurseries, vegetable seedlings, poultry and wool production and processing. The program was started between 2012 to 2020, received financial assistance from the Australian government and helped improved the household incomes for more than 23,000 households in the south-west Balochistan.

Besides The program also helped to establish for 21 mutual marketing organizations (MMOs), which were registered with the agriculture cooperatives department as cooperatives and legal entities. In order to address the malnutrition issues in women and children as well as economically empowering the women form these districts, about 5,440 female farmers were trained for integrated household food system, besides providing inputs and training to 837 beneficiaries on wool production and processing. In order to exploit backyard poultry farming potential of the province, 88 household consisting over 792 females were provided with poultry chicks, poultry management trainings and others, besides providing inputs and training to 139 women in 15 households for vegetable seedlings production.

FAO under the program had also responded to the increased levels of food insecurity in Balochistan due to Covid-19 by initiating a household food production and experimental nutrition education intervention through which families that have pregnant or lactating mothers are trained under the Integrated Household Food Systems.

Pakistan must exploit huge potential for reconstruction of Libya: Nominated Ambassador

FAISALABAD, Feb 5, 2021 (APP): Pakistan must exploit the huge potential for reconstruction of Libya after protracted civil war in that country, said Major General (retired) Rashad Jeved Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military) nominated Pakistani Ambassador for Libya. He visited Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) along with former Pakistani Ambassador in Libya Major General (retired) Sajid Iqbal Paracha.

The nominated Ambassador said that he will try to arrange a delegation of Libyan businessmen in order to facilitate them to have direct interaction with Pakistani exporters. He presented comprehensive documentary about Libya and said that after protracted civil war unified elections are expected on December 24, this year. It will usher a new era of reconstruction with an estimated cost of 100 billion dollars, out of which 40 billion dollars have been earmarked for the battered health sector.

He said that Libya imports almost 80 percent commodities for their domestic use and Pakistan can fulfill its needs for agriculture, cereals and textile products in addition to exporting its human resources. He said, “During the tenure of Gaddafi 150,000 Pakistanis were working in Libya and still we can export our skilled manpower for that country in order to get maximum foreign remittances from them.”

Regarding law and order situation, he said that it is not as bad as projected by media, adding that Pakistani investors, exporters must establish their links with Libyan business community as after election of December 24, investors from all over the world would rush to that country. He proposed that Pakistani exporters should establish their display center to promote “Made in Pakistan” products in Libya and its adjoining African countries.

Responding to a question, about banking system in Libya, he said it was divided into two parts, however, now the rival groups have agreed to establish a central bank. Similarly, they have also linked Libyan Dinar with dollar based economy. He said that no foreigner can purchase land in Libya. However, they could get lease through their Libyan partner. He said that there are two free economic zones and investors were earlier allowed to send 60 percent of their profit outside country but now this law has been changed and 100 percent profit could be repatriated.

Major General (retired) Sajid Iqbal Paracha, President FCCI Engineer Hafiz Ihtasham Javaid also addressed the function. Later, Engineer Ihtasham Javaid presented FCCI memento to Major General (retired) Rashad Jeved while SVP Chaudhry Talat Mahmood handed over a souvenir to Major General (retired) Sajid Iqbal Paracha.

Online textile expo in Pakistan looking forward to more Chinese visitors

BEIJING, Feb. 2, 2021(APP,LPP): The first international virtual exhibition in Pakistan, which is also known as Texpo, kicks off on Monday is looking forward to more Chinese buyers and visitors. The Texpo is scheduled to last five days, operating 24 hours for the convenience of buyers and visitors. In Pakistan, textile comprises 62% of export revenues and employs about 40% of the industrial labor force. Zameer Soomro from TDAP, the organizer of the Texpo, told China Economic Net (CEN) that through this event, participants can continue their business activities without gaps that may be caused by the epidemic.

“Because of the COVID-19, there is no international exhibition. We want to attract business communities from both ends. So that those are here in Pakistan can see and meet international buyers.” “We kept the platform user-friendly so that someone who is not acquainted with the technological things can access the exhibition. “ According to Zameer, they have done 2 or 3 orientations with the exhibitors and their team through zoom meeting. They trained them how to update the platform and gain maximum brand exposure so that they can get more response from the buyers.

“Response from China is good. We have also received many applications of participation from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Poland, countries from Africa and America. But since this is our first international virtual exhibition, we want to keep it simple. We only have 57 stores and we did not set an international hall. China companies are warmly welcomed to attend as visitors this time,” Zameer said. Talking about the further plan for the development of the industry, he told us that the priority was still keeping the current pace of production. On this base, they also have tried to convince the chambers and leading companies to build their vertical units with R&D (Research and Development) for new technologies.

“On the governmental level, we encourage and facilitate the activities for industrialization or the simple units to be vertical units for the products development,”he said. Currently, Pakistan has 523 textile units, including 40 composite and 483 spinning units. Pakistan is the 4th cotton producer and successful recipient of GSP Plus status by the EU, and China is the largest textile producing and exporting country in the world. Zameer believed that the two countries had great potential in the textile cooperation.

“Most of Pakistan companies and manufacturers’ major products sold to other countries and regions are basic textile products. If Pakistan and China can join hands for industrial development, the technological advancement and improvement will definitely enhance the market share for both of the countries.” “China is doing synthetic fiber and other materials and Pakistan uses basic cotton, we can engage these things for further development,” Zameer said, adding that with some research, they could find a number of products that could be available in the joint venture.

Pak-Uzbekistan shows resolve to enter into PTA

ISLAMABAD, Feb 02, 2021(APP,LPP): Pakistan and Uzbekistan on Monday resolved to enter into Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) for increasing the bilateral trade and promote trade liberalization on both sides. The two sides also discussed to revive the Joint Business Council, and assured that bilateral engagements like Inter Governmental Commission will be held more frequently, said a press release issued here. The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, leading a delegation to the Republic of Uzbekistan and held bilateral trade negotiation with Uzbekistan to enhance the trade volume between both sides.

The visit is a follow-up to the visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Dr. Sardor Umurzakov in last September 2020. Apart from Razak Dawood, the delegation includes officials of Ministry of Commerce and other related ministries and departments. The first meeting of Joint Working Group on Trade and Economic Affairs and the meeting of Tripartite Working Group on the Implementation of the Trans-Afghan Railway Project held from February 1st to February 4th, 2021. During the 1st meeting of the Joint Working Group, both sides expressed their desire to enhance bilateral trade relations between the two countries.

In this regard, the two sides discussed Streamlining Bilateral Phytosanitary Standards, enhancing Banking Cooperation, working on Rail and Road connectivity matters and establishment of off dock terminal. Both side also discussed the possibility of establishment of Joint Cargo Company by private sector, which can mitigate connectivity issues. It was highlighted in the meeting that private sector is quintessential for bilateral trade, therefore the two sides resolved to have cooperation in shipping, textile, engineering and IT sectors. The Uzbek side invited Pakistan Business Delegation to organize a Joint Exhibition in Tashkent in June, 2021.

The Advisor called on the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and discussed with him matters related to economic cooperation between the two countries. He also met the the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan Adkham Ikramov and discussed cooperation in textile, leather and Engineering Sector with him Pakistan has deep shared historic connections with Uzbekistan especially with regard to culture, art, crafts and traditions.

Its cities like Samarkand and Bukhara have been the centers of Islamic civilization and learning. Diplomatic Relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan were established when it gained independence from Soviet Union in 1991. Both countries are members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Economic Cooperation Organisation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

گرانی میں کمی کےحوالے سےہماری کاوشیں بارآور ہو رہی ہیں:  وزیر اعظم عمران خان کا ٹویٹ

اسلام آباد۔31جنوری 2021 (اے پی پی): وزیر اعظم عمران خان نے معاشی حوالےسےمزیدخوشخبری سناتے ہوئے کہا ہےکہ گرانی میں کمی کےحوالے سےہماری کاوشیں بارآور ہو رہی ہیں۔ اتوار کو اپنے ایک ٹویٹ میں انہوں نے کہا کہ کنزیومر پرائس انڈیکس اورکور اِنفلیشن آج اس سطح سےنیچےہیں جس پر یہ ہمارےحکومت سنبھالنےکےوقت تھیں۔ وزیر اعظم نے کہا کہ میں نے اپنی معاشی ٹیم کو ہدایت کی ہےکہ محتاط رہیں اور یقینی بنائیں کہ مہنگائی پر قابو برقرار رہے۔

Parliamentary committee reviews progress of projects in Balochistan

ISLAMABAD, Jan 30, 2021(APP,LPP): The Oversight Committee on Federal Funded Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) Projects in Balochistan Friday reviewed the progress of the projects. The meeting was held under the Chairmanship of MNA Khalid Hussain Magsi here. Secretary Planning Mathar Niaz Rana along with senior officials of Planning Commission reviewed the progress on Federally Funded PSDP projects and highlighted the necessary interventions and development of Balochistan through Federal PSDP.

The meeting was attended by the members of oversight committee including MNA Nawabzada Shazain Bugti, MNA Mir Khan Muhammad Jamali, MNA Salahuddin Ayubi, MNA Mohammad Aslam Bhootani, Senator Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Senator Muhammad Usman Khan Kakar and representatives of Federal Ministries/Divisions/Agencies and ACS (Dev.) and Government of Balochistan. Secretary Planning Mathar Niaz Rana briefed the meeting that an amount of Rs 82.1 billion has been allocated for 184 projects including Rs 26 billion for 46 new projects in PSDP 2020-21.

Secretary Planning shared with the meeting that M/o PD&SI has made upfront authorization of 80% of rupee allocation of PSDP 2020-21 in favor of the concerned Ministries/Divisions/Agencies. The agencies have been empowered to release project-wise funds as per requirement for maximum utilization of funds. Furthermore, ways & means clearance and endorsement from Finance Division has also been waived off during CFY. The meeting reviewed in detail Ministry-wise physical and financial progress of projects located in Balochistan.

The agencies were urged to fast track utilization of PSDP funds and ensure timely completion of projects in order to achieve envisaged development objectives. M/o PD&SI ensured the forum to facilitate the agencies to meet the additional funds by allowing re-appropriation wherever required. The Convener of the Committee appreciated the efforts of ministry of planning, development and Special Initiatives and said this is the first time the representatives from Balochistan have been given opportunity to review the development portfolio related to the Province issues. He also emphasized upon the concerned agencies to expedite utilization of funds for uplift of the area.

ADB’s new 5-year partnership strategy to lift Pakistan’s growth, resilience, and competitiveness

ISLAMABAD, Jan 27, 2021(APP, LPP):The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has endorsed a new 5-year country partnership strategy (CPS) to help restore economic stability and growth in Pakistan, enhance people’s well-being, create jobs, and expand economic opportunities as the country works to overcome the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The pandemic has interrupted the macroeconomic recovery in Pakistan, resulting in a sharp contraction in growth, a rise in public expenditures, and a loosening of monetary policy to mitigate the health and economic impacts, according to ADB press statement issued on Wednesday. “As with many countries in the region, COVID-19 has affected Pakistan, revealing the extent to which the population is exposed to economic and social vulnerabilities,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Eugene Zhukov.

“The new CPS 2021–2025 will build greater resilience of the population and help tackle Pakistan’s persistent structural challenges,” Zhukov added. ADB’s assistance over the next 5 years prioritizes support for three interlinked pillars including improving economic management, building resilience through human capital development and social protection, and boosting competitiveness and private sector development. ADB will support macroeconomic stabilization in Pakistan and maintain support for reforms to improve the country’s trade prospects and external positions.

ADB would continue to help improve the energy sector through reforms and sovereign and non-sovereign investments and would continue deepening and diversifying Pakistan’s financial markets to promote investment, growth, and private sector development. Under the CPS, ADB will expand investments and help accelerate reforms in secondary education and technical and vocational education and training. ADB will address the challenge of out-of-school children and target children from poor and vulnerable households, the statement said.

ADB has helped expand cash transfers to the poor and will bolster evidence-based policy formulation through a newly established policy research unit and aimed to improve health care and will continue to help manage public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. To boost competitiveness and private sector development, ADB would focus on building livable cities, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and investing in rural infrastructure. Besides, it would seek to strengthen agricultural value chains, improve connectivity, and increase access to finance.

“The government has expressed its strong commitment to the ongoing International Monetary Fund Extended Fund Facility program,” said ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang. “The CPS places a strong focus on combining reforms with physical and social investments to improve sustainability and generate lasting development impact,” Yang added. ADB will play a pivotal role in supporting Pakistan to attract private sector investment in renewable energy, small and medium-sized enterprises, trade, and supply chain finance.

Through its recently issued local currency Karakoram bonds, ADB expects to expand opportunities for financing priority sector projects in which the bank was not previously present, including agribusiness and social sectors. In addition, ADB would explore more public–private partnership opportunities for Pakistan. Women in Pakistan are less economically active and underrepresented in skilled jobs. ADB would continue to promote women’s economic empowerment and enhance women’s resilience to external shocks.

The bank aims to increase women’s access to financial services, raise women’s skills and education levels, and bolster social protection under the Ehsaas Kafalat program. The statement said ADB would continue to boost Pakistan’s resilience to climate change and strengthen adaptation and disaster risk management. Under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program, ADB would continue to promote regional connectivity and trade with Pakistan’s neighbors by developing economic corridors and improving border crossings.

This will facilitate cross-border trade and supply-chain efficiency by simplifying customs procedures and setting up a Pakistan single window. ADB’s CPS 2021–2025 is aligned with Pakistan’s development vision, ADB’s Strategy 2030, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Economic indicators, social spendings on upward trajectory

ISLAMABAD, Jan 25 (APP): The Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaaf (PTI) government has started yielding results in the form of improved economic indicators. which was providing necessary cushion to further strengthen the social safety nets. The government managed to put the economy back on track by introducing financial discipline and taking politically tough and unpopular decisions. “Putting the economic indicators back on the positive trajectory was a herculean task for the present government as it inherited an economy with a major balance of payment crisis which led to high inflation and low growth,” said a press release received here on Monday.

The Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) has shown significant growth so far in the current fiscal year. The LSM grew by 7.4 percent in October and 14.5 percent in November which was the highest monthly growth in twelve years. The manufacturing recovery was also becoming broader with 12 out of 15 sub sectors registering positive growth leading to employment generation,the release added. The incentives given to the industries including the construction sector have triggered an economic activity in the country, it said. It further said that with the industries operating at its full capacity, there has been a significant increase in the exports and the exports reached to US $ 2.3 billion in December 2020, highest in seven years.

The exports of textile industry, it added went up by US $1.4 billion in December 2020, thus achieving the highest ever growth for any month and cement sale witnessed highest ever sale in October 2020. Regardless of debt servicing of about US $10 billion annually, the foreign exchange reserves have reached about US $ 20 billion , highest since January 2018. It further said that commercial bank deposits have witnessed highest growth in eighteen years. The current account has shown a surplus of US $1.6 billion during first five months of current financial year against a deficit of US $1.7 billion in the corresponding period last year.

There has also been the lowest rise in the external debt in the financial year 2020 and that the loans taken by the present government were used to retire the ones taken by the previous governments. “Pakistan’s improved ranking in the Ease of Doing Business index and the steps taken to facilitate the investors will also attract both foreign and domestic investments,” it said adding that apart from bringing improvement in economy, the government was also focusing to provide relief to the disadvantaged segments of the society.”

The budget of Ehsaas program has been doubled if compared with that of the year 2018. The cash assistance provided to millions of deserving families in most transparent manner in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak helped to protect and mitigate the sufferings of vulnerable segments of society. Similarly, the Sehat Sahulat Cards scheme was being implemented on fast track basis both in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces which will bring a visible change in the lives of the people.

WHO Says Fabric Facemasks Still Work Against Virus Variants?

NEW YORK, Jan 24, 2021:The World Health Organization said Friday it had no plans to change its guidance recommending fabric facemasks as new coronavirus variants spread, because the mutated strains are transmitted in the same way. Germany and Austria have made medical masks mandatory on public transport and in shops allowing only surgical or FFP2 masks, rather than fabric amid concerns over the threat posed by the rapidly-spreading new virus mutations. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said some of the new variants “may have increased transmissibility”, but that from studies in Britain and South Africa of the mutations detected there, “we have no indication that the modes of transmission has changed. It spreads the same way”.

The WHO advises that “non-medical, fabric masks can be used by the general public under the age of 60 and who do not have underlying health conditions”. Meanwhile it recommends medical masks for health workers in clinical settings; anyone feeling unwell, awaiting Covid-19 test results or having positive; and people caring for a suspected or confirmed case. They are also recommended for people aged 60 or over, or with underlying conditions, due to their higher risk of serious illness. Van Kerkhove told a press conference in Geneva that the UN health agency does not plan to shift its position.

“Countries are free to make decisions as they see fit,” she said. “We will continue to look at the evidence that we have seen, but from the data that we have seen from the countries that have these virus variants, there is no change in the modes of transmission. “If anything changes, we will modify and we will update (guidance) accordingly.” She said fabric facemasks should be made of three layers to provide adequate protection.

The inner layer should be water-absorbent, such as cotton; the middle layer should be from a material like non-woven polypropylene, and acts as a filter; while the outer layer should be water-resistant, such as polyester, according to WHO guidance. But such facemasks are only one tool in reducing the spread of the virus, and no one solution alone would get the pandemic under control, Van Kerkhove said. As for medical masks, required by health workers, she said global shortages remained a concern. “The shortage issue has improved over time, but it is still not completely fixed,” she said.

Progress Made on Draft Agreement With 3 Gas-Based IPPS: Sources

ISLAMABAD, Jan 21, 2021(APP): Progress was made on the agreement with the Independent Power Producers -as three gas-based leading IPPs agreed on a draft of legally binding contracts on the basis of MOUs initially signed in August 2019. The three companies; Sapphire, Halmore, and Orient, setup under the 2002 power policy, have moved ahead on the draft agreement for binding contracts, paving way for provision of cheaper power to the end users.

Following negotiation with the government teams, the IPPs have agreed to reduce the tariff and other concessions as agreed in MOUs, sources at the Finance Ministry said. Formal signatures will be done between Government officials and IPPs after approval of the federal cabinet and the Board approval of the respective IPPs. Energy experts termed the move as a major breakthrough in a reduction in tariff and circular debt in coming years.

Prime Minister Imran Khan in August said the government has signed a new agreement with the independent power producers (IPPs) which would reduce the cost of electricity generation and circular debt. In a tweet, Imran Khan said, “I congratulate the nation because we are fixing the damaging structure, we inherited in our power sector.”

I congratulate nation bec we are fixing the damaging structure we inherited in our Power sector. After long negotiations we have signed new agreement with IPPs which will bring down cost of power generation & reduce circular debt. Next reform target is power distribution system. Under the agreement, the IPPs, under the 1994 and 2002 power policy, voluntarily agreed to provide certain concessions.

The government was likely to get an estimated benefit of around Rs 836 billion by converting these MOU into Contracts during the remaining life of IPPs as compared to original contracts. A series of meetings have been held between the IPPs and the government teams in the recent past to resolve the long-overdue issue of circular debt. The agreements will lead to the clearance of past dues which will also revamp the entire energy sector through clearance of circular debt.

Four Private Sector Companies Step in LNG Trade

ISLAMABAD, Jan 19 (APP):The ease-of-doing business plan, introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government, has started yielding the required results with stepping in of four private sector companies for carrying out regulated activities of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) across the country. In a significant development, Oil and Gas Development Authority (OGRA) last week granted the first-ever marketing licences to two companies for undertaking regulated activities with regard to the sale of natural gas and LNG. Besides it issued two ‘provisional licences’ of supplying LNG through cryogenic bowzers to consumers especially where the regular gas transmission network does not exist.

The authority allowed Tabeer and Energas companies for the regulated activity of sale of natural gas and LNG for an initial period of 10 years, subject to fulfillment of execution of Gas Transportation Agreements with Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), service agreements for metering/billing to the consumers and safety issues, LNG supply agreements, besides signing of contracts with LNG terminal operators. Whereas, the ‘provisional licences’ were issued to the LNG Easy (Private) Limited and Daewoo Gas Private Limited’ companies to pursue the LNG virtual pipeline project for supply of the commodity through cryogenic bowzers.

The provisional licences would enable the virtual pipeline companies to complete all formalities under rules and apply for carrying out LNG regulated activities in the country. “It will help encourage healthy competition in the gas market, support the national economic growth and ensure a reliable supply of energy to the consumers of natural gas,” OGRA spokesperson Imran Ghaznavi said in a press statement. The companies are planning to use berth at Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and berth at Gwadar Port respectively for import of LNG cargoes, fill, transport, market and distribute under ‘Integrated LNG Project Structure’ as per Article 2(a) of LNG Policy 2011,” the spokesperson said.

The country’s existing natural gas reservoirs are depleting fast at a rate of 9.5 percent annually, and LNG is the only available instant remedy to bridge the increased gap between demand and supply of the country. Currently, the country’s indigenous gas production is around 3.7 Billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD) against the demand of 6 BCFD to meet requirements of more than 9.6 million consumers across the country. According to a recent report of OGRA, the gap between demand and supply of gas could increase by 5,389 Million Cubic Feet per Day (MMCFD) by 2029-30.
At present, two LNG terminals are operating with a full capacity of 1,200 MMCFD (Million Cubic Feet per Day).

A senior official privy to petroleum sector developments told APP that the government wanted maximum participation of private sector players in the LNG business and reduce its role. “The government wants to move forward with such a model under which private sector companies build their own LNG terminals, import and sell the commodity to consumers under a certain regulatory regime. It will help ensure availability of gas throughout a year at an affordable rate,” he said. Following the same model, the official said, the government had granted permission to five companies, out of which two had completed all ‘necessary approvals.’ “One company has hinted that it will start construction on its LNG terminal in next 30-60 days.”

He said the government was pursuing a policy of competitiveness among players of both public and private sectors, especially in gas, electricity and oil-related fields, ending the monopoly of public sector departments. “Consumers have the right to get better services at competitive rates.”

PSX holds gong ceremony marking listing of EPCL preference shares

ISLAMABAD, Jan 14, 2021(APP):A Gong Ceremony was held at Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) to mark the listing of preference shares of Engro Polymer and Chemicals Limited (EPCL). According to PSX press statement received here, the listing, that had taken place on December 31st, would bring forth a new investment opportunity from EPCL.

To open the trading day, the gong was struck by CEO, Engro Polymer & Chemicals Limited, Jahangir Piracha, amidst presence of the COO, PSX, Nadir Rahman, board members of PSX, and senior management of both the organisations. The leadership and senior management of the Consultant to the Issue, Arif Habib Limited were also present at the occasion.

EPCL planned to raise Rs3 Billion by offering 300 million preference shares of face value of Rs 10/ per share, the statement said adding that the shares were offered through Fixed Price Method at an issue price of Rs 10/-per share. Out of the 300million preference shares, 262.5 million preference shares (87.5%) were offered to and subscribed by the Pre-IPO investors whereas 37.5 million preference shares (12.5%) were offered to the general public.

The IPO of EPCL preference shares was extremely successful with applications for subscription of more than 202.047 million shares being received against an allocated target of 37.5 million shares in the general public portion of the said IPO. The general public portion of the IPO was thus oversubscribed by 5.39 times or by more than 164.547 million shares/ Rs 1.645 billion.

Speaking on the occasion, the COO, PSX, Nadir Rahman, said that this was an excellent opportunity to invest in the preference shares of a stable, solid, and growing company. The EPCL had raised equity capital for further expansion and debottlenecking while the oversubscription level indicated investor confidence in the company.

The CEO EPCL Jahangir Piracha, said that the company’s Preference Shares issue was a landmark transaction, having raised preference equity on non-rights basis in a very tumultuous year. The success of this issue shows the investors’ confidence in EPCL business and its strategic direction, adding that EPCL looked forward to continue to contribute towards the economic growth of the country, creating value for all our stakeholders and playing our part in deepening of Pakistan’s capital markets.

Shahid Ali Habib, the CEO of Arif Habib Limited said despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, there was an excellent response for the Preference Shares. “ It is a proud moment for us at Arif Habib Limited to have facilitated this journey for the Company that has now listed its third instrument on the PSX,” he added.

Rs319.56 bn released for social sector uplift projects

ISLAMABAD, Jan 13, 2021(APP): The Federal Government has released Rs. 319.56 billion for various ongoing and new social sector uplift projects till date under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2020-21. The released funds include Rs. 207.17 billion for federal ministries, Rs.87 billion for corporations, Rs. 25.25 billion for special areas, and Rs. 750 million for the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform.

The total PSDP allocation for ERRA for the year 2020-21 is Rs. 1.5 billion. Similarly, Rs. 55.2 billion out of PSDP allocation of Rs. 118.67 billion has been released for the National Highway Authority, Rs.31.8 billion out of Rs. 158.3 billion for the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), and Rs. 45 billion out of Rs. 81.2 billion for the for the Water Resources Division. Likewise, Rs. 14 billion out of allocated fund of Rs. 29.4 billion has been disbursed to the Higher Education Commission, Rs. 175 million out of Rs. 350 million to the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

The Railways Division has received development funds of Rs. 11.7 billion, the Interior Division Rs. 7.38 billion, and the National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination Division Rs. 7.4 billion. Similary, the Revenue Division has got Rs. 4.6 billion, and the Cabinet Division Rs. 38.2 billion. Likewise, the government also released Rs. 13.99 billion out of PSDP allocation of Rs. 27.24 billion for development projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Rs 11.26 billion out of Rs. 25 billion for Gilgit Baltistan projects.

PSX gains 316 points to close at 45,922 points

ISLAMABAD, Jan 12 (APP): The KSE-100 index of the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) witnessed bullish trend on Tuesday, gaining 316.62 points, with positive change of 0.69 percent, closing at 45,922.042 points against 45,605.42 points on the last working day. A total 825,893,776 shares were traded during the day compared to the trade of 588,039,825 shares the previous day whereas the price of shares stood at Rs21.138 billion against Rs17.746 billion previous day.

As many as 414 companies transacted shares in the stock market, 272 of them recorded gain and 124 sustained losses whereas the share price of 18 companies remained unchanged. The three top traded companies were K-Electric Ltd with a volume of 250,242,000 shares and price per share of Rs4.01, Hum Network with a volume of 68,503,000 and price per share of Rs7.43 and Unity Foods Ltd with a volume of 29,800,575 and price per share of Rs30.60.

Millat Tractors recorded maximum increase of Rs43.96 per share, closing at Rs1161.05 whereas Khyber Tobacco was runner up with the increase of Rs34.03 per share, closing at Rs487.77. Nestle Pakistan witnessed maximum decrease of Rs109.60 per share, closing at Rs6660.40 while Gatron Ind. shares decreased by Rs42.37 per share closing at Rs522.63.

Saudi Arabia wants to further strengthen trade ties with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Jan 11, 2021(APP): Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Nawaf Saeed Al-Malkiy Friday said that Saudi Arabia wanted to further deepen and strengthen its trade ties with Pakistan as both the countries have great scope to promote trade in many areas. While addressing the business community during his visit to Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), he said Saudi Arabia wanted to see Pakistan as a growing economy as it was a very important country for the whole Muslim Ummah.

The envoy said Saudi Arabia intended to further expand its commercial and investment cooperation with Pakistan. He said Pakistan has a lot of potential for economic growth that should be highlighted more effectively to attract foreign investors. He urged the media to focus on projecting the positive things of Pakistan to change wrong perception about it. He said that misperceptions about Pakistan in foreign world needed to be changed to unlock its real economic potential.

He assured that he would continue to work for further promoting trade cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Speaking at the occasion, ICCI President Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed very cordial relations, but the bilateral trade of around US$ 3.5 billion was much below than the real potential of both countries, therefore, strenuous efforts from both sides were needed to improve it.

He said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were doing trade in limited items and they should focus on diversification of trade to achieve better results. He said that many high quality and cost effective Pakistani products including Halal food products, pharmaceuticals, textiles, surgical instruments, rice, fruits, dairy products, sports wears, leather products, financial services, insurance & IT services and entertainment products could find good market in Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia should focus on importing these products from Pakistan.

Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan emphasized that both the countries should focus on strengthening B2B contacts, exchange of trade delegations and participation in trade fairs on reciprocal basis to improve trade volume. He said that Pakistan was establishing many special economic zones under CPEC and investors of Saudi Arabia should explore Joint Ventures (JVs) and investment in these SEZs. He said that Pakistan was working for a One Window for investors that would facilitate Saudi investors to invest in Pakistan.

He said ICCI would try to take a delegation to Saudi Arabia to meet with trade bodies there in order to explore mutual business collaboration. Similarly, ICCI would like to host a trade delegation of Saudi Arabia in Pakistan and would help them in exploring JVs and investment in Pakistani SEZs. Chairman of Founder Group ICCI Mian Akram Farid lauded the efforts of Saudi Ambassador for improving trade ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He said that Pakistani SEZs offered great potential for Saudi investors and they should explore JVs and investment in Pakistan.

He said that ICCI was working for an industrial estate and Saudi investors have good prospects to set up industrial units in it. ICCI Senior Vice President Fatma Azim, Vice President Abdul Rehman Khan and others also spoke at the occasion and shared ideas for further promoting bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries. At this occasion, ICCI President Sardar Yasir Ilyas Khan and Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Nawaf Saeed Al-Malkiy signed an MoU of cooperation to work jointly for promoting business relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Shawarma:Lahore café sealed after 'dead rat' shawarma video goes viral

LAHORE, Jan 10, 2021:A family in Lahore were in for a rude awakening as they were served a dead rat's meat inside a shawarma sandwich as footage of the bizarre incident started doing rounds on social media. Saleh Saleem posted on Facebook that his 10-year-old niece was about to consume the Middle Eastern dish at a local eatery but looked on in horror after finding the meat of the rodent inside.

"These people are playing with the lives of people and also have the audacity to argue about it," Saleh said in his post which has been shared over 3,000 times.  In the viral video, Saleh's mother can be heard taunting the waiters. "Do you consider us humans? Are you Muslims or not? Who is the manager or owner of this," the bewildered woman said upon finding the rodent. Saleh thanked the Dolphin Squad Lahore for taking swift action and sealing the cafe.

SBP Links Growth Outcome to Government's Coronavirus Response

KARACHI, Jan 6, 2021: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has connected the government’s COVID-19 response with the growth, as Pakistan continues to grapple with the second wave of the novel coronavirus. The central bank asserted that the economic recovery from the first wave of the coronavirus had been achieved due to the support that had been granted to businesses by the government. 

In the first quarterly report on the state of Pakistan’s economy, the SBP said: “the overall growth outcome hinges on how the Covid infections and the associated government response evolve.” The projection, based on the current trends of economic activity, reveals that the real GDP growth is expected to be in the range of 1.5% to 2.5% in FY2021 compared to the 0.4% contraction that had been recorded in FY2020.

The SBP said the government’s handling of the current surge in Covid infections includes keeping business activities running under the standard operating procedures. The central bank said that restrictions should be more focused on reducing public gatherings and social contact while at the same time, employment and economic activity should be encouraged.

“As the economy recovers from the Covid-induced contraction, it is now faced with uncertainty relating to the intensification of the second wave of the pandemic. This concern poses both upside and downside risks to the SBP’s macroeconomic projections,” it said.

Current account deficit expected in the range of 0.5%to 1-1.5%

Supply-side shocks from uncertain weather conditions cannot be ruled out either, said the SBP. At the same time, there are also potential upsides, including the development and distribution of an effective vaccine and its possible early availability, the publication underscored. Highlighting other factors, the report read that the announced increase in the wheat support price and subsidies on fertilizer and pesticides may contribute to a better-than-expected output of Rabi crops.

The outlook for the external sector has improved since the previous set of projections published in SBP’s FY20 annual report. The current account deficit is now expected to be in the range of 0.5%to 1-1.5% of the GDP as against the earlier mark of 1% to 2% of GDP. The revision is mainly due to an upward adjustment in workers’ remittances, which are now expected to be $24-25 billion as compared to $22-23 billion earlier.

“However, projections of workers’ remittances are subject to risk from the outlook for the oil-exporting economies, whose fiscal balances might deteriorate further with the escalation in global Covid infections. "This may result in a sizable reduction in their demand for foreign workers, leading to lower remittance inflows to Pakistan,” said the SBP.

'Upside risks mainly stem from the health fallout'

"Going forward, the fiscal situation would continue to depend on the domestic evolution of Covid-19. The upside risks mainly stem from the health fallout, and the potential economic fall-out, in case of protracted or intensified lockdowns in the remainder of FY21,” said the SBP in its statement. “By contrast, faster than an anticipated economic revival, which gives the government room to generate more revenues, either by rolling back certain tax concessions or imposing fresh levies, could contain the deficit further.”

The SBP projects average inflation in FY21 to remain in the 7% to 9% range. Meanwhile, core inflation has been relatively moderate, owing to benign cost and demand factors. Given the spare capacity in the industrial sector, high base effect, and actions being taken to correct the supply-side issues in the food market, upside risks to the inflation outlook are largely contained.

Outlook of exports, imports largely remains unchanged

The Central Bank also said the outlook of exports and imports largely remains unchanged from their earlier assessment. The greater quantum of high value-added textiles and food commodities – especially rice – are expected to generate above-target growth in exports. Having said that, the key downside risk to this outlook stems from the resurgence of Covid in major export destinations of Pakistan – which has the potential to suppress demand, SBP maintained.

Meanwhile, on the upside, the incentives given in the industrial support package since early November 2020 may help the textile sector exports perform better. Where an increase in food imports and domestic economic activity is mainly expected to drive import growth, the imports are expected to cross their annual target, said the central bank. 

The increase in global Covid-19 infections and a further decline in crude oil prices could suppress import payments. As for the fiscal deficit, the latest projections suggest that it remains on track to meet the annual target of 7% of GDP.

Construction Relief Package Boosts Cement Sector Growth: APCMA

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5, 2021(APP): Chairman of All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) Muhammad Ali A. Tabba said Tuesday said that the relief package provided by the government boosted Cement sector growth through increasing demands in construction sector. “The tax amnesty provided by the government, development in low-cost housing sector and revival of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Project were the main contributors to increase growth in cement manufacturing and export,” Chairman, APCMA Muhammad Ali A. Tabba told APP here.

He said that the exports of the cement also increased, saying that currently Africa was the potential market for the Pakistan cement exports while regional countries including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Philippines were the major importers of Pakistani cement. Quoting the latest data, the APCMA Chairman said that there was around 16 percent growth in cement dispatches during the first half of the current fiscal year (2020-21), reaching to 28.628 million tones from 24.751 million tones last year.

The cement sales, he added, also grew to 4.78 million tones during December 2020 compared to sales of 4.30 million tones in December 2019, showing growth of 11.8 percent. The local cement dispatches in December 2020 also increased to 4.154 million tones as compared to 3.536 million tones in December 2019. He said that government’s effective measures were giving a boost to construction industry across the country while electricity relief package was also contributing a lot in accelerating economic activities in all sectors.

He said that many other industries were associated with the construction industry so the expansion of the construction package would not only boost the business of all allied industries, it would also increase investment and create plenty of new jobs leading to reduction in unemployment and poverty.

The prime minister had announced his government’s second tax amnesty scheme, allowing people to invest in the construction sector without disclosing the source of income.
The scheme was also offered on projects that were under construction even before the announcement of the scheme.

Timely Implementation of Long-Term Policies to Bring New Investments

LAHORE, Jan 5, 2021: The Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMA) on Sunday expressed the hope that $20 billion export target fixed for the next five-year Textile Policy will be achieved. PHMA zonal chairman Faisal Mehboob Sheikh and chief coordinator Adil Butt said that timely implementation of the long-term policies would not only bring new investments in the country but would also enable the industry to achieve the target of exports in the next five years. Faisal Mehboob Sheikh said that ad-hoc policies cannot prove beneficial for the country’s exports and time has come to implement the long-term textile policy in letter and spirit.

He lamented that the previous Textile Policy has failed to achieve its targets, including enhancing textile exports from $13 billion to $26 billion, doubling value-addition from $1 billion per million cotton bales to $2 billion per million cotton bales as well as the creation of 3 million jobs in five years. “It’s good news that after the expiry of last Textile Policy the government has come up with a new policy, comprising new targets, incentives and recommendations while all stakeholders were also taken on board before the finalization of the new policy, which is a good sign for the economy and industry,” Faisal Mehboob added.

PHMA chief coordinator Adil Butt said that Pakistan can achieve target of $26 billion’s export provided the local industry is facilitated with regionally competitive energy tariffs and business-friendly environment. Adill Butt also appreciated the role played by the PM advisor and his team in ensuring a balanced relief to the entire textile value-added chain of Pakistan Textile. This long-awaited Textile Policy is well researched, outlines the major challenges and proposes befitting measures for stabilization, revival and growth of the textile industry of Pakistan. Most importantly, Pakistan not only has now a well-defined and dynamic Textile Policy it also has a Ministry which has its ownership, he said.

For the first time focus has been developed on the utilization of women workforce and domestic commerce which should be immensely useful for the growth of the industry. It manifests the government’s vision and intention to harness the full potential of the Textile Industry of Pakistan. Our textile industry is greatly handicapped by not having duty-free market access to several main textile importing countries like the United States of America. Government’s resolve, expressed in this policy, to focus attention in these key destinations is a source of satisfaction for the value-added knitwear industry. The PHMA leadership said that the makers of this Textile Policy have dealt a fair treatment to such textile sub-sectors which were not only undermined but were almost ignored. 

Under the new proposed textile policy, the electricity tariff will be at US 7.5 cents per unit while duties at the gas, water, and others will be reduced to boost the sector, which is appreciable. He said that the new policy will help in boosting employment opportunities for millions of people. “The knitwear industry and exporters welcome the new Textile Policy of the federal government and pin the hope that this would put the economy on track,” he added.

FTO Directs FBR to Take Action Against Those Involved in Tax Fraud

ISLAMABAD, Jan 03, 2021(APP):The Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has directed the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to initiate criminal proceedings against the person(s)/registered person(s) found involved in committing tax fraud with no further delays. The FTO further directed Federal Board of Revenue to ensure application of relevant provisions of Pakistan Penal Code along with provisions of Section 21 and 37A of the Sales Tax Act, 1990 while dealing with cases of fake invoices.

The statement added that an own motion investigation was initiated to investigate irregularities committed by the FBR field formations, while processing and sanctioning of bogus sales tax refunds, involving preparation of fake and flying invoices, according to a press statement issued here on Sunday. The fraudulent entities obtained sales tax registration for issuing fake sales tax invoices to enable other registered persons for claiming bogus refund, input tax credit and reduce their tax liability.

It was found that due to lack of credible institutional mechanism to verify transactional details, uploaded by buyers and sellers, cases of tax evasion and colossal loss to national exchequer occurred. In response to the notice of the FTO, the department contended that the matter of fake sales tax registrations and issuance of dubious refunds based on fake and flying invoices was rampant in the years 2012 to 2015. Efforts to address such cases have been made. However, these efforts are termed “NOT ENOUGH” by Honorable Federal Tax Ombudsman.

The Federal Tax Ombudsman’s Own Motion decision states that falsifying of sales tax invoices to understate the tax liability or overstate the entitlement to tax credit or tax refund or cause loss of tax had been defined as ‘tax fraud’ under Section 2(37) of the Act. However, factually in none of the cases, penal and punitive actions were initiated by the Department, except suspending/blacklisting the Sales Tax Registration of the culprit. Moreover, under Section 21 of the Act, that if a registered person is engaged in issuing fake or flying invoices, he should be blocked and appropriate legal action be taken.

The phrase “appropriate legal action” means that action is not only confined to punitive measures under the Act, but it also embraces penal laws of the land which deal with fabrication, preparation of false documents and using the same dishonestly with an intention to defraud any person including government for wrong gain, it clarified.

But the Department instead of invoking the provisions of PPC, restricted itself to the extent of stopping further payments and suspending the registrations, which are incomplete actions and against the provisions of Section 21 of the Act against persons involved in committing tax fraud. The FTO office further directed the FBR to regularly conduct desk audit to cross match the data declared by Registered Persons at the time of filing Annex A and Annex C.

Pakistan Exports Grown to $ 2.357 Billion For Dec, 2020

ISLAMABAD, Jan 1, 2021(APP): Adviser to the Prime Minister for Commerce and Investment, Abdul Raza Dawood on Friday said that Pakistan exports for the month of December 2020 have grown to $ 2.357 billion by rate of 18.3 percent as compared to December 2019.According to provisional data, Pakistan exports for the month of December 2020 have grown by 18.3 percent to $ 2.357 billion as compared to $ 1.993 billion in December 2019, an increase of $ 364 million over December 2019, the Adviser said this on his official twitter account.

The Adviser said that this shows the resilience of the economy of Pakistan and it is a vindication of the government’s policy to keep the wheels of economy running during COVID-19 pandemic.“I commend our exporters for achieving this feat during these testing times and urge them to aggressively focus on capturing a larger share of international trade” he said.While appreciating the exporter, he said that “You are a great asset for our country and I acknowledge your efforts”

He informed that in the meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) held yesterday, the COVID-19 Vaccination Policy was discussed.It is the view of the Ministry of Commerce to encourage our pharmaceutical industry to seek collaboration for local manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.“I have complete faith in the capabilities of our pharmaceutical manufacturers that they can reach out and collaborate with the international pharmaceutical companies to manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan under license,” Razak Dawood said.

Tourism Good Medium to Promote Cultural Exchanges, Pass on Pak-China Friendship:  Yang Jinsong

BEIJING, Dec. 30, 2020 (APP): Tourism is a good medium that can promote cultural exchanges and pass on the friendship between China and Pakistan from generation to generation, a researcher from China Tourism Academy (CTA) said.Yang Jinsong, Director of the Institute of International Studies at CTA said in interview that China-Pakistan exchanges in the tourism industry are in their infancy.

Pakistan became a destination country for Chinese group tourists since 2003. In 2015, there were more than 50,000 Chinese tourists to Pakistan, which increased to more than 80,000 in 2019.While there were 155 million Chinese outbound tourists in 2019, so the digital divide is still very large, China Economic Net (CEN) reported.In the future, we hope to promote mutual understanding and tourism exchanges between the two countries through traditional media, social media and other platforms, he added.

Touching on Chinese tourists demand for Pakistan, Yang said, Pakistan has abundant tourism resources, but Chinese tourists cannot get access to that information.First, Pakistan should do more publicity about their tourist industry. Second, as people are increasingly concerned about safety and health due to the COVID-19 epidemic, how to ensure the safety of tourists is a very important issue. Third, we hope Pakistan will learn more about the consumption habits of Chinese tourists.

For example, Chinese tourists like to buy special commodities and souvenirs during their journeys. If a destination country can study the purchasing habits of tourists in depth, it will definitely promote the development of local tourism.In terms of travel facilitation, Yang said, the visa processing can be simplified, shuttle flights can be increased and 5G network coverage can be improved, I believe the Chinese tourists will be more willing to visit Pakistan.

Regarding CTA medium and long-term plans to promote China-Pakistan tourist exchanges, Yang said that in the future, it will establish a linkage and cooperation mechanism with other ministries towards tourism.As the data center of China Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the academy is currently conducting country studies and hopes to carry out more cooperation with Pakistan in data exchange. CTA has rich experience in research report seminars and tourism training, which can be shared with Pakistan.

In terms of learning from China tourism development experience, Yang said that each country has its own national conditions and sometimes can not directly copy other countries’ experience.But some of China successful experience can help Pakistan avoid hiccups, for example, we can provide a reference for Pakistan in scenic spot construction and market order regulation.

At present, China domestic tourism is recovering at an accelerating pace, we can also offer Pakistan some experience in epidemic prevention and control and resumption of work and production.According to a recent report Pakistan Ambassador to China Moin ul Haque recently visited CTA.Yang described Haque visit as an opportunity and a starting point to promote the development of Pakistani tourist industry and spur on China-Pakistan cultural and tourist cooperation.

Pakistan’s Trade with Africa Reaches US $ 4.18 Billion In 2019-20: Razak Dawood

ISLAMABAD, Dec 27, 2020 (APP): Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood on Sunday said Pakistan’s trade with African countries touched US $ 4.18 billion in 2019-20, which was increased by seven percent as compared to the previous year (2018-19).As a result of Pakistan’s new engagement with African countries through “Look Africa Campaign” started by government of Pakistan, despite Covid-19 pandemic,  exports to Africa increased by seven percent in 2019-20 from US $ 1.38 billion in 2018-19 to US $ 1.48 billion in 2019-20, the Advisor told APP.

The Advisor said total trade with Africa has increased from US $ 3.19 billion in 2016-17 to US $ 4.18 billion in 2019-20.Replying to a query on the surge in trade with African countries, he said Pakistan’s trade with Africa remained stagnant at US $ three billion per year for last few years but because of government’s trade policies with Africa, now multilateral trade with African region crossed the mark of US $ foulr billion.He added that main reason of the low trade volume was low level of engagement of Pakistan with Africa.

Razak Dawood said traditionally, rice has been our top export to Kenya and other African countries.However, “we are planning to enhance exports of Pharmaceuticals, Surgical goods and Light Engineering and Electronic products including Tractors and Agricultural implements, two and three wheelers, Commercial and Domestic Fans, Water pumps and Electrical Machinery and equipment etc”.He said there was a lot of potential of these products to connect with the untapped African Market.

Replying to a question, he said under the “Look Africa Policy” of Ministry of Commerce, “We are taking different initiatives including six new Commercial Sections have been opened in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania, in addition to four existing Commercial Sections in Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, to cover top ten economies of Africa”.He informed that ‘Look Africa Trade Forums’ have been organized in all major cities of Pakistan to create awareness among business community of Pakistan about potential of African markets.

He added that establishment of bilateral linkages with major African countries was underway.Razak Dawood said Joint Working Group with Egypt and Joint Trade Committee with Kenya have been established while Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) has been shared with multiple African countries.He said that the government also prioritized to increase more participation in Trade exhibitions in Africa in future to enhance the economic and trade integration with these countries.

He informed that for the first time, Pakistan was expected to participate in International Khartoum Fair in January 2021.He said Ministry of  Commerce has also organized Pakistan Africa Trade Development Conference in Nairobi, Kenya on 30th and 31st January 2020.President of Kenya inaugurated the Conference; in which 246 African delegates from 26 African countries participated.The advisor said 115 delegates including 85 companies from Pakistan also participated in the Conference and1883 B2B meetings were held during the Conference between Pakistani and African business people.

While question on the Pakistan plan to utilize the potential markets of Kenya and Tanzania, he said exports to Kenya increased from US $ 265.1 million in 2018-19 to US $ 289.3 million in 2019-20, recording an increase of nine percent despite Covid-19 pandemic.He said our decision to organize Look Africa Trade Development Conference in Kenya and the inauguration of the Conference by the president of Kenya signifies the strength of bilateral trade relations between the two countries.

He informed that Pakistan total trade with Tanzania has reached US $ 194.58 million in 2019-20, as compared to US $ 136.52 million in 2018-19, which made Tanzania an important trade partner.Ministry of Commerce has recently opened a new Trade and Investment in Dar-es-Salaam, which was expected to be operational soon, he said.Razak Dawood said a month ago in November, a four-member business delegation from Tanzania visited Pakistan after decades.The delegation was led by the President Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.These bilateral exchanges were expected to enhance trade between the two countries.

Petroleum SAPM Explains LNG Purchase, Sale Mechanism

ISLAMABAD, Dec 25, 2020 (APP): Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum, Nadeem Baber Friday explained in detail the purchase and sale mechanism of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), rejecting all negative and speculative reports appearing in sections of the media for the last one-and-a-half months.

In a series of video tweets on official account of the Petroleum Division, he said the previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had introduced the LNG in Pakistan’s market without constructing any storage facility and declaring it as petrol, which cost almost double than the locally produced gas.

In the given scenario, the SAPM said every LNG shipment had to be consumed within four to five days, in the absence of storage facilities, for berthing of another cargo ship. Declaring the LNG as a petroleum product by the PML-N regime, he said it meant that every consumer using the LNG had to pay the full price of the commodity.

He said a question was being asked repeatedly as to why the LNG had not been procured in summer when its price was down, which also showed poor information of the elements spreading speculative news in the media, he added. The SAPM said it was on record that the government had provided the LNG to each and every consumer whosoever demanded it in all months of the summer season.

He said another allegation was being leveled against the government that in summer, the fuel oil was used in power generation that was why the sufficient LNG had not been procured. “It is also totally wrong and based on speculations and misinformation.” Nadeem Babar said the previous government in its last summer season had produced 28 percent of the total electricity through the fuel oil, while the present government in the summer-2019 produced just 5 percent and 3.6 percent of the total electricity in eleven months of the current year.

He said all the data in that regard was available on the website of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority. He said there was another misconception that early buying could help lower the cost of LNG, and the government should have procured the commodity for December-January in August instead of October. Elaborating, he said, Pakistan had purchased the costliest LNG in February 2018, the last year of the PML-N in government, at $ 10.25 per MMBTU (Million British Thermal Unit), with a 71-day gap between tender opening and delivery of the gas.

In August this year, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government procured the cheapest cargo in the last five-year trade of LNG, with a gap of just 39 days between the tender opening and delivery. “So it is a totally wrong perception that more days between tender and delivery means more less price,” he added.

Till-date, the SAPM said, the PTI government procured all the LNG cargoes with an average gap of 61-62 days between tender and delivery, adding the cargoes for December-January had been acquired with a gap of 45-50 days. The PML-N government, he said, in its last winter December 2017-January 2018 had procured 18 LNG cargoes at an average rate of $ 8 per MMBTU, while the PTI government purchased 23.5 LNG cargoes at average cost of $ 6.34 per MMBTU for December 2020 – January 2021.

Textile Exports Up 4.88% in 5 Months; 9.27% in November

ISLAMABAD, Dec 21, 2020 (APP):The exports of textile commodities witnessed an increase of 4.88 percent during the first five months of the current fiscal year as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The textile exports were recorded at $6044.536 million in July-November (2020-21) against the exports of $5763.117 million in July-November (2019-20), showing growth of 4.88 percent, according to latest data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The textile commodities that contributed in positive trade growth included knitwear, exports of which increased from $1320.740 million last year to $1510.129 million during the current year, showing growth of 14.34 percent. Likewise, exports of bed wear increased by 12.28 percent by growing from $1013.648 to $1138.174 while the exports of towels increased by 14.24 percent, from $317.488 million to $362.702 million.

The exports of tents, canvas and tarplin grew by 58.05 percent, from $31.786 to $50.238, while the exports of readymade garments increased by 4.36 percent, from $1155.536 million to $1205.167 million and the exports of madeup article (excluding towels and bed wear) increased by 15.53 percent, from $265.824 million to $307.115 million.

Meanwhile, the commodities that witnessed negative growth in traded included raw cotton, exports of which declined by 96.34 percent, from $14.281 million to $0.523 million while the exports of cotton yarn decreased by 37.34 percent, from $486.017 to $198.357. The exports of cotton cloth also decreased by 8.73 percent, from $847.108 million to $773.171, yarn (other than cotton yarn) by 16.69 percent, from $12.660 million to $10.547 million, art silk and synthetic textile by 1.33 percent from $135.851 million to $134.042 million.

Meanwhile, on year-on-year basis, the textile exports increased by 9.27 percent during the month of November 2020 as compared to the same month of last year. The exports during November 2020 were recorded at $1286.063 million against the exports of $1176.944 million. On month-on-month basis, the exports from the country witnessed nominal decrease of 0.20 percent during November 2020 when compared to the exports of $1288.620 million in October 2020.

It is pertinent to mention here that the country’s merchandize exports increased by 2.11 percent during the first five months of the current fiscal year as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The exports during July-November (2020-21) were recorded at $9.737 billion against the exports of $9.536 billion in July-November (2019-20), showing growth of 2.11 percent according to PBS data.

The imports into the country during the period under review also increased 1.29 percent by going up from $19.175 billion last year to $19.422 billion during the current fiscal year. Based on the figures, there has been slight increase of 4.8 percent in the trade deficit during the period under review as it was recorded at $9.685 billion compared to the deficit of $9.639 billion during last year

Iran Supports Territorial Integrity of Azerbaijan, Expressing Satisfaction

TEHRAN,December 13, 2020:: In a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov on December 9, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed an agreement to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as the liberation of Azerbaijan’s territories from the Armenian occupation. Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed satisfaction with the liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and declared his country’s readiness to play a role in helping to strengthen the ceasefire between Baku and Yerevan. In a meeting with Azerbaijan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeyhun Bayramov in Tehran on December 9, Rouhani referred to the clear positions of Iran on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, according to the official website of the Iranian president.

The president also stated Iran’s readiness to participate in the reconstruction of the liberated areas of Azerbaijan after a 44-day war, saying that "considering the neighborhood of the two countries and the facilities available in Iran, Iran's presence and participation in the reconstruction of the areas affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh war will benefit both countries".

The latest outbreak of war in Azerbaijan's Karabakh region started on September 27 after Armenia's forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. Non-stop artillery attacks prompted counter-offensive measures by the Azerbaijani forces. As a result, Azerbaijani army liberated over 300 settlements, including five cities - Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from Armenia's occupation. Hostilities ended on November 10 after a trilateral ceasefire agreement was signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. Under the deal, Armenia returned the occupied districts of Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin to Azerbaijan by December 1.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked into a decades-old conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which is an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a military campaign against Azerbaijan that lasted until a ceasefire deal was reached in 1994. Armenia occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories including the Nagorno-Karabakh (Daghlig Garabagh) region and seven surrounding districts. Over 30,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were killed and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.

During the meeting, Rouhani referred to previous agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan, including the Rasht-Astara railway project, and said that "conditions are ripe for the implementation of joint cooperation projects agreed between the two countries, including Khoda-Afarin Dam and the construction of the power plant, and the two countries can further develop their cooperation in the fields of industry, science, pharmacy and other sectors."

Khoda-Afarin Dam (also spelled as Khudafarin Dam) which is an earth-fill embankment dam on the Araz River, is located 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) west of Khomarlu in the East Azerbaijan Province, Iran and 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) southwest of Soltanlı in Jabrayil District, Azerbaijan. Armenia occupied the area in 1993, during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, but on 18 October 2020, the Azerbaijani forces retook control of the dam. The dam's purpose is a hydroelectric power generation and irrigation.

For his turn, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister pointed out the liberation of the occupied territories and the revival of the 132-kilometer border with Iran, saying that "Azerbaijan's borders with Iran are a border of friendship and development, and we believe that the restoration of these borders can lead to new cooperation projects". Jeyhun Bayramov said that the implementation of the Rasht-Astara railway project will increase economic and trade cooperation between the two countries and expressed hope that with the new international conditions, joint cooperation projects between the two countries would be implemented quickly.

The construction and commissioning of the Astara (Iran) - Astara (Azerbaijan) railway have enabled more products to be exported. The Rasht-Astara railway will be an extension of the Qazvin-Rasht railway, which is a segment of the International North-South Transport Corridor which originates in India and passes through Iran, Azerbaijan and extends to Russia and the Gulf of Finland. The foundation of the corridor was laid on September 12, 2000, based on an intergovernmental agreement signed between Russia, Iran and India. Azerbaijan joined this agreement in 2005.

Some reports claim that the construction of the 130km Rasht-Astara railway should be complete by 2021, while other sources suggested around 2023 and yet others hinted that no physical construction had yet commenced. During his official visit, Bayramov also met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, and discussed a number of regional and international issues including the expansion of bilateral relations, the Caspian Sea, border cooperation, ongoing projects and the joint economic commission.

FBR intensifies operations against illicit and smuggled cigarettes

ISLAMABAD, Dec 11, 2020 (APP):: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has intensified its operations against the illicit and smuggled cigarettes across the country, according to press statement issued by the board here Friday. “Tobacco sector is one of the leading sectors of revenue contribution and realizing this significance, FBR has instructed its field formations to gear up their anti-smuggling operations against illicit and smuggled cigarettes,” the statement said.

The Director General Intelligence and Investigation Inland Revenue (I&I IR) and Director General Intelligence and Investigation Customs (I&I Customs) and Collectors have been instructed by the chairman FBR to supervise the operations and ensure that every possible avenue of illicit trade in tobacco sector be checked so that huge revenue leakages can be prevented.

The I & I Customs has seized 6.7 million cartons of smuggled cigarettes from July 2020 to November 2020 having approximate value of Rs. 542 million. Likewise, Inland Revenue Enforcement Network (IREN) established in September 2019 with a Chief Coordinator, Central Field Coordinator and seven regional enforcement hubs all across Pakistan, tasked to conduct raids and seizures on the counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes has seized 35.8 million sticks of cigarettes during the period from July 2020 to November 2020.

The board clarified that despite ongoing health hazards, its teams were making all out efforts to curb the menace of smuggled, counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes.

Foreign Currency Account Scheme

KARACHI, Dec 10, 2020(APP):: The Foreign Exchange Rates Committee of Financial Market Association of Pakistan issued the following Base Rate, here on Thursday.

FOREIGN CURRENCY ACCOUNTS SCHEME BBA BID MAXIMUM RATES

R A T E S FOR PAYMENT OF WITH INTEREST BY VALUE DATE AUTHORIZED DEALERS

U.S. DOLLARS VALUE 10 12 20

For 3 months and over but less than 6 months -0.0200% PA 0.7300% PA

For 6 months and over but less than 12 Months 0.0034% PA 0.7534% PA

For 12 months 0.0873% PA 0.9623% PA
For 2 Years 0.0873% PA 1.4623% PA
For 3 Years 0.0873% PA 1.7123% PA
For 4 years 0.0873% PA 1.9623% PA
For 5 years 0.0873% PA 2.0873% PA

POUND STERLING VALUE 10 12 20

For 3 months and over but less than 6 Months -0.2189% PA 0.5311% PA

For 6 months and over but less than 12 months -0.2068% PA 0.5443% PA

For 12 Months -0.1405% PA 0.7384% PA
For 2 Years -0.1405% PA 1.2384% PA
For 3 Years -0.1405% PA 1.4845% PA
For 4 years -0.1405% PA 1.7345% PA
For 5 years -0.1405% PA 1.8595% PA

EURO VALUE 09 12 20

For 3 months and over but less than 6 months 0.3184% PA 1.0684% PA

For 6 months and over but less than 12 months 0.2806% PA 1.0306% PA

For 12 Months 0.2451% PA 1.1201% PA
For 2 Years 0.2451% PA 1.6201% PA
For 3 Years 0.2451% PA 1.8701% PA
For 4 years 0.2451% PA 2.1201% PA
For 5 years 0.2451% PA 2.2451% PA

JAPANESE YEN VALUE 10 12 20

For 3 months and over but less than 6 months 0.1470% PA 0.6030% PA For 6 months and over but less than 12 months 0.1845% PA 0.5655% PA
For 12 Months 0.1958% PA 0.6792% PA
For 2 Years 0.1958% PA 1.1792% PA
For 3 Years 0.1958% PA 1.4292% PA
For 4 Years 0.1958% PA 1.6792% PA
For 5 years 0.1958% PA 1.8042% PA

Currency Rates of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP)

KARACHI, Dec 09 2020(APP):: Following are the selling/buying rates of major currencies issued by the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), here on Wednesday.

CURRENCY SELLING BUYING

USD 162.41 158.70
GBP 217.21 212.24
EUR 196.86 192.36

JPY 1.5595 1.5238
SAR 43.34 42.25
AED 44.23 43.19

Karachi: Open Auction System for Poultry Purchase and Sale Implemented - Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani

KARACHI, December 5, 2020:: Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani has decided to implement an open-auction system for purchase and sale of chicken and eggs wholesale to prevent excessive increase in prices of poultry and eggs and to set them at a transparent price in the wholesale. According to the notification issued by Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani, the purchase and sale of poultry and eggs will be matched with the rules and procedures of the Market Committee. The decision will be implemented from 10th December, 2020.

The notification said that under section 3 of the Act, 2005, on controlling prices of essential commodities and preventing illicit profitism and storage, the purchase and sale of eggs chicken and poultry meat will be made only through open auction under the market committee rules in the New Vegetable Market. As per the notification issued by the Commissioner, all dealers, buyers and anyone will be able to buy and sell under this procedure.

ECC Expected to Give Go-Ahead to Karachi Transformation Plan: Sources

ISLAMABAD, Dec 1, 2020:: Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will chair the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Wednesday (tomorrow) to discuss a 10-point agenda. In the forthcoming meeting, ECC is likely to approve Karachi transformation plan announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan in September, 2021.

The premier had announced ‘historic’ Rs1100 billion financial package for the execution of a transformation plan meant to address the city’s issues and developmental requirements. The committee will deliberate upon the recommendations for ending regulatory duty on cotton import which aims to bring raw cotton. It will also mull over the provision of Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) to export sector on discounted rates.

The agenda also includes decisions regarding waiving off national highway loans; supply of imported sugar to state-owned utility stores; provision of gas supply to Pakistan Steel Mills. A summary will be presented to the committee for repair work of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) building and gas supply to Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) from Benari field besides approving the gas supply in accordance with its target. It is also expected that ECC will approve gas supplies from a third-party company or exploration firm.

In the previous meeting, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved a technical supplementary grant for the advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccines. The ECC members had deliberated upon the six-month extension of payment of interest on loans acquired from G20 countries and the matter related to gas supply to Engro Fertilizers.

The committee’s members approved gas supplies to Engro Fertilizers. Moreover, the committee had granted permission to Punjab province for importing 340,000 tonnes wheat through the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). Sources told ARY News that the committee had allocated funds for the payment of salaries of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) workers; a technical supplementary grant worth Rs500 million for education ministry; approval of Rs683.3 million budget for National Information Technology Board (NITB).

SBP Approves Rs 238.2 Bn for 2,958 Businesses Under Rozgar Scheme

ISLAMABAD, Nov 27, 2020(APP):: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) under its Rozgar scheme for protecting businesses and employees, working with them, from the impact of COVID-19 has so far approved Rs 238.2 billion for 2,958 businesses. Similarly, under its refinancing scheme for protecting businesses from the impact of COVID-19, the central bank has so far deferred Rs 659.5 billion principal repayments of loans up to one year.

The bank also allowed restructuring or rescheduling of around Rs207.5 billion so far, according to the updated data of the central bank. The number of borrowers that would benefit from this rescheduling relief has risen to 1,572,428, with outstanding amount of Rs 2.514 billion, it said. Meanwhile, the bank under this refinancing scheme for hospitals to combat Covid-19, approved financing of Rs7.77 billion for 39 hospitals so far.

As many as 45 hospitals had requested for the financing amounting to Rs13.23 billion. With respect to progress on refinance scheme for setting up new projects or expansion, the central bank approved 243 projects with an amount of Rs 193.25 billion for which it received requests for 425 projects with amount of Rs 437.15 billion.

Furthermore, from March 20, 2020 to November 20, the Bank had issued fresh currency notes to the commercial banks worth of Rs 1.136 trillion. Similarly an amount of Rs 32.3 billion was quarantined during the period that was received from hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. while overall the bank received cash worth of Rs 995 billion which was quarantined for 14 days.

It is pertinent to mention here that in order to combat the impact of COVID-19 and to help the businesses in payment of wages and salaries to their workers and employees and thereby support continued employment in this challenging environment, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has introduced a temporary refinance scheme for payment of wages and salaries to the workers and employees of the business concerns.

This Scheme was aimed to ease cash flow constraints of the employers and thereby avoid layoffs. In addition, the SBP had expanded the scope of existing refinancing facilities and introduced a scheme to support hospitals and medical centers to purchase equipment to detect, contain, and treat COVID-19 besides, stimulating investment in new manufacturing plants and machinery, as well as modernization and expansion of existing projects.

POL Import Bill Shrinks 24.56% to $3.153 Bln in 4 Months

ISLAMABAD, Nov 24, 2020 (APP):: The imports of overall petroleum group declined by 24.56 percent during the first four months of the current fiscal year (FY2020-21) as compared to the corresponding period of the last year. During the period under review, the total imports of the petroleum group stood at $3.153 billion, as against the imports of $4.180 billion last year, according to the latest data issued by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The commodities that contributed in negative growth of petroleum imports included petroleum products, imports of which declined by 12.5 percent, from $1.714 billion to $1.5 billion. The imports of petroleum cured decreased by 26.13 percent, from $1.186 billion last year to $0.876 billion whereas the imports of liquefied natural gas decreased by 46.14 percent from $1.191 billion to $0.641 billion.

The only petroleum product that witnessed increase in trade was liquefied petroleum gas, imports of which grew by 54.09 percent, from $87.435 million to $134.726 million. The imports of all other petroleum group commodities decreased by 1.85 percent, the data revealed. Meanwhile, on year-on-year basis, the petroleum group imports decreased by 18.33 percent during the month of October as compared to the same month of last year. The petroleum imports during October 2020 were recorded at $825.272 million against the imports of $1010.531 million.

On month-on-month basis, the petroleum imports into the country increased by 2.51 percent during October 2020 when compared to the imports of $805.086 in September 2020, the data revealed. It is pertinent to mention here that the country’s trade deficit witnessed reduction of 1.88 percent during the first four months of current fiscal year compared to the deficit of the corresponding period of last year. The deficit during the current year was recorded at $7.577 billion as compared to the deficit of $7.722 billion last year.

During the period under review, the country’s overall exports registered positive growth of 0.33 percent, by going up from $7.529 billion last year to $7.554 billion during the current year. On the other hand, the imports decreased by 0.79 percent, from $15.251 billion last year to $15.131billion during the current year

Probe Report Holds ‘PIA Engineers’ Responsible for Havelian Plane Crash

KARACHI, Nov 19, 2020:: The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board of Pakistan tasked to probe into the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crash near Havilian in 2016 has released its inquiry report and held PIA engineers responsible for the crash. A fractured turbine blade triggered a “complicated” sequence of failures that culminated in the fatal Havelian PIA crash in 2016, the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board of Pakistan has said in a report.

“The dislodging / fracture of PT-1 blade of No 1 Engine occurred after omission from the EMM (Non-Compliance of SB-21878) by PIA Engineering during an unscheduled maintenance performed on the engine in November 2016, in which the PT-1 blades had fulfilled the criteria for replacement, but were not replaced,” according to a report.

The report said that in February 2017, PIA Engineering reviewed the life of the old design PT-1 blades. “PIA Engineering decided to change the soft life as a hard life of 10,000 hrs irrespective of the conditions given in the maintenance manual (an action overboard towards safe side).”

PIA’s PK-661, crashed while travelling from Chitral to Islamabad on December 7, 2016. All 48 passengers and crew aboard, including religious scholar and former singer Junaid Jamshed, died in the crash. The report said that most probably, the PT-1 blade had fractured during the previous flight (Peshawar to Chitral). The summarized sequence of the technical failures was as follows:

Before the accident flight: Engine Power Turbine Stage 1 (PT-1) Blade fractured/dislodged causing imbalanced rotation of PT shaft,OSG pin fractured and Probable contamination (external from the engine) in PVM. It is pertinent to mention here that PM Imran in May 2020 had ordered to make public all reports on fatal plane crashes that happened in past. PM Khan had chaired the meeting regarding PIA Karachi plane crash and had ordered to public Junaid Jamshed plane crash report.

Forensic Audit Team Formed to Analyze Dry/Shut-In Oil, Gas Wells

ISLAMABAD, Nov 10 (APP): Amid fast depletion of existing hydrocarbon deposits and increased energy demand, the Petroleum Division has constituted a team to conduct a forensic audit of the dry/shut-in wells drilled in different parts of the country by oil and gas Exploration & Production (E&P) companies. “A four-member core committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Dr Naseem Ahmed (ex-ED/MD OGDCL) to formulate a forensic team to analyze the dry/shut-in wells in detail and submit its report within a month,” according to an official document available with APP.

The country’s existing gas production is around 3.7 billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD) against the demand of 6 BCFD, while the available gas reserves are depleting at the ratio of 9.5 percent per year. The committee would be assisted by 15 co-opted members including three from Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), two from Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP), two from Mari Petroleum Company Limited (MPCL), four each from Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL).

The chairman of the committee has also been asked to formulate forensic field monitoring teams, comprising representatives of E&P companies, GSP, HDIP and officers of the Policy Wing of Petroleum Division. As per the Terms of Reference (TORs), the field teams would visit shut-in wells throughout the country and evaluate their status on technical lines. The teams would conduct a forensic audit of the wells and check the feasibility of wells that could be reviewed and put on production.

It would review the timelines provided by the E&P companies and suggest schedule compression for production from the feasible wells. The team would also ensure execution of work plans for revivals of the already identified shut-in wells for which the E&P companies have committed schedules and work plans, besides recommending penalty as per law, if it found any failure of non-compliance or non-implementation of the committed work plays by the E&P companies.

The team would have the mandate to monitor the wells already in production for purposes such as quality control, assessment of the production facilities, technical losses/theft assessments and review of daily production data and drilling data.” “This team will report the status of shut-in wells and report directly to the Secretary Petroleum Division within a month period. It will also do any additional assignment given by the competent authority.”

FBR Gross Revenues Grew 5.8% to Rs1400 Bln In 4 Months

ISLAMABAD, November 2, 2020 (APP): The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) collected gross revenues of Rs1400 billion during the first four months of the current fiscal year against the collection of Rs1323 billion during the same period of last year, showing growth of 77 billion or 5.8 percent. The net revenue collection also grew from Rs1288 during July-October (2019-20) to Rs1337 billion during July-October (2020-21), showing growth of 3.8 percent.
According to break figures released by the board here Monday, the Income Tax collection stood at Rs. 470 billion while collection of Sales Tax, Federal Excise Duty, Customs Duty remained at Rs 643 billion, Rs81 billion and Rs 206 billion respectively. During the month of October only, the total collected revenue stood at Rs333 billion against the collection of Rs325 billion in the same month last year, showing growth of 2.46 percent.

The Income Tax collection for July to October stood at Rs. 470 billion while the collection of Sales Tax, Federal Excise Duty, Customs Duty remained at Rs643 billion, Rs81 billion and Rs206 billion respectively. During the first four months of the current fiscal year, refunds to the tune of Rs128 billion were issued against Rs52 billion last. According to FBR statement, the refunds greatly helped boost the economic activity in the country. The refunds issued during the month of October this year stood Rs15 billion against Rs4.5 billion in the corresponding month last year.

Despite increase in refunds, FBR has still managed to cross the revenue collection of October last year, it said adding that the performance made despite the fact that the economy had been sluggish in the wake of on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the government had extended significant tax relief measures to the public in the Finance Act, 2020 and there was drop in revenues at import stage at 2 %.
However, the domestic revenues grew at 13 % in these four months which reflected taxpayers’ growing confidence on the revenue measures being taken by the present government.

During the first four months of current fiscal year, smuggled goods worth Rs21.48 billion were seized as compared to seizures goods worth Rs13.40 billion during the corresponding months of 2019. The statement added that the board was fully geared towards automation, e-audit, and simplification of procedures, e-payment of duty draw back so as to add to Ease of Doing Business (EoDB). Furthermore, FBR had launched an effective crackdown against corruption, harassment, and misuse of authority and has also introduced a simplified one pager Income Tax Returns for the retailers in the current Tax Year.

Moreover, FBR also uploaded Income Tax Returns in Urdu and Regional languages for the retailers and salaried people. The board has appealed the taxpayers to avail these facilitative measures and ensure filing to Annual Income Tax Returns before the last date i.e. December 8, 2020.

Report of Giving Immunity to CPEC Authority Chairman from NAB Investigation Is Misleading: Planning Ministry

ISLAMABAD, Oct 22 (APP):The government Thursday termed the news report of giving immunity to Chairman CPEC Authority from investigation of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as misleading. “It has been reported in certain sections of press that the new CPEC Authority Bill, 2020 will give immunity to Chairman, CPEC Authority and other officers from investigations of NAB and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), such news report is misleading,” ministry of Planning said in a press release here.

It explained that the report probably referred to the “indemnity” clause (Section 23) of the bill, which is a standard clause in many similar laws which indemnify authorities for actions done in good faith, under the respective laws. The indemnity clause is provided for in Public Procurement Regularity Authority (PPRA) Ordinance 2002 (Section 23), Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) Ordinance 2002 (Section 39), Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) Act 2010 (Section 21), Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) Act 2010 (Section 48) and Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) Act 2017 (Section 26) and similar other laws.

It is further clarified that the clause in question was also a part of the CPEC Authority Ordinance promulgated in Oct 2019 and is not a new insertion.
It is in consonance with other similar laws. The speculation regarding this clause is therefore misplaced and unfounded, the statement added.

Textile Exports Up 2.92% To $3.4bln In Q1, 11.30% In September

ISLAMABAD, Oct 18 (APP): The exports of textile commodities witnessed an increase of 2.92 percent during the first quarter (Q1) of the current fiscal year as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The textile exports from the country were recorded at $3469.585 million in July-September (2020-21) against the exports of $3371.376 million in July-September (2019-20), showing growth of 2.92 percent, according to latest data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The textile commodities that contributed in positive trade growth included knitwear, exports of which increased from $779.293 million last year to $860.758 million during the current year, showing growth of 10.46 percent. Likewise, exports of bed wear increased by 8.40 percent by growing from $601.024 to $651.487 while the exports of tents, canvas and tarplin grew by 78.71 percent, from $15.771 to $28.184, the PBS data revealed.

The readymade garments’ exports were recorded at $701.442 million during the current year against the exports of $666.157 million last year, showing an increase of 5.24 percent while exports of madeup articles (excluding towels and bead-wear) increased by 16.58 percent from $148.050 million to $172.604 million. Meanwhile, the commodities that witnessed negative growth in traded included raw cotton, exports of which declined by 97.50 percent, from $10.826 million to $0.271 million while the exports of cotton yarn decreased by 42.65 percent, from $297.237 to $170.475.

Exports of cotton cloth also decreased by 8.49 percent, from $499.390 million to $457.060, yarn (other than cotton yarn) by 22.77 percent, from $7.230 million to $0.931 million, art silk and synthetic textile by 2.93 percent from $77.894 million to $75.615 million whereas the exports of cotton (carded or combed) witnessed 100 percent decline during the period under review.

Meanwhile, on year-on-year basis, the textile exports increased by 11.30 percent during the month of September 2020 as compared to the same month of last year. The exports during September 2020 were recorded at 1189.739 million against the exports of $1068.906 million. On month-on-month basis, the exports from the country increased by 18.09 percent during September 2020 when compared to the exports of $1007.509 million in August 2020.

The country’s overall merchandize exports registered negative growth of 0.94 percent, by going down from $5.510 billion during the first quarter of last year to $5.458 billion during the current year. On the other hand, the imports decreased by 0.56 percent, from $11.199 billion last year to $11.262 billion during the current year, the PBS data revealed.

PakistanUndertaking Power Sector Reforms

(October 5, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: The government has taken two major steps with remarkable degree of success – report on independent power producers (IPPs) and the follow-up agreement which will reduce power generation costs by a whopping Rs1 trillion over the next 10 to 20 years, provided all generation companies including government and CPEC ones are included.

If implemented finally, it would be a major achievement. Secondly, the government is finally going for revival of Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) in the form of a managing agent, although a holding company could have been a better choice, which would separate policymaking role of the Power Division and keep it away from day-to-day involvement in the running of companies.

Pepco was made dysfunctional in the hope that distribution companies’ (DISCOs) boards would be more effective than Pepco. This has not happened. Appointments on boards could not be merit-based and a two-hour board meeting of unqualified and disinterested directors could not achieve much. It is hoped that the government would be able to equip the reorganised Pepco with competent people – some through transfers from DISCOs and some from the open market.

We have elaborated on it in an earlier article. We will briefly touch upon other steps the government should take in order to bring about the required change and impact in the power sector. Surplus capacity and rising capacity charges are contributing to circular debt. More capacity is coming in while demand is not increasing. About 25,000 megawatts of new capacity is under various stages of implementation.

People are nervous as to how capacity payment would be made. Circular debt is being projected to go as high as Rs4 trillion. One solution is to slow down the capacity buildup as much as one can. All interested parties are trying to push their projects, lest their projects are dropped.

Lower tariffs

Tariff reforms are badly needed. The other approach for slowing down the accumulation of circular debt is to increase demand – easier said than done. But it is possible. There is a known and accepted negative relationship between price and demand. Demand can increase with lower prices and tariff. When fixed costs are high, increased demand at lower prices can increase the contribution to overheads, if not profit.

However, there are several provisos to it. One, the price reduction has to be in paying sectors and not in the subsidised sector, which is already a loss sector. Two, the industrial sector can definitely expand, if electricity prices go down. New products and industries can come up. Products which, hitherto, are not viable can be introduced. Industries can be encouraged to add third shifts.

Three, the IT industry can expand and become competitive, if tariffs are low. Exports can increase. Four, there is much less electricity demand in the night and a special night-time industrial tariff could be introduced. Five, winters may have a reduced tariff to encourage people to switch from gas where a shortage is being forecast for the next two years. Some steps have been taken in this respect but these were based on mediocre calculations. A scientific study would be required. Six, there are other areas which should be looked into. Currently, even well-to-do are benefiting from the consumption-based tariff.

Competition

Market and competition should be another focus of reforms in the power sector. Immediate possibilities are in the area of wheeling and competitive bidding for new projects. Unfortunately, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) and Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) are continuing with the traditional system despite their avowed commitment to competitive tariff at least in the area of renewable energy like solar and wind. We have seen how competition brings down prices in the case of Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded coal power plant vs other projects. A new framework is under process, called Competitive Trading Bilateral Contract Model (CTBCM). It has to be revised to make it more purposeful.

Currently, it is focused on bilateralisation of generation companies (Gencos) and DISCOs, which will create electricity pricing disparity – something the government is combating in the gas sector in the form of weighted average cost of gas (Wacog). CTBCM, in many ways, is almost the same as the current merit order. It does propose wire-only DISCOs and a retail electricity competitive regime, which is perhaps its only positive side. The issue is from where the free electricity will come for competition. All capacity and even new capacity would be bound under long-term “take-or-pay” contracts.

The market can be brought about gradually. Initially, both competitive and regulated sectors would co-exist. A voluntary market exchange should be organised wherein captive power plants and the to-be-retired power plants can trade and compete. Some portion of take-or-pay contracts may be allowed to be traded. Some new plants may be encouraged to get into the market on a take-and-pay basis. Theoretically, it is possible to pay off the present value of take-or-pay contracts to developers and issue bonds, adjusted through income, under the new market.

But it is highly complicated. A beginning has to be made as it is said that a thousand miles journey starts with the first step. DISCOs’ reforms are essential. Privatisation has been on the agenda but does not happen for one reason or the other. Wire-only has offered a new opportunity for reducing DISCOs’ risks in the public sector. In the second stage, DISCOs could be privatised under the leasing model. An immediate step for improving DISCOs’ efficiency would be to divide large DISCOs into smaller ones, especially the ones spread over large geographical areas such as Pesco, Hesco and Mepco.

For reduction in theft and technical loss, the discussion may become lengthy. We would emphasise the redesign and revival of the smart meter programme, which has the potential of controlling theft. The current programme is purposeless and not feasible. If implemented throughout Pakistan, it would take more than seven years and almost 10 years. A redesigned programme focused on distribution transformers would be cost effective and can be fast-tracked and completed in two years. Priority should be given to high-loss DISCOS like Pesco, Mepco, Hesco, etc where initial grounding already exists through the earlier US-aided pilot projects.

Finally, Nepra reforms should be on top of the agenda. The IPP report and the subsequent agreement have made it clear that Nepra has been a partner, by design or by default or due to sheer ignorance and lack of capability. IPP agreement terms should be adopted by Nepra by toning down financial parameters, based on which it has been awarding high tariff, high capex, escalations, high return on equity, interest rates and cash flow-based tariff spread over shorter debt period. Cash flow-based tariff increases the initial tariff for first five years by 25%, making it even worse.

A formal external review of Nepra is highly desirable. Its members should be appointed on merit rather than on the current provincial representation, which promotes nepotism. If the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) can have a merit-based system, why shouldn’t Nepra have the same? It is a separate matter that some provincial enthusiasts want to bring Nepra system to Ogra.

A supervisory board, however, could be introduced in both the regulatory bodies to take care of provincial interests. An appellate tribunal, which has long been opposed by Nepra, has now become a reality under the Supreme Court order. It should be established as early as possible. Later on, the oil and gas sector should also be included in the tribunal.

OGDCL Earns Rs 100.081 Bln Profit in FY 2019-20

(September 29, 2020)

ISLAMABAD (APP): The Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) on Monday announced financial results for the year 2019-20, declaring earnings of Rs 100.081 billion profit. “The Company’s net sales revenue clocked at Rs 244.856 billion with profit after tax at Rs 100.081 billion. This translated into earnings of Rs 23.27 per share,” an OGDCL press release said. The company’s Board of Directors announced a final cash dividend of Rs 2.50 per share, which stood 25 percent.

“This is in addition to interim dividends already paid at Rs. 4.25 per share i.e. 42.5 percent. The cash dividend will be paid to the shareholders whose names will appear in the Register of Members on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. The Share Transfer Books (STB) of the Company will be closed from Thursday, October 22, 2020 to Wednesday, October 28, 2020 (both days inclusive).” During the period under review, the company also paid Rs 42.983 billion and Rs 27.626 billion on account of taxes and royalty respectively.

On the exploration and development side, the company made significant progress in seismic and drilling activities as 25 wells were spud in comparison to 16 of the corresponding year. “Exploratory efforts resulted in five discoveries of oil & gas reserves. The Board of directors appreciated the efforts of the Management for ensuring production enhancement and significant exploratory work during the period.”

The production was optimized through injection of 14 new wells in the production gathering system. “Deployment of Electrical Submersible Pumps (ESP) also contributed to production enhancement and the company will continue to use the latest technology for better efficiency,” the company vowed. The newly injected development wells would add to the hydrocarbon reserves base of the OGDCL and the country besides bringing significant savings to the exchequer through import substitution. “The increase in oil & gas production will also help in mitigating ever growing demand of domestic consumers and industry.”

ECC Approves Rs 3.850bn for PSM Employees’ Salaries

(September 24, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet Wednesday approved an amount of Rs 3,850 million for provision of salaries to the employees of Pakistan State Mills (PSM) for the financial year 2020-21, which will be disbursed every month. However, though the ECC agreed in principle that the dues to the retired non-litigant employees should be paid, the forum decided to seek a detailed report from the Ministry of Industries and Production on the PSM’s liabilities, including retirement dues, which would accrue as a result of the retrenchment plan, expenditures on account of utilities or any other charges.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired the ECC meeting, according to a Finance Ministry press release. The Ministry of Industries and Production had presented the two separate summaries to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for the disbursement of salaries to the PSM employees and for clearing the liabilities of those employees, who have not approached the court (Sindh High Court). The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) was briefed that earlier this month, the retired employees of the PSM were paid Rs12.741 billion as retirement dues but the court had asked to pay the non-litigant retired employees as well that would further add Rs.11.68 billion to the expenditure of the Federal Government.  

The ECC also considered and approved two technical supplementary grants (TSGs) for the Ministry of Interior amounting to Rs111 million for clearing various liabilities of the ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory) administration. Two other TSGs were approved for the Islamabad High Court amounting to Rs102 million and the National Heritage & Culture Division of Rs 8.5 million for various expenditures. The ECC also granted waiver of guarantee fee on foreign loans of K2/K3 projects, the press release said. According to a report prepared by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the Economic Affairs Division (ADB), there would be a benefit of Rs.0.07/KWh to the general public by the waiver of this fee.

For the centralized procurement of the vaccines under the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), the ECC approved shifting of Federal EPI from development to revenue expenditure with an allocation of Rs 9, 903.195 million through TSG for vaccine procurement in CFY to avoid interruption in the immunization programme. Now the vaccine would be procured by the Federal EPI on behalf of the provincial governments and later reimbursement would be made by Punjab and Sindh governments, and deduction at source from the shares of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan for their respective vaccine shares would be made.

In order to increase the share of man-made fibers (MMF) in the textile goods for better unit prices in the international markets, product diversification and most importantly, value addition, the Additional Customs Duty (ACDs) and Regulatory Duty (RDs) on selected HS codes of textile sector was allowed to be removed. The total revenue impact of these exemptions would be Rs 533 million. The ECC also allowed notifying the Kharlachi Border Crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan as a rebatable border point for export of goods to Afghanistan. Earlier the opening of this border point helped in the release of congested transit trucks at the Afghan border due to COVID-19 restrictions.

It allowed the exemption from re-lending of the funds for the Pakistan National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 to cover the country’s requirements for 12 months through emergency operations. In order to administer the programme, the Asian Development Bank would provide a loan of US$ 100 million and an additional US$ 5 million would provided by the Government of Norway as a grant administered by the ADB. The Asian Development Bank has already signed a loan agreement with the Ministry of Economic Affairs to finance the said project.

 

Pakistan Entrepreneurs Must Develop Brands

(September 21, 2020)

ISLAMABAD (APP): Pakistani entrepreneurs on Sunday were urged to develop international standard brands products to capture open global markets by fully exploiting indigenous potentials, expertise and resources. Talking to a delegation of exporters and traders led by Mian Faiz Bukhsh Arain here on Sunday, President SAARC Chamber, and Chairman United Business Group Iftikhar Ali Malik highlighted the significance of brands and said it was high time for Pakistani entrepreneurs, corporate sector, especially younger business magnates, to focus on developing brands.

He said vertical integration and institutional network were to be strengthened on modern scientific lines to meet the future challenges of global marketing. “By the grace of Allah, Pak entrepreneurs have full potential to compete the international markets but unfortunately they do not develop their own brand like KFC, McDonald’s, Guard, Bata, Chenone etc,” he added.

He said that private sector had to come forward to develop their own brands on war footings for their survival otherwise the neighbouring countries would continue to dominate and sweep international markets. He said Pakistan was producing some of the best products in the world in sports, textile, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and in several other sectors but not exporting them under its own brands. Iftikhar Ali Malik said “We must not only develop but promote brands through manufacturing the best quality products which is the need of the hour.”

He urged the government to conduct market research in an attempt to search new export destinations for Pakistani products, which were considered the best in the world as far as quality and prices were concerned. “Pakistani missions abroad should be duty bound to introduce Pakistani products there and ensure dissemination of trade-related information so that local entrepreneurs can avail trade opportunities to the maximum,” he said. He said he always encouraged genuine exhibitors and facilitate them at optimum level. He urged the private sector to restore consumer faith and trust by manufacturing best quality products on competitive prices for the promotion of brands.

Iftikhar Malik also called upon the government, private sector, academia and civil society to put efforts together to mentor, guide and support youth to unleash immense economic and social potential. “We need a national and sub-national policy framework and develop institutions to assist these young entrepreneurs to grow,” he said. He said that youth accounted for over 60 percent of Pakistan’s population and it was essential to encourage them in entrepreneurship so that they could become more productive and contribute positively to the growth of the national economy.

Iftikhar Malik who is also founder chairman Pak US Business Council said they would also try to ensure a business-friendly environment by sharing views with the government and taking all the stakeholders on board on all economy-related issues.

Power Sector Gets Relief Amid Protest by Petroleum Stakeholders

(September 19, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: Amid strong protest by the petroleum division and its corporate entities, the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) on Friday decided to exempt three Punjab-based power plants of 3,900mw from compulsory purchases of liquefied natural gas (LNG) quantities from January 2022. The move to change gas supply agreements (GSAs) of these government-owned power plants (GPPs) reportedly originated at the request of the Privatisation Commission to attract better proceeds from sale of these LNG-based power plants and also forms part of overall efforts to reduce power costs.

Two of these GPPs are at the advance stages of privatisation under the International Monetary Fund programme and the government has set a Rs100 billion target for privatisation proceeds this year. “Changing the contracts structure will not only make the electricity cheaper but also significantly reduce the circular debt buildup in coming years,” said an official announcement after the CCoE meeting presided over by Minister for Planning Asad Umar. It said the committee “decided that from January 2022 the 66pc of Take-or-Pay under the GSAs will be removed and the gas companies will be free to market and sell the additional gas to other customers”.

Cabinet committee says changing contracts structure will make electricity cheaper, reduce circular debt buildup in coming years. The petroleum division, which was represented by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Nadeem Babar, said the entire LNG supply chain, including 800 million cubic feet per day (mmfcd) imports from Qatar and open market, regasification terminals, PSO and gas network, had been put in place on the basic premise of GPPs and would become unsustainable in the long term just for short term gains of privatisation proceeds.

“Any reduction or waiver of minimum take-or-pay commitments of three GPPs will lead to a cascading default of all the three public sector entities of RLNG supply chain which may include encashment of sovereign guarantees and Standby Letters of Credit (SBLCs),” the petroleum division put on record in writing while opposing the proposal. The petroleum division said if the CCoE was adamant on ending 66pc take or pay clause for the GPPs, then it “insists on Finance Division providing subsidy for the price differential to keep the Petroleum Division companies (Pakistan State Oil, Pakistan LNG Ltd, Sui Southern Gas Company, Pakistan LNG Terminal Ltd and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd) from going bankrupt on account of breaking of contracts by Power Division’ companies”.

The power division said an impact analysis of ‘must-run commitments’ of three GPPs suggested that due to signification of devaluation of currency, transition of generation mix towards cheaper and local resources and addition of efficient and low variable cost fleet of plants transpired LNG-based GPPs as uneconomical. Also, the upcoming addition of nuclear and renewable plants would further reduce the overall unit cost of national pool and lead to under-utilisation of the GPPs.

Moreover, “if these trends in prices, as well as currently load forecast remain unchanged, the existing minimum guaranteed offtake of 66pc for three RLNG plants would yield in the loss of approx Rs143bn up to 2023”. On the other hand, the petroleum division said the losses to be faced by the oil and gas companies (about Rs100bn per annum for many years) would be many times higher that savings in the power system. It said the decision to end the GPPs commitments was being taken “while completely ignoring the financial implications on the part of entire RLNG supply chain considering back-to-back agreements attached with the transaction”.

It said the CCoE had reaffirmed in November 2019 that “all the existing arrangements of RLNG Power Plants will remain intact until the date when Price Review Clause under the LNG Sales Purchase Agreement (SPA) takes its effect in year 2026 which is the 10th anniversary to the first Qatar Gas LNG supply made in 2016”. It said the decision to relieve the GPPs from LNG agreements would shift the entire exposure to the PSO and the PLL. If this entire amount of LNG brought for RNLG plants (185mmcfd for four plants and totaling 740mmcfd) is sold to other consumers, the total loss created in the LNG chain will be larger than the savings being projected by the power division for not taking 66pc take or pay at three plants.

“Essentially without funding this loss as a budgeted subsidy, we will simply be transferring Circular Debt from Power Division companies to Petroleum Division companies and in fact increasing it,” the petroleum division said, adding that from a governance point of view, shifting of this loss to the PSO or the SNGPL through a government decision was not legally tenable. It was pointed out that the SNGPL was already facing non-recovery of Rs77bn against diversion of RLNG to domestic sector in last two winters on government directions. Subject to adequate demand, the estimated financial implications of diversion of the minimum guaranteed 66pc (366mmfcd) RLNG volumes to other sectors would be about Rs100bn per year. This is more than double the savings being projected.

In addition to the exposure on the take or pay, there is exposure on the terminal charges since gas companies had signed terminal agreements with Engro and Pakistan Gasport terminals for 4.5 million tonnes per annum (600mmcfd) each for 15 years. The SSGCL has provided $40m SBLC to Engro and the PLL $22m to Gasport and it involved liquidity damages in case of variation in LNG supplies. The CCoE asked the petroleum division to take all mitigation measures to reduce the cost impact on gas sector and to avoid build up of liabilities. “Government will fund any revenue shortfall for the publicly listed companies, if required,” it said. Asad Umar said this measure would bring overall efficiency in the energy sector.

KMBL Partners with United Auto Industries

(September 16, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: Khushhali Microfinance Bank Limited (KMBL) has signed an MOU with United Auto Industries (Pvt) Limited to facilitate Khushhali Microfinance Bank customers with 2 wheeled and 3 wheeled vehicles.Under the partnership, Khushhali Microfinance Bank customers will be able to get bikes and loaders on easy finance via Khushhali Sarsabz Karobar and Khushhali Sarmaya product lines. Bikes or two-wheeler financing will be offered to employees of existing partners with whom Khushhali Microfinance Bank already has an agreement, via Sarsabz Karobar. Whereas, loader or three-wheeler financing will be offered in the open market, via Khushhali Sarmaya.

“Access to transport is instrumental in ensuring individuals’ participation in economic activity. This collaboration with United Auto marks an important step towards increasing this access for our customers by going beyond the convenience of mere banking facilities. The two programs will enable customers to purchase vehicles on easy financing and thus allow them to cover their travelling needs without hassle”, said Khushhali Microfinance Bank President, Ghalib Nishtar.

Financing of United Auto Industries three-wheeled loaders will be done under the category of commercial vehicle financing against each sale. Commercial vehicle finance is a cost-effective option for micro-entrepreneurs who don’t want to be left in a pile of debt to acquire a vehicle they wouldn’t otherwise afford. The success of the two products is reflected by the fact that many successful micro-entrepreneurs have availed Khushhali Sarmaya through which they were able to access necessary transportation assets to support their businesses. This aided in long-term cost reduction and profit growth.

PPL Ensures Traders Full Support

(September 3, 2020)

KARACHI: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, when most businesses in Pakistan suffered due to halt in operations, Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), achieved a milestone with nearly zero decline in production from operated assets to provide much-needed energy supplies for the nation. This was highly appreciated by industry partners and stakeholders. As such, the support from Board of Directors and Ministry for measures adopted by PPL enabled the company to perform optimally during this difficult time.

Despite a series of challenges posed by the pandemic, including 170 employees affected by COVID-19, most of whom have recovered now, besides 6 active cases, the company showed exemplary resilience to ensure business continuity without compromising on health and safety of its employees and contractors.

“It is a story of great resolve, dedication and commitment of our staff and senior management to deal with extraordinary circumstances, never seen before. Keeping the momentum for business operations without compromising the health and safety of our staff and contractors was the real challenge. However, over the last five months, we have proven remarkable resilience in all facets of our operations, ensuring business continuity with no decline in our operated exploration and production activities,” highlights MD & CEO PPL Moin Raza Khan.

This was made possible through the effective use of technology and communications tools with effective teamwork by staff, especially those directly responsible to provide relevant services, including Medical Services, Quality, Health, Safety and Environment, Administration, Human Resources, Information Technology and Procurement functions.

Among significant efforts to ensure employee safety and continuity of business activities was pro-active preparation and implementation of COVID-19 best practices and Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) as well as strict vigilance at all locations. To this end, regular awareness sessions were conducted for staff who were kept abreast of COVID-19 developments. Wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizers was a norm along with regular disinfection of offices and practicing ‘social-distancing.’

For field staff, rotations were efficiently handled to ensure staff presence

for smooth operations with implementation of COVID-19 SOPs. Most head office and Islamabad-based staff worked from home during the first few months with seamless 24/7 connectivity.

All internal and external meetings, including Board and relevant Committees as well as procurement committee meetings were held virtually using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and BlueJeans. Besides, digital signatures ensured safe and secure approvals.

Procurement processes worked effectively in line with given procedures to ensure that critical business operations remained unhindered.

Given the challenges of remotely located 48 exploration assets and 59 fields and discoveries all over Pakistan, each with unique socio-cultural-political settings, it was not easy to implement new organizational norms to contain the spread of COVID-19, ensuring a ‘new normal’. Besides, going virtual was a unique experience for most staff, who also faced power and connectivity issues. Nonetheless, staff stepped up to the challenge and delivered well beyond expectations.

As a result, PPL was able to ensure continuous supply of hydrocarbons from its fields. However, due to low consumption of oil due to low demand nationwide, production of both oil and gas had to be curtailed across the country, mostly in partner-operated areas.

Even so, PPL managed its production in such a way that a balance was created between both oil and gas production.

MPAs Receive Orientation on Budget 2020-21, Challenges and Features

(September 1, 2020)

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Finance Department in collaboration with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded Sub-National Governance Programme organized an orientation for MPAs of KP Assembly to enhance their understanding of public finance management, budget analysis and key challenges of budget 2020-21.

The Orientation session was chaired by Speaker Provincial Assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani and Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra.

Public financial management (PFM) is critical to economic governance and essential in establishing the performance, legitimacy and accountability of functional states. PFM leverages effective administration of funds collected and spent by governments. Moreover, the budget is an important document in ensuring transparency, accountability, comprehensiveness and good governance.

“The Year 2019-20 was progressing as a year of economic growth for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, the province observed a significant dip in progress due to COVID. Despite all challenges we successfully and launched universal health coverage for the entire population of KP” said Taimur Saleem Jhagra Minister Finance KP in his presentation.

He added, “This year’s budget was one of the most challenging in recent times due to COVID-19 pandemic but government adopted a bold agenda of reforms, conducting budget rationalization exercise, adopted strict austerity measures and presented a balanced budget”.

In his detailed presentation on PFM, Waqas Paracha SNG-II PFM Advisor noted that Public financial management was not only crucial in meeting fiscal aims, monitoring progress against targets and effective utilization of resources, but a sound system could aid the government in setting future priorities and ensuring fiscal sustainability.

Speaking in his keynote remarks, Mushtaq Ghani, Speak Provincial Assembly KP said that such sessions increase the legislator’s public finance knowledge on the core processes of budget preparation and enable legislators to understand and analyze the budget to promote accountability and transparency. Therefore, sensitization of the legislators on key challenges to the budget 20-21 is very important. He appreciated the joint efforts of the FD and SNG in organizing this

session.

“By providing a detailed description of proposed expenditure, it allows Provincial Assembly and the general public to “know where does the money come from and go” and thus increases transparency,” said the SNG-II Provincial Team Lead Muhammad Salim Khan in his closing remarks.

He said the budget is based on key assumptions about income and expenditure next year. There is huge work on the back to establish these assumptions. The MPs must understand such assumptions for ensuring the element of accountability.

SNG is a four-year FCDO-funded programme supporting the Governments of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, as well as local governments in selected districts, to improve the way they are governed and manage their resources for better service delivery.

BOP Announced Financial Results For 1st Half of Year 2020

(August 28, 2020)

LAHORE: A meeting of the Board of Directors of The Bank of Punjab was held on August 27, 2020 to consider and approve the un-audited Financial Statements for the six months period ended June 30, 2020.

While reviewing the Bank’s performance for first six months of the year 2020, the Board appreciated the efforts of Bank’s management and staff for ensuring provision of banking services to clients under very tough operating environment resulted from COVID-19 pandemic. The Board expressed its satisfaction on Bank’s overall financial performance in prevalent economic situation.

During the 2nd quarter of the year 2020, economic depression created by COVID-19 pandemic started taking its toll. However, owing to better return from investments, the Bank was able to minimize the adverse impact and substantial capital gains accrued on books of the Bank.

Net Interest Margin (NIM) remained at Rs. 11.5 billion as against Rs. 13.1 billion during corresponding period last year. However, Non-Markup/ Interest Income increased to Rs. 6.9 billion as against Rs. 1.8 billion showing a substantial increase of 283%.

During 1st half of the year, pre-provision profit improved to Rs. 9.8 billion as against Rs. 8.0 billion during corresponding period last year thereby registering a rise of 23%.

However, the Bank posted after tax profit of Rs. 3.6 billion as against Rs. 4.0 billion earned during 1st half of year 2019.

Earnings per Share (EPS) for the 1st half of year 2020 remained at the level of Rs. 1.38 per share.

As of June 30, 2020, Bank’s Total Assets crossed Rs. 1.0 Trillion mark and stood at Rs. 1,018.4 billion as against Rs. 868.9 billion as of December 31, 2019. The Deposits of the Bank touched the level of Rs.

805.7 billion, while Investments and Gross Advances were recorded at Rs. 497.7 billion and Rs. 431.4 billion, respectively. The Tier-I equity remained at Rs. 43.0 billion and Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) also improved to highly comfortable level of 17.82% from 14.80% as on December 31, 2019.

As on June 30, 2020, the Bank stands fully compliant with the SBP’s prescribed requirement of CAR with substantial positive margin.

The Bank has been assigned long term entity rating of “AA” by The Pakistan Credit Rating Agency (PACRA) with short term rating being at the highest rank of “A1+”.

The Bank currently has a network of 624 online branches, including 100 Taqwa Islamic Banking Branches, strategically located across the Country. Further, Bank also has a vast network of 563 ATMs providing 24/7 banking services to the customers.

Pakistan launches first Business & Biodiversity Platform at Port Qasim

(August 26, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: The Port Qasim Authority (PQA) of Ministry of Martime Affairs has launched Pakistan's first Business and Biodiversity Platform (BBP) at Port Qasim.

According to 2 years performance report August 2018 -2020 of the government, following the Prime Minister Initiative of Green Year Pakistan, plantation of over 1 million mangroves was underway.

A detail study of the new master plan for the Port Qasim has completed. Plan has also been finalized to uplift the entire infrastructure of PQA and its industrial area.

This include up-gradation of the roads, laying of sewerage line, water distribution channels and power supply, residential accommodation for

PQA employees, Primary and Secondary school, State of the Art sports Complex with a cricket ground fit to first class matches at an approximate combine cost of Rs3 billion.

UK Faces Record Recession Because of Corona

(August 12, 2020)

LONDON:  The United Kingdom officially went into a recession after the economy contracted by a record 20.4% in the second quarter with the country in lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed on Wednesday. "It is clear that the UK is in the largest recession on record," the Office for National Statistics said.

Britain officially entered recession in the second quarter after gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 2.2% in the first three months of the year. The technical definition of a recession is two quarterly contractions in a row. The ONS said that the contraction for the first six months of 2020 "was slightly below the 22.7% seen in Spain but was more than double the 10.6% fall in United States".

It added that Britain's dire second quarter was driven by a 20% drop in output in April, "the biggest monthly fall on record reflecting widespread... declines in output across the services, production, and construction industries".

The economy is beginning to rebound, however, as the government eases its lockdown restrictions. GDP output growth was 8.7% in June, the ONS said. "The economy began to bounce back in June, with shops reopening, factories beginning to ramp up production and house-building continuing to recover," noted Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician as the statistics office.

"Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck. "Overall, productivity saw its largest-ever fall in the second quarter. Hospitality was worst hit, with productivity in that industry falling by three-quarters in recent months," he added. Britain's recession is its first since the 2008 global financial crisis.

The grim economic news comes despite unprecedented government interventions, including spending tens of billions of pounds on job support schemes in a bid to avoid mass layoffs.

The Bank of England (BoE) is meanwhile pumping out hundreds of billions of pounds in cash stimulus and has slashed its main interest rate to a record-low 0.1%.ONS data released on Monday showed that around 730,000 workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March.

Announcements of job cuts have become a daily occurrence, with companies expected to pick up the pace of layoffs as the government's key employment support scheme ends in October. The BoE expects the unemployment rate to shoot higher to around 7.5% by the end of the year from 3.9% currently.

The central bank forecasts also that the UK economy will have contracted by 9.5% for the whole of 2020. It estimates that UK gross domestic product will rebound in 2021 by nine percent.

Business Confidence of Pakistan Declines

(August 9, 2020)

KARACHI: The Covid-19 added fuel to the pessimism among Pakistani businessmen, who had already been affected badly by the sluggish economy, reported the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) while citing its Business Confidence Index (BCI) Survey - Wave 19.

The OICCI shared results of its BCI Survey - Wave 19, which showed that the overall Business Confidence Score (BCS) in Pakistan stood at negative 50%, a further drop of 5% from the -45% score in the Wave 18 Survey conducted in August 2019.

“The huge scare caused by the pandemic came during a period when the country was already in the midst of a major economic stabilisation programme,” said OICCI President Haroon Rashid while commenting on the low BCS.

Since early 2019, with a significant devaluation of currency, a 38% decline had been observed in the past 12 months to June 2019 due to high State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) policy rate (13.25% in December 2019) and resultant high inflation impacting all businesses, he said.

“Therefore, the poor BCS in the last two surveys, despite being a matter of concern to all the stakeholders, is not surprising, in fact quite understandable, under the current challenging circumstances,” he added.

The latest BCI survey results reflect the continued pessimism across all sectors in general and particularly in the manufacturing and services sectors.

The BCS of the manufacturing sector, which represents about 42% of the respondents, declined by 5% over the past six months and stood at -48% compared to -43% in Wave 18.

However, the BCS of the services sector, representing 29% of the survey respondents, suffered a significant dip from negative 49% in Wave 18 to negative 59%.

The BCS of retail and wholesale trade remained unchanged at negative 44% in both Wave 18 and Wave 19 surveys. The results of the latest BCI survey, conducted across Pakistan from May to June 2020, were largely influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has negatively impacted nearly all the businesses.

The prolonged uncertainty, due to the pandemic and strict lockdowns and other corrective measures taken by the authorities, impacted a large segment of business activities.

During the past six months, a majority of the respondents experienced a decline in their sales volume, profits and ROI and were unable to expand their business. However, for the next six months, the survey respondents are comparatively more positive.

One of the key factors affecting the overall sentiment was a poor view of the survey participants of the global business situation in the past six months (from -9% in August 2019 to -79% in May 2020), of Pakistan’s business situation (from -75% in August 2019 to -81% in May 2020) and

survey participants’ own business situation (from -65% in August 2019 to -83% in May 2020).As mentioned above, the BCS of the services sector recorded the highest net negative sentiment of 10% overall.

Major services sub-sectors, showing increasing negative confidence scores, were real estate (-78% versus -68%), community, social and personal sectors (-70% against -51%), transport and communication (-53% compared to -68%) and financial services (-37% versus -41%).

In the manufacturing sector, tobacco (-76% against -73% in October 2019), chemicals and cement (-58% versus -51%) and non-metallic (-38% in comparison to -35%) sub-sectors recorded declines while petroleum, oil and gas (-18% compared to -42% in October 2019), automobile (-52% versus -66%) and food (-40% against -55%) sub-sectors showed significant improvement in the current BCI Wave 19.

Sentiment of the OICCI members, who were randomly included in the survey, also recorded a sharp decline of 38%, from negative 36% in Wave 18 to negative 74% in the latest Wave 19, as opposed to the overall confidence scores, which declined from negative 45% to negative 50%.

In all the previous 18 BCI surveys conducted so far, the business confidence of foreign investors had remained much higher than their local counterparts included in the surveys.

The BCS in metropolitan cities has increased marginally by 3% (from -49% in August 2019 to -46% in May 2020) while it dropped 4% in non-metros (from -34% in August 2019 to -38% in May 2020).

The BCS score improved by 3% in Karachi (from -53% to -50%) while it dropped by 12-13% in Rawalpindi and Islamabad (from -47% to -59%) and in Lahore (from -41% to -54%).

The OICCI expects that various positive measures recently taken by the federal government and various initiatives undertaken by the central bank to support and sustain vulnerable stakeholders in the business and industry to successfully navigate the current economic challenges will bring positive results, stated Haroon Rashid.

Proposals to Contain Population Discussed:Dr. Arif Alvi (August 8, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: President Dr. Arif Alvi chaired the third meeting of the Federal Task Force on Alarming Population Growth in Pakistan to evolve strategy to lower population growth in the country. The meeting extensively discussed various proposals to contain the increasing population. All provincial governments, including Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, briefed the meeting about the steps taken by them about family planning.

The provinces informed they had been taking serious measures to check increasing population. Chief Minister Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan, proposed that financial incentives for the people would help reducing population growth. Chief Minister Sindh, Murad Ali Shah suggested that the provinces, which will lower population growth, needed to be incentivised financially under NFC Award.

The meeting agreed to seek the cooperation of media and Ulema to play their role in educating the people about the implications of fast-growing population. In order to create public awareness, the meeting underscored the need to launch national campaign on family planning and reproductive health through print, electronic and social media.

It emphasized that all provincial governments needed to seek support of ulema to sensitize the people about the importance of family planning. The meeting tasked Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony and Council of Islamic Ideology to convene meeting of the Ulema within a month to seek their cooperation with regard to population growth.

It also directed the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to study population models of the countries which have succeeded in controlling their population and submit report to the Task Force based on the findings.

The meeting stressed the need to integrate family planning and primary health care services to achieve the objectives of family planning. It also recommended to increase funds for the family planning-related programs. The President assured that he would ask the Prime Minister to increase funds in this regard. It was agreed to conven the next meeting of the Task Force after 45 days.

He advised the provincial governments to include mother & child healthcare in their education curriculum. The President asked all Federal and Provincial Governments to implement the decisions of the Task Force on fast track basis so as to check growing population.

The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri, Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM for Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection/Chairperson Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), Dr. Sania Nishtar, SAPM for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Dr. Faisal Sultan, Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan, Caretaker CM GB, Mir Afzal, Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology, Prof. Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Chief Secretary Sindh, Mumtaz Ali Shah, Chief Secretary KP, Dr. Kazim Niaz, Chief Secretary Balochistan, Capt. (R) Fazeel Asghar, Country Director Population Council Islamabad, Dr. Zeba Sathar, Representative UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Ms. Lina Mousa and provincial ministries and secretaries of population welfare departments.

There is good demand and PIA received many applications from the local community to resume service from Manchester as competitors had doubled fares with PIA retracting from the market.

After the resumption of PIA Service now fares have again normalised and it comes to show the key role the National Flag carrier plays to service the Pakistani expatriate community – PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan.

PIA to Restore Its Flight Operations to United Kingdom

(August 7, 2020)

KARACHI: Alternate arrangements have successfully been implemented by PIA to restore its Flight Operations to Great Britain or United Kingdom consequent to the recent suspension.

An agreement has been finalised with a Portuguese company to operate PIA flights. A modern and amenities laden Airbus A330 aircraft with a capacity of over 300 seats will operate PIA flights to its destinations in the United Kingdom.

PK call sign and slots will be used during this operation. It will be a two-class operation, Business and Economy with all the modern comforts an airliner can offer. Social Distancing will be observed on these flights, PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan.

PIA will commence these flights on the Independence Day of Pakistan, August 14 to celebrate the occasion and mark its resurgence. The first flight with the callsign PK 9702 will depart from Manchester Ringway Airport on August 14, 2020 carrying 250 passengers for Islamabad while PK9786 will depart from Islamabad to London Heathrow on August 15, 2020.

Booking and ticketing on these flights have already commenced and the first flight has already been filled. Seats a limited and those passengers that have urgent need should book as early as possible, 45Kgs of Free Baggage Allowance is permissible with each ticket. Inflight Entertainment Service will also be available onboard, – PIA spokesman Abdullah Hafeez Khan.

Fuel and Food prices drive inflation to 9.3% in July, 2020

(August 5, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: Inflation edged up to 9.3 % in July, from 8.6 % in June, on the back of a hefty jump in prices of petroleum and food products, showed data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Monday. In July 2019, the price levels rose by 8.4 %.

The PBS data show that wheat price surged by 28.5 % in July from the previous month, wheat flour 18.5 %, and wheat products 16 %, respectively. Similarly, an increase of 17 % was noted in the retail price of sugar across the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has held several meetings especially on the wheat issue, with the latest one on Monday to contain the rising prices of the crop but so far, no letup has been observed. The average CPI in FY20 rose to 10.74 %, from 6.8 % in the year before highest level since 2011-12 when it stood at 11.01 %.

The Covid-19 outbreak has weakened consumer demand putting downward pressure on commodity prices, but there are risks of supply disruptions. However, the subdued production of sugar and wheat has also contributed to an increase in food inflation in the last few months.

On the other hand, the government has also increased petroleum product prices substantially, causing an increase in non-food inflation. Food inflation is still in the double-digits, posting a rise in the outgoing month. In urban areas, it jumped by 15.1 % in July on a yearly and 3 % on a monthly basis, whereas the respective price level growth in rural areas stood at 17.8 % and 4 %.

In urban areas, food items which saw an increase in prices in July from the previous month included tomatoes, soaring by 179.19 %, vegetables 23.84 %, onions 16.61 %, eggs 10.82 %, spices 7.57 %, wheat 7.42 %, potatoes 4.58 %, meat 3.97 %, sugar 3.82 %, beans 3.07 %, chicken 2.6 %, milk products 1.74 % and milk 1.37 %.

The items whose prices declined in urban areas were: daal moong, down 10.72 %, daal masoor 6.27 %, fruits 6.24 %, daal mash 2.71 %, gram whole 2.7 %, pulse gram 2.39 %, wheat flour 1.51 % and cooking oil 1.34 %.

In rural areas, price increase were seen in tomatoes, higher by 241.4 %, onions 25.57 %, vegetables 21.63 %, eggs 13.84 %, wheat 10.84 %, potatoes 5.33 %, sugar 3.67 %, rice 2.96 %, chicken 2.58 %, honey 2.06 %, meat 1.82 %, bakery and confectionary 1.74 %, wheat flour 1.73 %, readymade food 1.72 %, condiments and spices 1.48 %, beans 1.47 %, and milk fresh 1.23 %.

On the other hand, drag on price levels came from daal moong, decreasing by 13.42 %, fresh fruits 6.62 %, pulse gram 4.98 %, besan 4.42 %, daal masoor 4.06 %, daal mash 4.04 %, and gram whole 4 %. Meanwhile, non-food inflation in urban centres was recorded at 3.9 % year-on-year and 1.7 % month-on-month whereas in rural areas, it rose by 6.3 % and 2 %, respectively.

The increase in non-food inflation was mainly driven by a hefty rise in oil prices in July. The urban consumer price index covers 35 cities and 356 items, while the rural one tracks 27 centres and 244 products. The former grew by 7.8 % year-on-year in July whereas the latter jumped by 11.5 %. Core inflation in urban areas was 5.3 % in July as against 6.5 % the previous month. In rural areas, the corresponding increase was 7.6 % and 8.8 %, respectively.

The central bank determines the key policy rate currently at 7 % based on the core inflation rate. The SBP has reduced the rate by a cumulative 625 basis points since March 17 to combat uncertainty amid growing coronavirus outbreak. Average inflation measured by the sensitive price index crawled up to 13.15 % during July from 8.9 % during the same period last year, while the wholesale price index dipped to 3.2 % during the month under review from 13.13 %.

Rs30bn Subsidy Allocated to Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, Announces PM Imran (August 2, 2020)

ISLAMABAD: A sum worth Rs. 30 billion has been allocated to the Naya Pakistan housing scheme, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in a live televised address on Friday, in line with helping the underprivileged class build their own homes.

Addressing the nation after chairing a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Housing, Construction, and Development, PM Imran said the scheme was aimed at the "working class, the welder, the small shop owner, who do not have a lot of money to build their own houses".

"The goal of the Naya Pakistan housing scheme was to construct houses for this stratum of the society, which doesn't have cash. "We faced many hindrances while launching the scheme due to some existing legislation, such as the foreclosure law, which allows banks not to lend out money without a confirmation of repayment. "[However] despite a lot of hurdles, we were successful in passing the law for Pakistan, which is now implemented around the world," he said.

The prime minister also spoke of the construction sector, saying it faced a lot of obstacles, but that the NCC had worked on formulating policies for its revival. "We have decided to revive our economy with housing and construction industry so that people can get jobs and we can generate revenue in times of global recession and pandemic," he noted.

"I, myself, will preside this meeting every week to supervise the working and progress of the committee regarding the Naya Pakistan housing scheme. "We only have time till December 31 to provide incentives to the construction industry," he added.

PM Imran explained that under the Naya Pakistan housing scheme, Rs30 billion had been allocated as a subsidy, which would translate into Rs300,000 for each of the 100,000 households during the first phase of the programme.

A 5% interest is levied on a Five-Marla house and 7% for 10-marla, he noted. "We have also directed the SBP (State Bank of Pakistan) to keep 5% of the portfolio for the construction industry, which is calculated to be Rs330 billion," he said.

The government had coordinated with all of the provinces for a one-window operation so as not to have people worry about obtaining No-Objection Certificates (NOCs), the premier announced, adding that there would be a time limit for the approvals of houses maps. "We have reduced provincial taxes so that people can benefit more and more with the subsidies," he added.

PM Imran mentioned yet another relaxation in terms of questions about the sources of investment, saying it would not be questioned only during the ongoing year "due to recession caused by the coronavirus".

"We have requested the global financial bodies for these subsidies because most of our economy is undocumented. Therefore, I would request people to make the most benefit from these incentives.

"We are hoping that these incentives will create employment opportunities for people in these hard times of pandemic," he said. "Around the world, banks provide loans for construction but banks in Pakistan only provide 0.3% loans, which is quite less."

Nokia Claims to Return to Profit Despite Drop in Sales Due to Virus Pandemic (August 2, 2020)

HELSINKI: Finnish telecommunications equipment provider Nokia said Friday it had returned to profit in the second quarter and hiked its 2020 forecasts, despite a drop in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Net profit came in at 94 million euros ($112 million) compared to a loss of 193 million euros during April-June last year. The result was still far below the analyst consensus of a profit of 142 million euros compiled by Factset.

"Nokia delivered a strong improvement in Q2, with better-than-expected profitability, significant improvement in cash generation, clear indications of a return to strength in mobile radio, and a year-on-year increase in earnings-per-share, despite the challenges of COVID-19," outgoing CEO Rajeev Suri, who will leave his post on Saturday, said in a statement.

Pekka Lundmark, who until now served as CEO of Finnish energy company Fortum, will take over from Suri. Sales fell by 10.6% to 5 billion euros, with Nokia estimating the impact from the coronavirus pandemic at 300 million euros for the second quarter. "We expect that the majority of sales missed in the quarter due to COVID-19 will shift to future periods," said Suri.

The company managed to increase its operating margin to 8.3% from 7.9% one year ago, using a method that is not compliant with international accounting rules. For this year it now aims to increase this measure to 9.5%, "plus or minus 1.5 percentage points," compared to an earlier forecast of 9%, with cash flow now clearly positive.

In October 2018, the company announced a 700 million euros cost savings plan, which is still ongoing. Nokia has faced more difficulties than its competitors Huawei and Ericsson in establishing itself in the market for 5G mobile network equipment.

It reported signing 83 contracts for 5G network equipment. Sweden's Ericsson said earlier this month it had signed a total of 99 contracts for 5G network equipment. Nokia's shares were up more than 13% in early afternoon trading in Helsinki, where the market was up 2.1% overall.

Post-COVID-19 Singapore Hits Recession as Economy Shrinks 41% (August 1, 2020)

SINGAPORE:  Singapore plunged into recession in the second quarter as growth fell 41.2 percent quarter-on-quarter with the trade-dependent economy hammered by the coronavirus, preliminary data showed Tuesday. Year-on-year, the economy shrank 12.6 percent between April and June, according to the data from the trade ministry, as strict curbs were imposed to fight the virus.

It marks the second consecutive quarter of contraction, meaning that the city state -- which has one of the world's most open economies -- has entered a recession for the first time in more than a decade.

The massive second-quarter drop in GDP was due to "measures that were implemented from 7 April to 1 June to slow the spread of COVID-19, which included the suspension of non-essential services and closure of most workplace premises," the ministry said in a statement.

It also attributed to the contraction to "weak external demand amidst a global economic downturn". Tiny Singapore, viewed as a barometer for the health of global trade, is highly sensitive to external shocks, and the gloomy figures are another ominous sign for the global economy.

EU-Vietnam Trade Agreement Enters into Force (July 31/2020)

BRUSSELS: EU exports to Vietnam will be taxed less as of tomorrow, 1 August. This is the immediate effect of the entry into force of the EU-Vietnam trade agreement that will ultimately scrap duties on 99% of all goods traded between the two sides. Doing business in Vietnam will also become easier for European companies: they will now be able to invest and pitch for government contracts with equal chances to their local competitors. Under the new agreement, the economic benefits go hand in hand with guarantees of respect for labour rights, environment protection and the Paris Agreement on climate, through strong, legally binding and enforceable provisions on sustainable development.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The European economy needs now every opportunity to restore its strength after the crisis triggered by the coronavirus. Trade agreements, such as the one becoming effective with Vietnam today, offer our companies a chance to access new emerging markets and create jobs for Europeans. I strongly believe this agreement will also become an opportunity for people of Vietnam to enjoy a more prosperous economy and witness a positive change and stronger rights as workers and citizens in their home country.”

Commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan, commented: "Vietnam is now part of a club of 77 countries doing trade with the EU under bilaterally agreed preferential conditions.  The agreement strengthens EU economic links with the dynamic region of South-East Asia and has an important economic potential that will contribute to the recovery after the coronavirus crisis. But it also shows how trade policy can be a force for good. Vietnam has already made a lot of effort to improve its labour rights record thanks to our trade talks and, I trust, will continue its most needed reforms.”

The EU-Vietnam agreement is the most comprehensive trade agreement the EU has concluded with a developing country. It takes fully into account Vietnam's development needs by giving Vietnam a longer, 10-year period to eliminate its duties on EU imports. However, many important EU export products, such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals or machinery will already enjoy duty free import conditions as of entry into force. Agri-food products like beef or olive oil will face no tariffs in three years, while dairy, fruit and vegetables in maximum five years. Comprehensive provisions on sanitary and phytosanitary cooperation will allow for improving market access for EU firms via more transparent and quick procedures.

It also contains specific provisions to address regulatory barriers for EU car exports and grants protection from imitation for 169 traditional European food and drink products (like Roquefort cheese, Porto and Jerez wines, Irish Cream spirit or Prosciutto di Parma ham) recognised as Geographical Indications. At the same time, the trade agreement expresses a strong commitment of both sides to environment and social rights. It sets high standards of labour, environmental and consumer protection and ensures that there is no 'race to the bottom' to promote trade or attract investment.

Under the agreement, the two parties have committed to ratify and implement the eight fundamental Conventions of International Labour Organization (ILO), and respect, promote and effectively implement the principles of the ILO concerning fundamental rights at work; implement the Paris Agreement, as well as other international environmental agreements, and act in favour of the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, biodiversity, forestry and fisheries; and involve independent civil society in monitoring the implementation of these commitments by both sides. Vietnam has already made progress on these commitments by ratifying in June 2019 ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining and in June 2020 ILO Convention 105 on forced labour.

It also adopted a revised Labour Code in November 2019 and confirmed that it would ratify the one remaining fundamental ILO Convention on forced labour by 2023. The trade agreement also includes an institutional and legal link to the EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, allowing appropriate action in the case of serious breaches of human rights. The entry into force of the trade agreement has been preceded by its approval by EU Member States in the Council and its signature in June 2019, and the European Parliament's approval in February 2020.

Vietnam is the EU's second largest trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after Singapore, with trade in goods worth €45.5 billion in 2019  and trade in services of some €4 billion (2018). The EU's main exports to Vietnam are high-tech products, including electrical machinery and equipment, aircrafts, vehicles, and pharmaceutical products. Vietnam's main exports to the EU are electronic products, footwear, textiles and clothing, as well as coffee, rice, seafood, and furniture.

Karachi Stock Exchange: Shares Added Over Rs 221 Billion in a Week(July 31, 2020)

KARACHI: Stock Exchange saw a share value increase of over Rs 221 billion in a week. The country's economic growth, the country's economic growth, the global government's push for more trade and industrial sectors to compete with The corona, and the increase in the size of the economy, the U.S. central bank's interest rate cut, and lowering the U.S. central bank's interest, the Pakistan Stock Exchange continued to accelerate in the last week's 4-day business session, which crossed two psychological limits of 38,000 and 39,000  points.

The share prices rose by 2.38 billion, 82.16,938 rupees, to a level of Rs 72.94 billion, 27.60 crore, and 523 rupees. The government's consultation on the reduction in water power and gas tariffs for export industries after the recession, global price rise of crude oil and the rapid growth of global stock markets have had positive effects on the local stock market, stock experts said. The SSE 100 Index rose 1650.82 points, to 39258.44 points, while the FTSE 30 Index rose 755.26 points to 17070.62 points. The KMI 30 index rose 3160.04 points to 63107.65 points, and the KMPS X Index rose 689.86 points to 19229.41.

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