Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Govt not serious in building Nai Gaj Dam, CJP tells finance minister

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, during an exchange with Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday, voiced his concerns regarding the government’s “seriousness” to build dams.

Last week, Justice Nisar, who is set to retire on Jan 17, had ,regretted, that the matter of Nai Gaj Dam’s construction could not be resolved within his tenure. A three-judge SC bench last year had taken up a petition moved through senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi highlighting hurdles in the way of Nai Gaj Dam’s construction.

The outgoing chief justice had expressed his disappointment that the matter will now be stuck with the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) before summoning Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan, Minister for Finance Asad Umar and cabinet secretary.

When the finance minister did not show up at the start of the hearing today, the deputy attorney general informed the top judge that Umar “is in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet”.

“We had summoned him; could he not have left the meeting and come?” Justice Nisar asked. “We wanted our orders to be followed.”

A few hours later, when the minister appeared before the bench, the chief justice addressed him, saying: “I don’t think the government is serious regarding the building of the dam.”

“This issue came under my knowledge when it was presented in the Ecnec (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec),” the finance minister explained to the Supreme Court bench. “An application regarding the Nai Gaj Dam was presented in Ecnec yesterday and we referred it to the cabinet.”

“Then there is no coordination in your government,” Justice Nisar countered.

“It is possible, sir,” Umar said as he did not offer a defence to the judge’s remarks.

“The government means government and the federation means federation,” Justice Nisar said as he regretted that “the pace with which we want to resolve this issue is not being done”.

“You folks cannot work,” the judge told the minister. “Your love for this country has diminished. The bureaucracy does not have the passion and intention to work.

“We do not want to dictate this government. We do not want to run this government either. We have [only] worked on the fundamental rights of the people.”

At this, the finance minister acknowledged the chief justice’s work and told him that “the history will remember you for your work regarding dams.”

Umar also assured the judge that the Nai Gaj Dam’s matter will be discussed during an Ecnec session on Jan 25.

The bench instructed the minister to inform the court regarding dam-related decisions taken in Ecnec immediately after its scheduled session.

Subsequently, the case’s hearing was adjourned for two weeks.

Outside the court, the finance minister again commended Justice Nisar. “It’s the chief justice’s passion that dams get built and water crisis gets resolved,” he said. “We appreciate his efforts.”

When reminded by media personnel of the chief justice’s remarks regarding a lack of coordination between government institutions, Umar did not discount the possibility of there being merit in the judge’s assessment. “It is possible that we may have been lacking on this issue,” he said.

The finance minister, in the same media briefing, claimed that the upcoming mini-budget, set to be presented on Jan 23, will not increase taxes but instead boost exports.

“The mini-budget will result in increasing the [flow of] investment and business,” the PTI leader said.

The government recently decided to shelve a major power project pushed by the PML-N regime under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

When asked today if the government plans to shut down many CPEC projects, Umar clarified that the projects under consideration are the one that had never been finalised.

Furthermore, the finance minister claimed that “we will focus on industrial production and commerce in the next phase of CPEC.”

He also told the media to not worry the public regarding the state of the country’s economy.

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A resounding thumbs-down awaits British PM in historic Brexit deal vote

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces crushing defeat in a historic vote in parliament on Tuesday over the ,Brexit deal, she has struck with the European Union, leaving the world’s fifth biggest economy in limbo.

With just over two months to go until the scheduled Brexit date of March 29, Britain is still bitterly divided over what should happen next and the only suspense over the vote is the scale of May’s defeat.

The British leader’s last-minute appeals to MPs appear to have fallen on deaf ears and how much she loses by could determine whether she tries again, loses office, delays Brexit — or if Britain even leaves the EU at all.

The composition of the UK parliament.

The composition of the UK parliament.

“When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this house [...] and ask: did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union,” May asked MPs on the eve of the vote.

Brexit deal: ,The end of a loveless 46-year marriage,

In the event of a defeat, the government must set out what happens next by Monday at the latest.

Speculation is growing on both sides of the Channel that whatever the outcome, May could ask to delay Brexit. A diplomatic source told AFP any extension would not be possible beyond June 30, when the new European Parliament will be formed.

Theresa May postponed a House of Commons vote on the deal in December, facing certain defeat, and has since offered MPs clarifications she hopes will convince them. ? AFP

Theresa May postponed a House of Commons vote on the deal in December, facing certain defeat, and has since offered MPs clarifications she hopes will convince them. ? AFP

The withdrawal agreement includes plans for a post-Brexit transition period to provide continuity until a new relationship is drawn up, in return for continued budget contributions from London.

Without it, and if there is no delay, Britain will sever 46 years of ties with its nearest neighbours this spring with no new arrangements to ease the blow.

A German government spokesperson on Tuesday denied a report in The Sun tabloid that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had suggested to May in a phone-call that the EU could grant extra concessions in the event of a defeat.

“The chancellor has given no assurances,” he said.

‘No Deal? No problem!’

Opposition to the deal forced May to postpone the vote in December in the hope of winning extra concessions from Brussels but EU leaders offered only a series of clarifications and have ruled out re-negotiating the deal.

The vote is the climax of over two years of intense national debate after the shock Brexit referendum of 2016 — a result that mostly pro-Remain MPs have struggled with.

Read: ,What is Brexit all about?,

Hardline Brexiteers and Remainers oppose the agreement for different reasons and many fear it could lock Britain into an unfavourable trading relationship with the EU.

Pro- and anti-Brexit campaigners rallied outside parliament ahead of the vote. One placard read “EU Membership is the Best Deal”, another said: “No Deal? No Problem!”

Uncertainty over Brexit has hit the British economy hard. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) lobby group on Tuesday warned MPs that Britain crashing out of the EU would be “catastrophic”.

Financial markets will also be watching the result very closely, with several currency traders roping in extra staff around the time of the vote and at least one putting a cap in trades to avoid excessive currency movements.

Frustration

Rather than heal the divisions exposed by the Brexit referendum, the vote has reignited them. Pro-European MPs campaigning to force a second vote say they have faced death threats and harassment outside parliament.

Brexit supporters around the country have also voiced growing frustration with what they see as parliamentary blockage of their democratic vote.

Criticism is focused on an arrangement to keep open the border with Ireland by aligning Britain with some EU trade rules, if and until London and Brussels sign a new economic partnership which could take several years.

May has offered parliament greater oversight of this so-called backstop and EU leaders have also given written assurances that the arrangement would not become permanent.

A handful of Conservative MPs have changed their minds to back the deal but the core of May’s critics say she has not done enough.

Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Northern Irish party on whom May relies for her Commons majority, told the BBC his party would not be forced into backing the deal by fears over the border.

“We fought (against) a terrorist campaign (in order) to stay part of the United Kingdom,” he said, evoking Northern Ireland’s past conflict.

“We are not going to allow bureaucrats in Brussels to separate us from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said May had “completely and utterly failed” to ease MPs’ concerns and said if she loses the vote on Tuesday night, she must call an election.

His party has said it will call a confidence vote in her government “soon” after the virtually certain defeat.

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Minister terms all previous budgets fake

LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday said that all previous budgets were fake and now real budgets were being presented.

“The upcoming January 23 mini-budget will lay a foundation of Pakistan’s strong economy,” he said and added that the PTI government would come up to the expectations of people.

The information minister’s remarks come a day after Finance Minister Asad Umar on Saturday dispelled the impression that the ,upcoming mini-budget, would be loaded with new taxes. While addressing members of the business community in Karachi, Mr Umar had said that the mini-budget would focus on ease of doing business and measures to facilitate trade and industrialisation.

Says governance will improve in two to three years

The information minister urged people to have trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, adding that governance would improve in two to three years.

“Have patience for two to three years and this government’s governance will be of par excellence,” he told the media at ThinkFest at Alhamra Arts Council.

Mr Chaudhry said PM Khan did not believe in giving relief (NRO) to any corrupt.

“One has already landed in jail, while the other will follow suit,” he said while referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, respectively.

He reiterated that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari were pressurising (the government) in and out of parliament but they would not get any NRO.

The information minister said that Mr Sharif’s and Mr Zardari’s parties had collapsed.

“They have dug their political graves with their style of politics. We didn’t contribute anything [to their troubles],” Mr Chaudhry said.

The minister expressed wonder over the way the trial of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif was being conducted, saying they were enjoying all freedom when compared with incarceration of Wali Khan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and other high-profile people who remained in prison. “Nawaz Sharif flew to London during his trial and his lawyers cross-examined witnesses for 22 days.”

He said that Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif was in jail only on papers as he was living in his house and holding meetings and sometimes even called the NAB and prosecutors to appear before him. “I haven’t seen such a trial in my life,” he said and added, “still they are heading towards their political death”.

Responding to a question about former US Ambassador Cameron Munter that Pakistan had misused funds given by the US to counter terrorism as well as promote education, Mr Chaudhry brushed aside Mr Munter’s statement, saying he had retired long ago and did not know anything happening now.

He pointed out that the US had already discontinued the Coalition Support Fund. However, he added, Pakistan-US relations were now improving. He said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had visited Pakistan and later Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met him in Washington leading to improvement in Pak-US ties.

“I guess Munter has not visited Washington for quite some time,” he said.

Referring to the PPP leaders’ names on the ECL, he said the direction was given by the JIT and the government had just implemented it.

Regarding his re-scheduled visit to Sindh and PPP minister Saeed Ghani’s assertion that he could stop him entering Sindh, Mr Chaudhry said Sindh was part of Pakistan and no one could stop him from going there. He said he was going to Sindh in connection with the affairs of his ministry and would obviously meet his colleagues there.

Mr Chaudhry said the information ministry would come up with a calendar of mega events in the country in a couple of weeks to allow space to thinkers and writers to speak up their minds.

Emphasising the need for promotion of tourism, he said Pakistan had decided to allow visa-free entry to people from 66 countries.

“People from across the globe will be invited to participate in various literary, cultural, social and religious festivals,” the minister said and added that the government was working on mechanisms to keep the events safe.

He said authors would be encouraged and film industry would be revived.

“PM Imran Khan’s vision is not just political but also social, and he wants to generate activity that will bring people closer unlike past rulers, who only worked to fill their coffers,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2019

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Pakistan should strengthen ties with neighbours instead of US: Hina Rabbani Khar

LAHORE: Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Pakistan always chose to be a client state instead of becoming strategic partner of one country or the other. With a begging bowl in both hands, Pakistan cannot command respect in the comity of nations.

Speaking in a session on the US-Pakistan relationship at ThinkFest here on Saturday, she said Pakistan always imagined itself as a complete strategic partner, which was far-fetched. Pakistan’s most important relations should be with its neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, India, Iran and China instead of the US. “The US does not deserve that much importance as is given in Pakistan because our economy is not dependent on US aid, as is widely believed.”

Referring to the incumbent rulers’ claims of copying China, she said Beijing had brought its people out of poverty, while the Islamabad rulers were doing the opposite.

United States Institute of Peace Associate Vice President Moeed Yusuf said the US-Pakistan relations were non-existent during the past 18 months. Regretting that Pakistan was looking elsewhere instead of involving itself in the region to resolve local and regional issues, he said there could be no conversation on the US-Pak ties till the Afghanistan issue was resolved. For Pakistan, he said, the idea was to consider how to work with the US and China simultaneously.

Speaking on the future of democracy in Pakistan, author Aqil Shah from Oklahoma University said democracy gave the freedom to speak up and enabled accommodating ethnic divisions peacefully. He, however, said the democracy in vogue in Pakistan was a hybrid regime where elected representatives were answerable to both the people and army generals.

He alleged that the 2018 general elections were manoeuvered to ensure that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party did not come back to power and that the rule was given to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), calling the ruling party “Pakistan Tehreek-i-Establishment”.

He further said that the corruption narrative was a universal phenomenon and not exclusive to Pakistan.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood claimed that democracy in Pakistan was getting stronger and robust. While the PTI government took over just a few months ago, people had high expectations from them to resolve serious issues, including the economic crisis.

He said education had faced a serious neglect in the past and was separated into different streams to create a divide among people. He said there was a small pool of audience attending the ThinkFest, but even this much crowd could not be attracted if the event took place in Dera Ghazi Khan or Sibbi.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Bilawal pledges to combat ‘politics of vendetta’

KOTRI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has vowed to fight the “politics of vendetta” saying he is not afraid of threats of the exit control list, National Accountability Bureau and imprisonment.

Addressing a public meeting here on Saturday after inaugurating Kotri-Jamshoro overhead bridge, he said the PPP had faced “Gen Zia’s lashes and Gen Musharraf’s prisons and exile” and it was not afraid of the incumbent “puppet and benami prime minister”.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, PPP provincial president Nisar Khuhro and MPA Malik Asad Sikandar also spoke on the occasion.

PPP leader warns PTI govt against testing patience of jiyalas

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said if the people of Sindh, Balochistan, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa decided to “take on Islamabad” to secure their rights and protest against deprivation, it would prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the “fake government”.

He warned the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government against testing patience of PPP jiyalas, saying if it didn’t refrain from it, the PPP would show it how “theft of vote” was avenged.

He said the PPP preferred service delivery like construction of bridges over the River Indus, canal lining, road networks, subsidy to farmers and provision of employment in Thar and quality cardiac care services.

He said the “selected prime minister” and the Punjab chief minister could not compete with the Sindh chief minister.

“Your plan to oust us through conspiracies has failed and you will fail again,” he said while addressing PM Imran Khan.

He said an inept federal government was meting out step-motherly treatment to the people of Sindh who were being punished for voting for the PPP.

He said Imran Khan needed to learn principles of politics before talking about principled politics and added that the finger of umpire worked in cricket and the people’s will in politics.

He accused the PTI of making false promises and fraudulent claims and said Pakistan was heading backwards under its government. “The national economy remains weak and people are drowning in the tsunami of price hike while mills and shops are being closed.”

The PPP leader said poor people didn’t have two square meals a day because their sources of livelihood had been snatched.

He said those who talked about providing 10 million jobs and five million houses to people had snatched from them already available job opportunities and deprived them of shelter.

“Pakistan does not have electricity, gas and investment but the federal ministers are claiming there is no price hike and advising people to be patient. The eyes of the ministers are closed with arrogance and minds intoxicated with power while their hearts are insensitive”, he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari accused the government of closing water and electricity supplies to Sindh which contributed 80pc of gas produced in Pakistan.

He said billions of rupees of the Sindh government had been withheld which badly affected development process.

He asked for what crime the people of Sindh were being pushed against wall and then answered his question, saying because they did not vote for “puppets” and were loyal to the Bhuttos.

He said the government didn’t know how the rupee got devalued and the wheels of economy got jammed although it claimed to be working faster than light’s speed.

“The government doesn’t know how the debt of Rs5bn has increased but those who said they preferred suicide over the begging bowl are now celebrating foreign borrowings”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the federal government had tried to commit robbery over the mandate of Sindh in just three months but got only disappointment and shelved the plan.

CM Shah said the Kotri-Jamshoro bridge had been completed in a record period of time and urged Mr Bhutto-Zardari to take up the issue of dualisation of Indus Highway between Jamshoro and Sehwan in the National Assembly.

Earlier, Mr Bilawal-Bhutto visited residence of Asad Sikandar during which shops of the area were closed by the administration. He also took tea at the residence of MPA Hina Dastagir.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Not going to IMF for now, mini-budget to be unveiled on Jan 23: Asad Umar

The federal government has decided not to enter an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme for now, Finance Minister Asad Umar said on Saturday.

The finance minister made the remarks while talking to businessmen at the Karachi Chamber of Commence and Industry (KCCI).

Umar said that instead of ,rushing into the IMF programme,, the government was exploring alternative options.

Furthermore, the finance minister announced that the government will unveil a mini-budget on Jan 23 instead of Jan 21. He associated the two-day delay to an impending foreign trip of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The finance minister said that his visits of Lahore and Karachi were regarding a one-point agenda: the amended finance bill, which he said will facilitate businessmen.

Umar indicated that the amended bill will also carry “some good news” for the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) .

The minister said that he consulted all stakeholders over the upcoming mini-budget, assuring the assortment of businessmen that tax anomalies will be eliminated in the budget.

The minister rejected the impression that the government was only borrowing money, stressing that several agreements have also been signed to bring investment into the country.

“The impacts of the investment agreements will start surfacing from the next week,” he added.

Asad Umar, even before he was sworn in, had said that the economy would need an infusion of more than $12 billion within six weeks.

In a later ,interview with Bloomberg,, he had said that the nation’s financial gap was somewhere between $10bn to $12bn, adding that the new government would need a bit extra so it doesn’t “live on the edge”.

In October last year, Saudi Arabia had announced a $6 billion bailout package for Pakistan’s ailing economy. The package includes $3bn in balance of payments support and just as much in deferred payments on oil imports.

The UAE had also announced a package exactly the same size and terms and conditions as given by Saudi Arabia. The all-weather friend, China too, had pledged to lend $2 billion to Pakistan to shore up dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Moreover, Islamabad and Riyadh are expected to ink memorandum of understanding (MoUs) to bring in ,Saudi investment in excess of $10bn, this month. Pakistan is also eyeing similar MoUs with China, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia over the next two months.

The federal cabinet has also approved a strategy to issue so-called ‘Panda bonds’ in the Chinese market to raise foreign exchange from global markets.

‘Budget bomb’

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a statement strongly opposed the government’s upcoming mini-budget.

The party’s vice president, Senator Sherry Rehman, expressed grave reservations against rising inflation and the government’s announcement of the mini budget.

“Will this inquilab sarkar (revolutionary government) announce a new mini budget every four months?” she asked.

She said that the government should make preparations for an annual budget and that this was not the time to announce a mini budget.

The PPP leader likened the decision to a “budget bomb” being dropped on the people, based on supposed conditions put forth by the IMF.

“Every month new taxes are being imposed and some commodity or the other sees a hike in prices.

“One day the ,prices of medicines go up, and the next, a mini budget is announced,” Rehman said adding that the government is “robbing the people of the right to live”.

She said that the “tsunami of change” had now transformed into a “storm of inflation”.

Rehman recalled that inflation stood at 5.8 per cent in July, whereas now it had gone up to 6.2pc.

She said that those who claimed being “friends of businessmen” are in fact their enemies and declared that the government is incapable of running the economy.

The PPP leader further criticising the government’s performance said that in the past five months, they had “done nothing but raise slogans for economy and accountability”.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 12, 2019 at 7:25 pm

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Govt claims success against trade deficit as December data shows steep fall

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s trade deficit fell sharply by 15 per cent in the month of December 2018 compared to November, driven largely by decline in fuel imports and machinery.

When compared to December 2017, the decline is even sharper, falling by 18.6pc, according to the official figures of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shared with the federal cabinet on Thursday.

Meanwhile, exports showed sluggish growth of 5.48pc compared to December 2017 despite a massive devaluation of almost 33pc since then. Exports touched $2.08 billion in December 2018 compared to $1.97bn last year.

Exports show sluggish growth, ministry claims regulatory duties have compressed imports

The half yearly exports posted a paltry growth of 2.19pc to $11.21bn from $10.97bn over the corresponding months of last year. The numbers show the government still has more ground to cover in order to fulfill its pledge to revive exports.

Trade deficit has been at the heart of the economy’s difficulties in the external sector, hitting an all-time high of $37.6bn last year, and respite on this front has been long-awaited. The government wasted no time to tout the figures.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a media briefing held immediately after the cabinet meeting said that the prime minister drew confidence from the decline in the trade deficit.

The premier told the cabinet when presented with the figures that “we are moving in the right direction,” Fawad remarked.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Khusro Bakhtiar said that his government is coming up with a five-year economic plan focusing on increasing exports from the country. He said the proposed policy will be focused on producing growth in the country.

In a late night press release, the finance ministry also touted the figures. The statement, which was a departure from standard practice, said that the “[g]overnment’s policy measures have resulted in shrinking of trade deficit, decline in imports and increase in exports which augurs well for overall balance of payment of the country.”

“The trade deficit that stood at $17.7bn in July-December 2017 has shrunk by 5pc to $16.8bn in the corresponding period in 2018”, the release highlighted.

In absolute terms, trade deficit dipped to $2.36bn in December 2018 from $2.78bn in November 2018. On the same pattern, it fell from $2.9bn in December 2017.

The value of imported goods in the period of July to December was recorded at $28.03bn, down 2.29pc or $658 million from the import bill in the corresponding months of last fiscal year, which was $28.69bn. The decline in imports was steeper in December 2018 which fell by 8.8pc to $4.44bn from $4.8bn over the corresponding month in 2017.

“This trend is even more pronounced in respect of imports under regulatory duty (RD) regime, where the import value has declined from $5.2bn in July-December 2017 to $4.4bn in July-December 2018, showing a contraction of 16pc (effective on 1994 tariff lines),” the statement from finance ministry claimed, adding that on a month to month comparison, the data “reflects an import compression of over 12pc.”

According to the press release, imports under the RD regime fell by 23pc during December 2018 when compared with December 2017.

“Data indicates that the import compression measures taken in the supplementary Finance Act, 2018 have firmly taken hold and are now effectively curtailing imports as per policy regime of the government,” the statement said.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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Asad rules out possibility of default on debt

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minis­ter Asad Umar has ruled out the possibility that the country may default on repayment of debt and claimed that due to some important decisions being taken by the government to strengthen the economy, Pakistan is better placed to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund.

Talking to anchorpersons here on Thursday, he said the country was not solely relying on the IMF for economic relief as alternative arrangements were available, adding that talks were under way with the IMF, but at the same time steps were being taken to get funds from alternative sources too.

“The government will sign an agreement with it [IMF] in case of any attractive programme,” the minister said without giving a direct answer to a question whether or not Pakistan was having another IMF programme. He said the IMF had not placed any non-financial condition during the negotiations and it was just an option to revive the economy.

Finance minister says country is better placed to negotiate with IMF

Mr Umar claimed that with an increase in exports and remittances and a reduction in imports, the country’s trade deficit had come down from $2 billion per month to $1bn. “This figure too is unsustainable and we are trying to further reduce it,” he said, adding that gap between external payments and foreign reserves had been covered.

The finance minister declined to comment on the value of dollar in near future, but said the situation would stabilise soon in the wake of measures taken by the government. He said the pressure to rush for a deal with the IMF had eased due to combination of efforts — financial supports from friendly countries and economic measures taken by the government.

The minister said that during the first five months of the Pakistan Peoples Party government in 2008, inflation had touched 11.2 per cent and during the same period of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in 2013, it increased by 4pc. But, he added, inflation increased 0.4pc during the first five months of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

“Besides there is one point that you all miss — due to the measures taken by us the inflationary impact is higher for the top tier income slab of society and almost negligible for the lowest earning group,” Mr Umar said. “Previously, the impact was almost equal for all income groups.”

He said the increase in power and gas rates was applicable to the affluent and not the underprivileged of society.

The finance minister declined to talk about issues of circular debt and gas supply on the grounds that it was a domain of the power minister.

He said concrete measures were being taken to attract foreign investment in the country, which would strengthen the economy on a long-term basis.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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‘Mistrust on both sides needs to be unwound’: Former envoy Ali Siddiqui on Pak-US ties

Former ambassador to the United States Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, who served in Washington from May-Dec 2018 ? a period when Pak-US ties ,went from cold to frigid, ? spoke to Dawn about the complexities in relations between the two countries, the challenges he faced as an envoy, and whether Pakistan can contribute to normalcy in Afghanistan.

Siddiqui, who left Washington yesterday, told Dawn that he could have been more effectual serving a full three-year term, but maintained that he had contributed to an improvement in bilateral ties during his short seven-month tenure.


Q: How did America’s demand for Pakistan to do more impact bilateral ties?

Siddiqui: I cannot say whether they recognise that it was an unfair demand i.e. Pakistan had done a lot at a great cost to herself. But it is clear that the US South Asia strategy was not successful.

I think that Pakistan has gained from standing its ground. Of course, in the interim, there was a lot of pressure on the relationship but we sustained it.

Q: What do you believe is preventing Pak-US relations from taking off?

Siddiqui: The lack of clarity on both sides. Pakistan has not had broad-based strategic dialogue with the US for a long time and that has held things back.

But when we did have the strategic dialogue in the Obama years, that was precisely when the relationship was worsening rapidly. So, the problem is deeper than a structured engagement.

There is mistrust on both sides that needs to be unwound and that will take effort, whereby the leadership on both sides needs to be engaged by their respective diplomats and historical issues are discussed, and we clear and put the last 20 years of history behind us.

Q: The common perception is that both sides fail to understand each other. Instead of talking to each other, do they talk across each other?

Siddiqui: I don’t think this perception is correct. The bureaucracies on both sides are sophisticated. But the US political system has much more influence in its bureaucracy compared to ours ? many US bureaucrats at the Assistant Secretary and higher levels are political appointees. So there is a strong political dimension in their system, which means that the direction that the US President wants is where the system goes.

Both sides have an understanding of each other and of their own historical positions. It is true that both sides don’t spend enough time understanding where the other is coming from and frequently miss the considerations and pressures the other side has to manage. From our foreign policy perspective, I would say that I observed that since we are busy dealing with short term issues and crises, there is limited long term policy planning at least vis a vis the US.

For example, an answer to the question ‘Where do we want the Pak-US relationship to be in 15 years?’ will dictate whether the next generations of our students will study in the US, whether our scientists will collaborate with US scientific institutions, whether our economy will have significant linkages to the US economy etc. The answer vis-a-vis China is clear, but with the US it is not so.

Q: Can Pakistan help create a semblance of normalcy in Afghanistan as the Americans demand?

Siddiqui: There is a lot of focus on Pakistan here but we have already done everything we can. We used every ounce of security and diplomatic goodwill we had to get all parties to the table.

The outcome of these talks will be determined by the Americans and the Afghan people, not Pakistan.

The Americans understand that and we are facilitating the process as best we can because not only is peace in Afghanistan a noble goal but Pakistan has been the second-worst sufferer in this conflict and we want a peaceful Afghanistan.

Q: Pakistanis often say that they want trade, not aid. Are they serious about it?

Siddiqui: I sometimes think that our policy planners missed something here. Trade not aid is quite dated, by some decades. The adage about teaching a man to fish, instead of giving him fish has been replaced by teaching a man to change fishing!

In the same way, trade not aid is no longer applicable. There is a role for aid, there is a role for trade, but with all the evolution in technology and other change in the world, we need to look for something new. Perhaps technology, not trade. Although I would repeat that trade and aid are both relevant.

Q: Pakistanis often boast about their strategic location, arguing that they cannot be ignored because of this. Was this strategic location an asset for you or an obstacle?

Siddiqui: Saying we have a strategic location, like saying we have a young population, is taking a one-sided position on what is a fact. A one-sided position, while correct on its own, ignores the disadvantages. A youthful population also means a struggle to get them employed while a strategic location means geopolitical complexity.

So, I dealt with our strategic location as a fact. Sometimes there were advantages and other times there was complexity. But all complexity is an opportunity to clear matters. For example, we were caught up in the US-China competition as a result of our strategic location, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and closeness to China.

There were statements made both on Capitol Hill and by the US administration that money Pakistan may get from the International Monetary Fund may end up repaying China but we have been successful in explaining to all US departments of government and this is not how IMF and our loans to China are structured.

Having dealt with this complexity due to our strategic location, we have created a better understanding of Pakistan and our positions with these stakeholders.

Q: Do you think your performance would have been better if you had a full term? Would you like to return with a full term?

Siddiqui: Of course. Diplomatic results are a function of skills and time. If I had three years rather than seven months, we would have achieved 10 times the results.

I’m not being simplistic as its not linear. It takes time to build relationships and access and, in the end, Washington, like Islamabad is a small town. There are a few hundred relevant people in leadership and they are split between the White House, Congress, departments of government, the security establishment, business, scientific establishment etc.

We have lost a lot of ground over the last two decades and more hard work and time are what is needed to regain it.

As for me, I haven’t given much thought to returning if ever offered. I spent 18 months in government between Islamabad and Washington at great personal cost in terms of opportunity, family life etc. My wife Saira has been a pillar of support both in going along with my transition to government and in her capacity as the wife of an ambassador, particularly in Washington where the spouse has a major role in diplomacy. So, it would have to be a ‘team-decision’!

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Asad Umar vexed by bureaucrats’ lack of preparation

ISLAMABAD: Amid a 24 per cent shortfall in cotton production this year, Finance Minister Asad Umar gave vent to his irritation over repeated presentation of half-baked ideas before the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet and returned issues of duty-free import of cotton and revival of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) to relevant ministries.

The ECC meeting had been called on Tuesday with only one item on the agenda — tax and duty-free import of cotton — and took up a presentation on PSM revival from Hubco as an additional item, but the presentation did not satisfy the finance minister who presided over the session.

Read: ,Exploring new taxes,

A source present in the meeting said the finance minister was visibly irritated when bureaucrats making the presentation were unable to answer elementary questions. They were asked to specify the benefit to Pakistan’s economy of allowing duty-free import of cotton, as well as quantify the revenue loss as a result of the measure. The bureaucrats from the textile ministry failed to satisfy him, to which he is said to have retorted “what kind of a joke is this, you people don’t come prepared even though there is a single agenda item!”

Returns proposal for duty-free cotton import to ministry

An official handout issued after the meeting said that “[t]he committee noted that detailed trade and revenue related data was required, which was not made part of the proposal,” and added that “relevant ministries were directed to fill the data gaps so that an informed decision could be taken in the matter”.

Mr Umar noted that when a ministry was seeking a major decision, it should have also included in its summary as to what would be the impact of imported cotton on the textile industry and how its duty-free import would affect the revenue stream of the Federal Board of Revenue, an official said.

Explore: ,Can Finance Minister Asad Umar prop up the equity market?,

The meeting was informed that the Cotton Crop Assessment Committee in its last meeting in September estimated that the cotton crop for 2018-19 would be around 10.78 million bales of 170kg, showing a decrease of 9.7pc, compared to the last year, and a decrease of 24pc against the initially fixed target of 14.37m bales. Further, 9.62m bales had already arrived in ginning factories as of Dec 15 and almost 95pc of the cotton had been lifted from farmers.

The textile division reported that Pakistan had been a net cotton importer since 2001. On top, domestic cotton is of short to medium staple length and, therefore, long and extra long staple cotton has to be imported for production of finer yarn counts for subsequent transformation into high value-added finished products.

It said the import of cotton had remained duty free till the slab of 0pc was abolished in 2014-15 and customs duty of 1pc was imposed along with 5pc sales tax. Later, 1pc slab was made 2pc and then 3pc along with 2pc additional duty to make it 5pc i.e. currently cotton is subject to 3pc customs duty, 2pc additional customs duty and 5pc sales tax.

Prime Minister’s Package of Incentives for Exports announced on January 10, 2017, provided a number of facilitations to the textile sector, including withdrawal of customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton with effect from January 16, 2017.

However, the Finance Division later moved a summary to the ECC to re-impose the customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton. The ECC constituted a committee and on the recommendation of the committee duties were re-imposed from July 15, 2017, in view of domestic cotton arrival.

The customs duty and sales tax were withdrawn again on January 8, 2018, on the request of textile division. However, the customs duty and sales tax were re-imposed on July 15, 2018, on the request of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research.

It was reported that textile industry consumed around 12m to 15m bales per annum and sustainability and viability of spinning industry was totally dependent on performance of the domestic crop. Textile industry had to meet this shortage from import of cotton from other countries.

The impact of duties are induced in the price of domestic cotton, resulting in increase in cost of doing business for the entire textiles value chain, especially for the export-oriented sector, in highly competitive international markets. Therefore, the textile division proposed that similar to last two years decision, customs duty, additional customs duty and sales tax on imported cotton may be withdrawn immediately.

PSM revival

Sources said a brief presentation by chief executive officer of Hub Power Company Khalid Mansoor did not offer conclusive solutions, but some initial observations and desired that the expert group he was leading should be given time until the end of March to come up with proposals about the future of PSM.

The committee noted the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation had removed the PSM from the privatisation list on October 31 and the expert group given 45 days to finalise a revival plan for the country’s largest industrial unit. The timeline had expired last month and now a 3-month extension was being sought.

It was also reported that the board of directors had not yet approved the appointment of Mr Mansoor-led expert group or allowed sharing of record and data despite instructions from the government on December 1, 2018. The board had thrice cancelled its meeting since then.

Mr Mansoor, who has previously worked with Finance Minister Umar in Engro Corporation, was asked to complete its task at the earliest.

A statement said the ministry of industries shared progress on the action plan with the meeting. “The committee directed that the plan of action should be prepared in a cohesive manner, taking on board the PSM Board of Directors/Management and submitted for final approval as per the given timelines.

Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019

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Opposition blasts govt in Senate over rupee devaluation

ISLAMABAD: The opposition in the Senate on Friday raised questions over the ,abrupt devaluation, of the rupee against the dollar and its implications for the country’s economy, insisting that the finance minister himself should explain if it had been done to meet IMF conditionalities.

The issue was raised in the house by PPP parliamentary leader Sherry Rehman through a calling-attention notice posing five key questions pertaining to devaluation of the rupee and Pakistan’s economy.

Also read: ,In the line of economic fire,

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar tried to give the reply, but Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq observed that the finance minister should himself give an explanation as there was a contradiction between statements of the prime minister and the finance minister on the issue.

Members walk out of house in protest against finance minister’s absence

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz, however, asked acting Chairman Saleem Mandviwala to allow the state minister to respond and asked how many times the PML-N’s finance minister turned up in the house to answer questions. He said the PTI government had inherited a ruined economy and thus it was busy in firefighting.

The house was told that Finance Minister Asad Umar was currently in Doha.

After the chair allowed Hammad Azhar to speak, he held the previous PML-N government responsible for the economic mess, saying foreign exchange reserves had been depleted to artificially maintain the rupee value and pointed out that the trade gap had reached $36 billion.

“Who is responsible for it? We surely have not done this in 100 days,” he remarked.

The state minister was on his feet when the combined opposition walked out of the house in protest against what it called inadequate answer to its questions in the absence of the finance minister.

Quorum bells were set off as quorum was pointed out following the walkout. As the quorum bells were being rung, the chair decided to put off the calling-attention notice to Monday, asking the leader of the house to let the finance minister give a response. The house was adjourned to meet again on Monday at 2pm.

Earlier speaking in the house, Ms Rehman said it was rather troubling that the finance minister was readily available for media appearances and he had answered more questions in talk shows and press conferences than he ever had in parliament.

The PPP senator then asked who’s calling the shots in Pakistan’s economy.

“If the prime minister did not know about such a huge devaluation and yet the finance minister did, then who is in charge and who will take the responsibility?” she wondered.

“If the precipitous devaluation was not part of any IMF precondition to bring the rupee down to non-artificial rate, then why was it done in such a disastrous freefall way in two crashes? Either way why was the managed float not graduated down slowly?”

She asked if the current account deficit would be fixed by this adjustment via a more robust export sector as to why all the exporters were saying that the crash was too steep.

Ms Rehman was of the view that while the gains for the export would be little, the impact on imports would be as high as Rs300 billion. She also reiterated the importance of transparency.

“When a country’s currency crashes so fast in one or two days, then there has to be an inquiry into who traded on the inside and made a fortune, while others lost their businesses and savings. The FIA should share its findings with parliament as to which money changer or syndicate profited from the devaluation,” she said.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018

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‘US wants to help Pakistan protect its economy’

WASHINGTON: The core purpose of US economic engagement with Pakistan is to ensure that it’s not a failure in the future and stops being such a poor country, says a senior official of the US Treasury Department.

David Malpass, Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday that the Trump administration also wants to ensure that any IMF loan to Pakistan is not used to repay its Chinese debt.

Pakistan is seeking an $8 billion extended loan facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail itself out of a severe balance-of-payments crisis that threatens to cripple its economy. The two parties are still discussing the package and a final decision is expected early next month.

At this House Financial Services Committee hearing on international financial institutions, several US lawmakers expressed concern that Pakistan may use the IMF loan to repay some of the $60bn loans it is borrowing from China for CPEC. Some lawmakers also argued that this huge Chinese debt was responsible for the economic challenges Pakistan was facing.

Read more: ,US eases fears Pakistan will use IMF loans to clear China debt,

Congressman Ed Royce, a California Republican, reminded Mr Malpass that in July this year Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that there’s no rationale for using IMF and American tax dollars — that are part of the IMF funding — to bailout Chinese bond holders. What’s the administration doing to prevent this, Congressman Royce questioned.

“With regard to Pakistan, Secretary Pompeo is exactly right. So, we are working and making clear within the IMF that if it were going to supply any funding to Pakistan that it would not be used to repay Chinese loans,” Mr Malpass said.

“We are trying also to make sure that Pakistan changes its economic programme, so that it’s not a failure in the future. So, that’s the core of our purpose with regard to Pakistan,” he added.

Later in the hearing, Congressman Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, raised the issue again.

“Looks like IMF will loan the money to Islamabad so that they can send the money to Beijing. What would we do to make sure that the IMF is not used, in effect, just to pay back China?” he asked.

“We will make strong efforts, and I believe successful efforts, to make sure that what you describe doesn’t happen, meaning a payoff of Beijing via Islamabad,” Mr Malpass said.

“But Pakistan has not been successful yet at all in finalising a package with the IMF. So, it’s something that we follow closely,” he added. “One of the things that we are aware of and do follow is that IMF loans tend to be shorter maturity loans and China’s loans to Pakistan have been longer maturity loans.”

When Mr Sherman demanded to know how would Washington make sure that Islamabad follows the conditions attached to an IMF package, Mr Malpass said: “We will look for ways that that round-tripping does not happen the way you described.”

Helping Pakistan overcome its economic deficiencies, however, was even more important, he added.

“Important in this, in my view also, is the structural reforms in Pakistan that are necessary for it to stop being such a poor country,” Mr Malpass said.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2018

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Pakistan’s power sector causes $18bn loss a year: report

ISLAMABAD: Estimating about $18bn annual loss to Pakistan economy due to inefficient power sector, the World Bank has warned the government against increasing power rates as a tool to address fiscal challenges in the sector.

In a report “In the Dark: How Much Do Power Sector Distortions Cost South Asia” launched here on Wednesday, the World Bank also suggested some solutions to address the power sector problems by asking authorities to prioritise gas allocation to efficient power plants and launch tariff mechanism that encourages performance.

Pakistan’s power sector suffers from inefficiencies that cost the economy $18bn or 6.5 per cent of GDP in the fiscal year 2015, said a new World Bank report. Asked about the use of 2015 data about economic losses, a World Bank official said the situation had not changed much since then.

World Bank asks authorities to prioritise gas allocation to efficient power plants and launch tariff mechanism

Costs are far greater than previous estimates based on fiscal costs alone and reforms could save Pakistan’s economy $8.4bn in business losses and could increase total household incomes by at least $4.5bn a year, said Senior Economist in the World Bank Fan Zhang who launched the report. “Reforms must go beyond liberalising energy prices to address several aspects of the power sector distortions,” the report added.

The report argues that reforms that focus solely on liberalising energy prices would lead to an excessively high cost of electricity because of inefficiencies in the system, negatively impacting the poor and vulnerable. This is in contrast to policy recommendations by all the three leading lending agencies — the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank — for increasing tariffs to address energy sector’s fiscal problems.

On the long-term basis, the increase in tariffs alone would not address the problems but in short term it could solve the fiscal problems, said Rikard Liden, the lead energy specialist of the World Bank. Mr Liden said that it was important to focus on revenue side but it was equally important to look at the generation side to address the sector’s problems.

The report said Pakistan had made great strides in expanding electricity access and capacity as 91 million more people were receiving electricity for the first time from 1990 to 2010. However, according to the report, up to 50m people still do not have access to grid electricity and frequent loadshedding damaged businesses and the health and living standards of consumers. Almost a fifth of electricity generated is lost through poor infrastructure, faulty metering and theft. Loadshedding is caused by high cost, losses and subsidies which compromise investments and the ability to procure fuel. A lack of grid electricity also impacts health, as it leads to greater use of kerosene lamps, causing indoor air pollution linked to respiratory infections and tuberculosis risks.

The report stated that for the benefit of consumers, energy sector reforms should focus on rationalising consumer prices for electricity and gas to reflect supply costs; and social assistance to help vulnerable populations cope with increased energy prices. Increased access to reliable power must be made a priority, it added.

Fan Zhang said although the supply side problems had reduced for the past three years, the market distortions still remained underpinning high losses even this day. In Pakistan the impact of the lack of reliable access to electricity on households and firms was the largest source, costing roughly $12.9bn a year, she added.

Some participants did not agree to the World Bank claim that demand for electricity will increase 64pc from 2018-25 and referred to a recent study of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority that projected 34pc growth in demand during that period.

“Pakistan can boost economic growth and job creation by overcoming inefficiencies in its power sector,” said Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “Reforms that address these distortions can make better use of existing facilities. These need to focus on eliminating waste, promoting the shift towards cleaner energy and attracting private investments,” he added.

“Power sector reform should be a top priority, as few other reforms could yield economic gains of a similar magnitude so quickly, based on findings from this report,” says Fan Zhang. In India and Pakistan, hefty losses of electricity in distribution, along with poor recovery of overdue electricity bills, gave rise to alarming levels of debt in the sector and prompted repeated government bailouts, the report said.

Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2018

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‘Hope is very much in the air’: Asad Umar on Pakistan’s economy

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday asserted that surveys held following the completion of PTI government’s first 100 days in power showed that “a very clear majority of Pakistanis think the country is moving in the right direction and heading towards a better place than where it was before”.

“Hope is very much in the air,” the finance minister mentioned while being interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC News programme Hard Talk.

When asked how well the government was doing to keep up with the promises made by Imran Khan before coming into power, especially given the fact that the prime minister had previously remarked that he would be “ashamed to go abroad and ask for money”, Umar responded by saying:

“When the government came into power, it was a well-known fact that Pakistan needed some kind of a bailout…the real challenge, the real decision is — and that’s how we will be judged in the future — did we take the decisions of setting the country’s economy on a path where this is going to be what I have repeatedly said, the last IMF programme if we get into one right now.”

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Umar said after he took charge as the finance minister, the government reached out to friendly countries for bilateral financial assistance as well as started a dialogue with the IMF simultaneously because it had no time to first work out a strategy and then start negotiations.

The finance minister said, the government did not wait for the IMF to impose any conditions on Pakistan to do what it was required to do.

“In the very first 100 days we increased electricity prices, gas prices, we put in place a supplementary finance budget, we increased taxes, the policy rate has been increased by the central bank, the currency rate has been adjusted by the central bank,” he explained.

He said both the monetary and fiscal policies were moving in the direction of reforms that are required by the IMF.

“We don’t need IMF’s dictation for us to do that because we believe this is what’s necessary. However, the path for reforms is different in the eyes of IMF, as we stand today, versus what we think is right.”

The finance minister said that this was what the ongoing dialogue with IMF was debating over. “There is no difference of opinion with the IMF in terms of what needs to be done. It is the pace, the sequence, and the extent which is being discussed,” he added.

To a question regarding Pakistan standing with Saudi Arabia and in return acquiring monetary assistance, while the world was shocked and disgusted over the news of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, the finance minister said:

“I would be happy to be ashamed of standing up with a country with whom we have had close bilateral ties…maybe the western leaders should be ashamed of themselves talking about democracy, talking about freedoms, and still reaching out in the same Saudi pockets to take billions of dollars of business deals. The leader of the Western world Donald Trump stands up and openly says ‘I am getting too much business from Saudi Arabia for me to worry about what happened to Khashoggi.’”

He clarified Pakistan was just being consistent in the bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia which has remained the same regardless of who remains in power. Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia goes back half-a-century and it had got nothing to do with Yemen or Khashoggi, he added.

With respect to the investment in Balochistan under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the minister said the Balochistan government was eager to enhance investment in the province under the CPEC project.

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He said Pakistan’s debts payable to China were less than 10 per cent of its total debts while the US was the largest debtor of China with over $1.3 trillion debt owed to it.

To another question, Umar said people of Balochistan were patriotic Pakistanis but there were some sponsored activities by terrorists who were trained and funded from outside Pakistan.

“There are concerted efforts led by India to damage the CPEC. People of Balochistan have elected a government that fully stands by CPEC and have also shown loyalty with Pakistan,” the finance minister said.

To a question regarding tax reforms, he said the government has taken several new initiatives aimed at enhancing the tax base and revenue to facilitate the socio-economic development of the country.

The revenue generation aspect is absolutely central to be able to deal with the horrendous challenges that we have, the finance minister said.

“The health and education situation needs drastic reforms and for that you need revenue, and for that, you need an efficient revenue authority,” Umar said, adding: “We have separated tax policy from tax administration.”

The finance minister said that almost the entire top leadership of the revenue authority has been changed.

He also said that modern technology is being utilised to chase those who were evading taxes and 3,100 of them have already been served notices, whereas a list of over 7,000 top tax evaders has been prepared.

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Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of a dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan.

Speaking at a reception here on Sunday, minister said the government was making efforts to bring foreign investment to the country to improve economy. He said foreign missions abroad had been asked to make efforts to bring investment to Pakistan.

He said that political leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had no objection to the creation of south Punjab province, however a `small segment’ in Sindh and Punjab had some reservations.

“A small segment in Sindh thinks that the creation of south Punjab may pave the way for the demand for the division of Sindh which is totally baseless as no one is demanding the division of Sindh,” he said.

He said that the PTI government was sincere for the creation of south Punjab. “Right now we are trying to create a consensus among political parties.”

He said initially a sub-secretariat (of south Punjab) would be established in Multan for which funds would be allocated in next fiscal. Qureshi said he was not aware of changes to be made in the ministries.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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‘We want to promote and protect investment’: PM Khan assures Karachi businessmen

Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Karachi on Sunday for a day-long visit during which he met with various members of the business community to seek their advice and assured them of the government’s commitment to “promote and protect investment in the country”.

Khan was received at the airport by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail. The two held a one-on-one meeting, during which they discussed matters related to the political situation and ongoing development projects, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

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A Pakistan Stock Exchange delegation led by PSX Chairman Sulaiman Mehdi also called on the prime minister today and discussed matters related to the economy.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Ishrat Hussain, and Special Assistants to the Prime Minister Naeemul Haque and Iftikhar Durrani were also in attendance.

The premier was briefed regarding the issues faced by the stock market and brokers. Khan gave the assurance that necessary steps were being taken to bring stability to the market.

“The [incumbent] government has brought a different mindset. We want to ensure promulgation of businesses and investment and want to offer protection for the same. We want to bring stability to the market. This is why I have come to you for advice,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

“There is a lot of investment being made in the country by investors abroad. Pakistan has a lot of potential for investment,” he added.

The delegation congratulated Prime Minister Khan on assuming office and appreciated the government’s efforts to bring financial stability to the country.

During the meeting, both sides agreed on the need for the government to broaden the tax base and for PSX to make better use of IT in the stock market. They also concurred on the need to put a stop to illegal transactions.

The delegation pledged its full support for the government’s fiscal policy and presented its recommendations for continued financial stability in the country.

The premier also met with a delegation from the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The delegation comprised prominent businessmen including Siraj Qasim Teli, Tahir Khaliq, Haroon Agar, Shamim Firpo, and Junaid Ismail Makda.

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According to PTI’s official Twitter account, Khan also met officials of the city’s traders association, “who discussed with him the problems they currently face”. Finance Minister Umar and other ministers were also present during the meeting.

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The premier during his visit is expected to receive briefings and exchange ideas about provincial development projects, citizens’ problems, the anti-encroachment drive in the city and other affairs.

He is expected to also consult party leaders on the above-mentioned and other important matters.

This is his second visit to the city since his election.

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President Alvi urges citizens to play their part in fight against corruption

President Arif Alvi ,in a message on the occasion, of International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday called upon all citizens to contribute towards eliminating corruption and paving the way for economic growth and prosperity.

Alvi recalled that International Anti-Corruption Day was observed due to the 2003 ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption which sought to raise public awareness about financial crimes.

“This day serves as a reminder not only to the people of Pakistan but also to the citizens of all nations around the globe about the harmful effects of corruption,” he explained.

Describing corruption as “a major hindrance against development and prosperity”, the president said that it hurt business and the economy, which “in turn sabotages the prosperity of the nation”.

“Corrupted economies remain unable to function properly because corruption prevents free functioning of the natural laws of the economy. As a result, corruption in a nation’s political and economic operations causes its entire society to suffer,” he added.

Billions of rupees in public funds are lost annually to corruption, directly affecting “the ability of the government to provide even proper basic services to the public”, the president said.

“NAB being the apex anti-corruption agency of Pakistan has been mandated to keep this menace in check as well as to create awareness among the public at large about corruption,” Alvi said, noting that the “sheer scale of this challenge calls for combined efforts to confront it head on”.

Although the government is committed to eradicating this menace, he said, NAB alone cannot win this fight.

He called upon and urged all segments of society to unite in bringing out changes in attitude and contribute towards efforts in putting an end to corruption to support economic growth in order to bring prosperity.

Alvi addresses seminar

President Arif Alvi on Sunday expressed a resolve to strengthen NAB in order to better check corruption while addressing a seminar held on International Anti-Corruption Day in Islamabad, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

While addressing the event at Aiwan-i-Sadar, President Alvi called corruption “an assault on humanity”.

He added that corruption cases should be taken to their logical conclusion by strengthening prosecution.

‘NAB must continue work despite propaganda’

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal also addressed the seminar at Aiwan-i-Sadr today.

Iqbal warned elements in society trying to “spread propaganda” against NAB that the people of Pakistan were not so gullible that they could not differentiate between right and wrong.

The NAB chairman said that the bureaucracy had been worried since he came to power, but assured them that he himself had remained a bureaucrat and would use the resources available to NAB with integrity and “in the best possible way”.

Describing the country’s bureaucracy as its spine, he said that “if it hurts, therapy must be done”.

“The Supreme Court has said this many times, that every bureaucrat will only follow those orders which are in according with law,” he said, adding that the apex court had in the past always taken action in the event that a bureaucrat was being treated unfairly.

“People should know that NAB is using it’s authorities,” Iqbal said.

He added that those who had previous called NAB “dead wood” were now, to some extent, willing to accept that it had become a tree with branches and was in bloom.

“Whether you do propaganda or not, NAB must continue its work,” the chairman stated.

Iqbal said that we are no longer living in a time “when you are given a wrong order and you say that it is okay”.

He concluded by noting that every step taken by NAB will be for the citizens and state of Pakistan.

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Via DAWN.com

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