Posts Tagged ‘Investment’

Govt to abolish advance tax on sale, purchase of shares

ISLAMABAD: The government has agreed to abolish 0.02 per cent advance tax on sale and purchase of shares in the upcoming mini-budget. It was a major demand of the stock market players.

The Ministry of Finance in its summary has suggested that Section 65C of the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) allows incentives for listing by companies through tax credits. This incentive can be further enhanced to encourage new listings.

Details available from the finance ministry regarding the mini-budget, which will be announced on Jan 23rd, show that advance tax of 0.02pc on sale/purchase of shares will be abolished.

It has been highlighted that rates of advance tax on sale and purchase of securities was doubled from 0.01pc to 0.02pc through Finance Act 2016.

The advance tax of 0.02pc on purchase and sale of securities in lieu of tax on the commission earned is considered on the higher side.

The PSX proposals in this regard have been recommended by the Federal Board of Revenue too.

The second demand of the stock market players in regard to allow carry forward of capital losses up to 3 years. The finance ministry has also recommended that amendments may be carried out in the ITO to allow carry forward of capital losses made on disposal of securities.

The third demand was rationalisation of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on equities in line with real estate. The government acknowledged that anomaly in tax rates imposed on disposal of securities and sale of immovable property was discouraging investments in the capital market.

A flat rate of 15pc CGT was introduced irrespective of holding period in the Finance Act 2017, while there is no tax on gain on disposal of immovable property if the holding period is three years or more.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the finance ministry said the mini-budget will be focused on ease of doing business, encourage savings and investments in stock market and real estate sectors. For finalising the matter and take stakeholders into confidence in this regard, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan chairman and Commissioner Securities Market Division will meet the stockbrokers on Thursday in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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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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Minister says govt will uphold LNG contract with Qatar

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday said it was requesting Qatar for reduction in the price of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and its supplies on delayed payments under the existing 15-year supply contract, but would abide by all the other clauses in the contract.

Speaking informally to a group of media persons, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan also said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would sign an MoU for up to $10bn Saudi investment in Gwadar during the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) in the last week of February.

Also read: ,New wave of mega LNG projects is approaching,

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan “may request Qatar government to provide credit facility for LNG supplies and revise the prices” when he visits Doha on Jan 22. Finance Minister Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have already visited Doha one after the other in recent weeks and are understood to have put the matter on the table, he said.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been criticising the contracts signed by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for import of LNG from Qatar at a price equivalent to 13.39 per cent of international benchmark crude oil price and two terminals set up by the private sector for re-gasifying imported LNG.

PTI earlier criticised gas deal signed by PML-N govt, Doha to be requested for price reduction

On Nov 30, the petroleum minister had said the government was considering completely renegotiating the 15-year contract for LNG import with Qatar, adding that a final decision would be made after an in-camera briefing by his ministry to the prime minister.

On Monday, he said the government would abide by the 15-year agreement but still ask for a price reduction from the Qatari ruler, and another 10-year contract with another supplier that became the basis of final LNG price with Qatar. He said Pakistan has long-term LNG supply agreements and would honour them.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have committed a total of $6bn in safe deposit of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) bank of Pakistan and $6.4bn credit worth of oil facility for balance of payments support. Pakistan’s LNG import bill roughly comes to about $4bn per annum.

Talking about the visit of Saudi minister for energy, minerals and industry to Gwadar on the weekend, the petroleum minister said Saudi Arabia was firming up its plan to invest up to $10bn in Gwadar for a refinery and a petrochemical complex and an MoU would be signed during the visit of MBS in the last week of next month.

Saudi Arabia, he said, had also offered Pakistan to supply LNG to meet gas shortages while some other countries and investors were also keen on entering Pakistan’s LNG market that would result in competition and result in low LNG prices.

The Saudi minister also expressed strong interest for investment in four areas including petrochemical complex, mineral resources, industry and renewable energy. Initially, the minister has committed $10bn investment in the petroleum sector including an oil refinery having a 200,000-300,000 tonnes per day refining capacity and petrochemical complex in Gwadar. He said the minister took aerial view of two pieces of land — one within 30km radius of Gwadar and another 80km away and would select one of them shortly. Riyadh, he said, was also interested in LNG-based power plants.

Besides the Saudi refinery, the minister said a similar capacity refinery had already been taken in hand by Parco at Khalifa Point land for which has already been transferred to Parco. These two refineries would help Pakistan meet total requirement of finished petroleum products and still have some capacity for re-export of some products. Once the two refineries are up and running, Pakistan is expected to import only crude instead of refined products, he said adding almost half of consumption of oil products in Pakistan was currently met through imports — a heavy burden on foreign exchange.

Responding to a question, he said the government was in the process of giving improved incentives to exploration companies to boost onshore drilling. He said the offshore exploration had already been given attractive incentives including in the form of tax and duty exemptions and the government was considering extending them to onshore areas as well.

He said the new oil and gas exploration policy would address most of the current challenges facing the nation. He said that he had held meetings with chief ministers of Balochistan, KPK and Sindh to take them on board on new energy policy and would take other stakeholders into confidence before a formal announcement in March.

Talking about new gas schemes, the minister said the cabinet had already discussed the issue as all three gas surplus provinces had first right on gas utilization under Article 158 of the Constitution and they were not ready to provide gas supply to other provinces. He said Punjab was gas deficit and rising demand there meant its industry could not compete with their counterparts in other provinces for which Rs25bn subsidy had recently been extended.

He said the government was working on comprehensive energy policy to address all these issues because countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar had huge gas reserves but were not supplying gas in pipelines. Pakistan was perhaps the only country in the region where consumers had luxury of pipeline gas and there was no rationale to further increase the gas network.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019

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NAB chairman should appear before parliament, demands Zardari

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman should appear before the parliament in person, instead of lawmakers going to him to discuss the bureau’s procedure for moving against opposition members accused of corruption.

Speaking during a National Assembly session, the former president said the time has come for the parliament to call the NAB chairman and “proclaim a law” that before any parliamentarian is summoned by NAB, their case should come to the house committee on law so it can decide whether there is actually a case against the said lawmaker or their family.

Editorial: ,Meaningful accountability,

Zardari said he was hearing of plans among various parties to call on the NAB chairman, purportedly to discuss the bureau’s anti-corruption drive that has ensnared several opposition members.

“Why will you go to the NAB chairman?” he asked the MNAs present, before declaring: “The NAB chairman should appear in person before the parliament.”

Zardari said the matter was not personal to him because he had encountered “many NABs” during his career and “will continue to face them”.

“The real issue is, what will happen when you are summoned [by the accountability watchdog]?” he said with a meaningful smile, addressing the treasury benches.

Zardari said his party was “totally happy” that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had today been ,given relief by the Supreme Court, in the Avenfield corruption reference. He added that the PPP also “does not want to see” Nawaz’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in the jail.

Speaking about his own troubles, he said it would be “uncalled for” and “above the law” if a new joint investigation team is formed comprising representatives of the ISI and other institutions, in the fake accounts case.

The PPP co-chairman said it was in the government’s interest to “tighten” the NAB as doing so will reduce the prevailing “insecurity” among the bureaucracy and the country will start functioning to some extent.

Criticising the PTI government’s performance of the first few months, he told the treasury members: “We will not bring down your [government], you will fall yourselves.”

He said he wants to work to strengthen the parliament and democracy, and pointing towards government benches said, “I also want to train these news friends that have come to the parliament.”

‘No foreign force can prevent economic slide’

Zardari said the international financial support being given to Pakistan by friendly countries is welcome, but no “foreign force” can prevent the economic slide the country appeared to be heading towards because of PTI government’s policies.

“Considering the financial situation at present [and] the way decisions are being taken arbitrarily… the country cannot be managed in this manner,” the former president said.

He said no foreign power, be it China or any other country, could save Pakistan once it starts its journey towards becoming a “failed state” on the sliding scale “because everyone will think of their own country”.

Zardari said during the PPP government’s tenure, he had generated interest for investment in Pakistan through his 15 visits to China. It later materalised in the form of the agreement leading to the handover of the Gwadar port to China, he added.

Shahbaz questions Mohmand dam contract award

Earlier, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif expressed concern over the government’s move to ,award the contract for the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam, to a Descon-led consortium on a single bid basis.

He said the manner in which the contract had been awarded had “put question marks” on the entire procedure. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Pepra) rules allow the award of contracts on a single-bid basis, but with certain conditionalities, he added.

“What was the urgency in awarding the contract?” the PML-N president questioned. “Why was rebidding not done?”

He said the bidding process for the project was initiated during the PML-N government, but it was the incumbent government that had awarded the contract. “The responsibility of awarding the contract for the project lies with the PTI government,” he added.

He said there was a “direct conflict of interest” in awarding the dam contract to the company allegedly owned by Abdul Razak Dawood, who is an adviser to the prime minister.

Shahbaz claimed that the PML-N government had eliminated loadshedding from the country by launching a number of projects on a war-footing basis

“If the country is facing loadshedding again then it is due to the negligence and incapability of the present PTI government.”

He said the current government was generating electricity through furnace oil which is the most expensive fuel and LNG-based power plants were presently not functioning to full capacity.

Opposition hatching conspiracy against dams: Vawda

As Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda stood up to respond to Shahbaz’s criticism, the opposition refused to listen to him and staged a walkout.

Meanwhile, Speaker Asad Qaiser ordered a headcount after PPP lawmaker Shagufta Jumani pointed out the quorum. The opposition bid to disrupt proceedings by pointing out the quorum failed, however, with the speaker declaring the house in order after the headcount.

Vawda in his remarks criticised the opposition for staging a walkout after delivering speeches and presenting “wrong facts before the house”.

Defending the government’s award of the Mohmand dam contract to the Descon-led consortium, he said the project had been in files for 54 years and the PTI government had pulled it from there.

“The opposition is hatching a conspiracy against dams as they want to do politics on this issue,” he alleged.

Vawda said the Mohmand dam will be completed under Imran Khan’s government.

He said it was wrong to say that the contract had been awarded on a single-bid basis as five companies had submitted bids for the project after issuance of advertisements.

“The opposition leader has wrongly interpreted the Pepra rules,” he claimed.

The minister said the government will not offer any NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal) to the opposition leaders.

“Their politics have been buried [...] they will either go to jail or in exile.”

The NA was session was adjourned until 11am on Tuesday.

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Opposition set to give tough time to ruling coalition in NA

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to go into its seventh session on Monday (today) with Speaker Asad Qaiser still ,struggling with the formation, of the house committees as the opposition parties flexing its muscles to give a tough time to the ruling coalition on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, alleged one-sided accountability process, the government’s move to present another mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.

The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is also planning a strong protest on the floor of the assembly, if the speaker does not issue the production order for former railways minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, who has been in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) along with his brother Salman Rafique in connection with an inquiry into a housing society scam.

Sources in the National Assembly Secretariat told Dawn that the speaker had already ,issued the production order, for Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif while the process of the issuance of the production order for Mr Rafique was under way.

Seventh session of National Assembly begins today

Mr Sharif has been attending the NA sessions and meetings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the speaker’s production orders since his arrest by NAB on Oct 6 last year in the Ashiyana housing scam.

Mr Rafique had been ,arrested by NAB on Dec 11, last year at a time when the assembly was already in session. The opposition parties had lodged a strong protest and even boycotted most of the sittings before the speaker issued production order only a day before prorogation of the house on Dec 21.

The speaker has already summoned a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee comprising representatives of all the parties present in the assembly before start of the session in which he is expected to take up the issue of the formation of the committees, besides discussing the agenda for the upcoming session which is expected to continue for more than two weeks as the government intends to present a mini-budget on Jan 23.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, while speaking to the members of the business community during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Saturday, had announced that the government would ,present a mini-budget on Jan 23, and dispelled the impression that it would be loaded with new taxes.

Mr Umar had admitted that last year had been difficult not only for the government but also for the business community as during the five months (July-November) of the current financial year, only $818 million came under Foreign Direct Investment against $1.35 billion in the same period last financial year.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N are questioning the government’s move to present second mini-budget in less than six months.

Strongly opposing the plan, PPP’s vice president Senator Sherry Rehman had asked if the government, which was determined to bring about a revolution, would introduce mini-budgets every four months. She alleged that the mini-budget was being unveiled to meet the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund.

She regretted that just a day after an increase in the prices of drugs, the government announced its plans about unveiling a mini-budget.

Similarly, the PML-N leaders, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, had also questioned the government’s move to present another mini-budget. Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, the PML-N leaders had lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for its “directionless and failed” economic policies, which had drastically brought down the country’s growth rate in just five months.

House committees

Despite succeeding in ,breaking the deadlock, between the government and the opposition over the issue of the PAC chairmanship last month, Speaker Asad Qaiser is still struggling to complete the process of the formation of house committees.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly which came into existence in August after the general elections held in July is functioning with only two committees, including the PAC.

Sources said that an understanding between the government and the opposition had already been reached on the distribution of the chairmanship of 38 standing committees. Under the agreed formula, the chairmanship of 18 committees would go to the opposition while the remaining 20 committees would be headed by the PTI and its allies.

However, they said, the two sides were yet to discuss the committees to be distributed among the treasury and the opposition members. The opposition parties, the sources said, wanted to head the important committees like interior, foreign affairs, power and finance.

The speaker had met Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan and the opposition leaders in the last two days and after his meeting with the government and the opposition representatives, he expressed the hope that he would constitute the committees during the session.

Meanwhile, the NA Secretariat on Sunday issued a nine-point agenda for the Monday’s sitting which includes presentation of a report by the government on “I-Voting Pilot test in 35 constituencies held on October 14 last year, as required under Section 94 of the Elections Act, 2017”.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2019

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Saudi minister says crown prince will sign oil refinery deal

GWADAR: Saudi Minister for Petroleum and Energy Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz said on Saturday that his country’s crown prince would visit Pakistan in February to sign an agreement with Pakistan on setting up an oil refinery in Gwadar at a cost of $10 billion.

The Saudi minister said this after arriving here along with a delegation to inspect the site for the proposed oil refinery in the port city, the ultimate destination of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The delegation included Chief Executive Officer of Aramco Associated Company Al Buainain Ibrahim Qassim.

Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Federal Minister for Marine Affairs Ali Zaidi and Balochistan Information Minister Mir Zahoor Ahmed Buledi received the Saudi delegation at Gwadar airport.

Delegation from kingdom visits site for proposed facility in Gwadar

Later the Saudi delegation attended a meeting in which the oil refinery project and other issues were discussed.

The Saudi minister said that his country wanted to contribute to Pakistan’s economic development through establishing an oil refinery and partnership in the CPEC. He said that Saudi Arabia was also interested in investing in other sectors.

Referring to the proposed oil refinery, Mr Abdul Aziz said that it would prove to be a landmark development for the entire region as a centre point for changes in purchase, import and export of oil.

He said that the Saudi government would complete installation of the oil refinery in minimum time.

The Saudi minister said that Pakistan and his country enjoyed cordial economic, social and deep-rooted friendly relations since a long time. Saudi Arabia had always provided financial and economic help to Pakistan and would continue to do so in future.

He said that he was visiting Gwadar on the instruction of the Saudi king.

Ghulam Sarwar Khan welcomed the Saudi delegation and appreciated the efforts Saudi Arabia was making to contribute to economic development of Pakistan. He termed the Saudi delegation’s visit to Gwadar a significant event.

The petroleum minister said that the federal cabinet had already approved the Saudi government’s plan for establishing an oil refinery in Gwadar. With the setting up of the oil refinery, Saudi Arab would become an important partner in the CPEC, he added.

He said that the project would not only prove a milestone in the development of Pakistan but also write a new history of prosperity and economic development in the entire region.

The minister for maritime affairs suggested that Saudi Arabia should also invest in the agriculture sector.

Earlier, Gwadar Port Authority Chairman Dostain Jamaldini, Gwadar Development Authority Chairman Dr Sajjad Baloch and China Overseas Port Holding Company Chairman Zhang Baozong briefed the Saudi delegation about the CPEC and the development projects launched in Gwadar.

Additional Secretary of Petroleum Tanvir Qureshi, Balochistan Minister for Revenue Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa, Provincial Energy Secretary Mir Pasand Khan Buledi, MPA Mobin Khan Khilji and officials concerned also attended the meeting.

GWADAR: A delegation of Saudi Arabia, led by Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Abdul Aziz D. Al Falih, arrived here on Saturday to inspect the site for the proposed oil refinery at the deep seaport city, the ultimate destination of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Federal Minister for Marine Affairs and Balochistan Information Minister received the delegation, which included Chief Executive Officer of Aramco Associated Company Al Buainain Ibrahim Qassim.

Mr Khan said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed cordial relations, a press release said.

Describing the proposed oil refinery as a state-of-the-art facility, he said it would the biggest investment of the Saudi government in Pakistan, for which a memorandum of understanding was expected to be signed next month.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Asad says tax-free mini-budget to be unveiled on 23rd

KARACHI: Dispelling the impression that the up­­coming mini-budget be­ing announced on Janu­ary 23 would be loaded with new taxes, federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar has said that it will focus on ease of doing business and other measures to facilitate trade and industrialisation.

The minister was addressing members of the business community during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on Saturday.

The minister also visited the residence of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member and former chairman of Rice Exporters Asso­ciation of Pakistan (Reap) Rahim Janoo.

Talks with IMF under way though govt not in a hurry to approach it for support, minister tells business community

Mr Umar said last year had been difficult not only for the government but also for the business community as during the five months of the current fiscal (July-Nov­e­mber) only $818 million came under Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) against $1.35 billion in the same period of last financial year.

However, he said, the country’s standing in the index for ease of doing business improved to 136 from a recent ranking of 147 among 190 countries but the PTI government would strive hard to bring it down to double digit.

The minister disclosed the World Bank had taken a number of measures for improving ease of doing business for Pakistan but they were still below the level of other economies in the region.

He said cost of doing business was a major problem for the industry in Pakistan as it was higher than other regional countries particularly with regard to the utilities costs and tariffs. Citing an example, he said gas tariffs in Bangladesh, India and Vietnam are $3.35, $4.60 and $6 respectively, whereas it was $7.96 along with added cost of Rs2,000 as Gas Infrastruc­ture Develop­ment Cess (GIDC) in Pakistan.

The minister agreed that multiple taxes in Pakistan was another hurdle in fast industrialisation and economic growth as a lot of time was consumed by entrepreneurs in sorting tax issues and all this had to be corrected in due course as the government was fully committed to promoting investment and generating jobs.

Rs400bn refunds outstanding

Responding to a question raised by FPCCI President Daroo Khan Achakzai, the minister said that Rs400 billion outstanding refunds pending with the government and belonging to export trade would be disbursed soon.

The finance minister said the country’s biggest province Balochistan deserved to be given special attention as the country’s development depended on its progress and prosperity.

Border trade

He said that for improving border trade at Chaman, a special committee had been set up under Balochistan Chief Minister Jamal Kamal Khan and commander of the army’s southern command, and provincial finance minister and members of the Quetta chamber as its members.

Mr Umar said the government wanted to bring structural changes in border trade and also make it legal as locals had been depending on it for centuries. He also said that credit facility would be provided for trade in Balochistan, as banks were currently reluctant to give credit.

Mr Umar said that a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gwadar was being developed but it would take some time. He said both the federal and provincial governments had agreed to work in the meantime on existing industrial estate at Hub and all infrastructure facilities including power of 1,200 megawatts would be set up. “We are focused to remove all unnecessary departments, which become hurdle in way of progress and added that presently five departments are engaged in a work that could be done by one,” he lamented.

Responding to a question, the minister said negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were under way though the government was not in a hurry to approach the IMF for support.

Addressing the business community, Mr Umar said the private sector would have a leading role in the 21st century whereas the government would only provide infrastructure and work as facilitator by removing all sorts of bottlenecks for quick investment and industrialization.

He said professionals were being inducted in financial institutions on merit while the discretionary powers of low-ranking officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were being withdrawn.

In reply to a question, the minister said there was nothing secret about the debts taken under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as their details had already been made public.

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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Saudi minister visits Gwadar to inspect construction site of proposed oil refinery

A Saudi delegation headed by Minister for Energy, Industry, and Minerals Khalid Abdul Aziz D Al Falih visited Gwadar on Saturday to inspect the site for ,the proposed oil refinery,, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan received the Saudi delegation at the deep seaport city — an ultimate destination of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Describing the proposed refinery a “state-of-the-art facility”, Sarwar Khan said it would be ,the biggest investment of the Saudi government in Pakistan,, for which a memorandum of understanding was expected to be signed ,later this month,, read a statement issued by the ministry.

The petroleum minister said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were enjoying cordial relations.

The CEO of Al Buainain group, an associate company of Aramco, was also part of the delegation.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are likely to sign memoranda of understanding for more than $10 billion Saudi investment in Pakistan this month. The government will also sign similar MoUs with China, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia over the next two months.

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‘PM to appear before NAB whenever summoned’

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) does not believe in the policy of conflicts in politics and that the government does not have the power to send someone to jail.

Talking to the media here on Friday, the minister said that the PTI government has only acted upon the decisions of courts. “Not even a single case was initiated against the leadership of PPP and PML-N during the PTI government. Rule of law prevails in the country and everyone is equal before it,” he added.

Read: ,If opposition leader can appear before NAB, so can prime minister: NAB chief Javed Iqbal,

He commented that Prime Minister Imran Khan will appear before the National Accountability Bureau whenever summoned.

He further said some elements were creating hurdles in the creation of south Punjab province by spreading baseless propaganda. In the past, funds for south Punjab were distributed among other provinces, but not anymore.

He further said that a civil secretariat for south Punjab will be made functional during the ongoing fiscal year, while a separate public service commission was also being established.

The foreign minister said that after coming into power the government’s priority was to improve ties with countries that had strained during the tenure of the previous government. “We improved our relations with Saudi Arabia, and because of the improved foreign policies of the PTI government Riyadh gave Islamabad a financial package of $12 billion. The UAE and China also announced financial aid of $3bn and $2bn, respectively. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is also coming to Pakistan on March 23 along with a delegation of investors,” he claimed.

He further said premier Khan is going to Qatar on Jan 22, adding that Doha had announced employment for 100,000 Pakistanis. The Foreign Ministry was actively promoting foreign investment in the country through economic diplomacy, he added.

He further said that he had asked all Central Asian nations to play their role for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan, however, some forces were against it. It was because of Prime Minister Imran Khan that the US had changed its attitude towards Pakistan and agreed for a dialogue, Mr Qureshi claimed.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 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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Cabinet decides to continue travel ban on PPP leaders

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to continue the travel ban on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwarts, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

The decision was made at a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office on Thursday.

The cabinet in its meeting on Dec 27, 2018 had decided to ,place names of 172 suspects, of the fake bank accounts and money laundering case, including top PPP leaders and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, had expressed surprise on Dec 31 over placing of the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah on the ECL and ,ordered the government to review the decision,.

Party urges Supreme Court to take notice of ‘dictatorial move’

The cabinet in its last meeting had referred the matter to a special committee of the interior ministry to review it. On Thursday, the committee presented its report to the cabinet recommending removal of 20 names from the ECL, including those of the PPP leaders.

However, Prime Minister Khan and his team rejected the recommendations and decided that the names of the top leaders of the PPP would remain on the ECL.

“The federal cabinet has decided not to remove names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah from the ECL,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference held to brief the media on the decisions made by the cabinet.

He said names of the PPP leaders would remain on the ECL until a detailed written order of the Supreme Court was received. “After going through the order, we will decide whether the names of the PPP leaders should be removed from the list or the government should file a review petition against the apex court’s decision,” he added.

The minister said another committee — comprising Law Minister Farogh Naseem, the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi and Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan — had been constituted to review the travel ban on the 172 suspects. The committee will present its report to the cabinet in its next meeting.

The names of the 172 suspects were placed on the ECL on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the PPP has reacted to the cabinet’s latest decision and termed it a “dictatorial decision”.

“The cabinet decision has not only exposed the ‘ugly’ face of Imran Khan but the fact that dictatorship is prevailing in the country which does not even accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” said PPP leader Dr Nafisa Shah in a statement.

She claimed that the JIT report was prepared by the PM’s Assistant Shahzad Akbar who misused his authority and the PM’s office. “It seems that Imran Khan is scared of Bilawal Bhutto’s politics and employing negative tactics,” she added.

The PPP leader called on the apex court to take stern notice of the government’s “rigidness” and alleged that the “puppet” government was “using accountability and the ECL as tools for arm-twisting of political opponents”.

Giving details of other decisions taken by the cabinet, the information minister said the cabinet expressed satisfaction over the government’s economic policies which, according to him, had started bearing fruit.

He said the prime minister ordered the law ministry to compile a negative category list in 48 hours as per directive of the apex court of the government jobs which could not be given to Pakistani nationals having dual nationality.

Gas shortage

The cabinet also discussed prevailing gas shortage in the country as a result of which the people are facing problems in the chilly weather.

Mr Chaudhry said one of the biggest gas supply distribution systems in the world, which was in Pakistan, had started giving losses to the government because only 28 per cent of the people were receiving gas through it while others were turning on their stoves through other sources, including liquefied natural gas. “Majority of the people are deprived of gas but the mammoth system is giving us losses.”

He said the prime minister directed the petroleum ministry to formulate a comprehensive policy on the use of gas.

The minister said former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had left a burden of Rs157 billion circular debt to be paid by the gas sector, adding that there was no debt on the sector when Mr Abbasi had assumed charge as petroleum minister during the term of the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

Talking about Rs1.5 million one-month electricity bill of Prime Minister House, the minister said Imran Khan was astonished why the PM House had received such a heavy bill despite the fact that he had cut down its expenditures and use by not living in it.

“During former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure 85,000 electricity units were consumed by the PM House and now half of it is consumed. Even then the present consumption is quite higher than the PM’s expectations,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister ordered an audit of the staff responsible for managing the PM House.

According to him, the cabinet decided to appoint senior officials as heads of different government departments on temporary basis.

Aviation Secretary retired Squadron Leader Shahrukh Nusrat has been made acting managing director of the Civil Aviation Authority and retired air marshal Arshad Malik acting chief executive officer of the Pakistan International Airlines. Muhammad Saleh Farooqui has been given additional charge of managing director of the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company.

Anjum Asad has been appointed member of the National Tariff Commission and Ayesha Aziz managing director of the Pak-Brunei Investment Company.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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Pakistan, Saudi Arabia may ink $10bn MoUs this month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are likely to sign memoranda of understanding for more than $10 billion Saudi investment in Pakistan this month. Pakistan will also sign similar MoUs with China, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia over the next two months.

This was said in the second meeting on ease of doing business (EoDB) presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday. The meeting was told that the MoU on investment framework with the UAE was expected next month.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Finance Minister Asad Umar said Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz would visit Pakistan next month and most of the MoUs were expected to be signed during his trip.

PM briefed about similar agreements that will be signed with China, UAE and Malaysia in next two months

When contacted, Board of Investment (BoI) Chairman Haroon Sharif said Saudi Arabia was interested in Pakistan’s four sectors — oil refinery, petrochemicals, renewable energy and mining. “We are expecting $10bn plus Saudi investment and the MoUs to be signed in this regard will not be common or vague but concrete agreements,” he added.

The $10bn investment will be in addition to the $6bn bailout package given by Riyadh to Islamabad during Prime Minister Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October last year. “According to a survey, 65 per cent of the investments will take place in the country’s commercial hub Karachi and 35pc in Lahore. Therefore, better law and order situation and ease-of-doing-business opportunities were prerequisite for foreign investment,” the BoI chairman added.

He said the government had made it mandatory for all foreign firms to invest in joint ventures with Pakistani firms so that local companies could also get boost and deal with local issues in a better way.

He said Saudi firm Aramco would invest in an oil refinery and was likely to set up its own refinery in Pakistan. “Saudi Arabia is also interested in petrochemicals and will make investment in this sector as well,” he added.

Mr Sharif said there was a big room for renewable energy in Sindh, Balochistan and central Punjab and, therefore, Saudi firm Aqua Power, which controls renewable energy business in Tunisia, the UAE and Jordon, had a comprehensive plan on renewable energy projects in Pakistan.

He said he had recently visited China and signed MoUs on industrial cooperation under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPC). “Now we have to build economic zones along the corridor.”

The BoI chief said the UAE was interested in agriculture, housing and other sectors. He added that four Malaysian firms were also due this month and would invest in four sectors — halal meat, gemstone, information technology and hi-tech education.

An official press release issued by the Prime Minister Office said: “Briefing the meeting about various positive developments with regards to investment facilitation, it was informed that an MoU on industrial cooperation has been signed with China last month. The MoU with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is expected to be signed this month whereas investment framework MoU with the UAE is expected in February 2019.”

The meeting was attended by the finance minister, Adviser to the PM on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, PM’s adviser Dr Ishrat Hussain and the BoI chairman.

The BoI chairman briefed the prime minister about the progress on various indicators related to ease of doing business.

The meeting was informed that the number of taxes had been brought down from 47 to 21. “We have clubbed together many taxes to facilitate the business community,” Mr Sharif added.

He said a new system of value added tax refund would be in place by March 31 which would significantly reduce time in obtaining the VAT refund, adding that efforts were also being made to improve the risk-management system to reduce the number of physical audits.

About the ease of starting business, the prime minister was informed that integration of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan with provincial portals and Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) had been completed in Punjab and efforts were being made to expedite launch of such portal in Sindh.

The meeting was informed that significant progress had been made to facilitate provision of electricity and timely information to the businesses. Besides availability of required documents on website, a full online application system is being rolled out and advance notifications are being ensured about change in tariff, etc.

In the area of getting credit, the meeting was informed that registrar would be appointed by the end of this month and rules under the Secured Transaction Act were being finalised by the Ministry of Finance.

The prime minister emphasised the need for greater focus on addressing issues relating to ease of doing business in Sindh since Karachi was financial hub of the country.

It was decided that regular meetings on EoDB would be chaired by the prime minister with participation of the chief ministers and chief secretaries. It was also decided that dedicated EoDB offices would be set up at federal and provincial levels for the purpose of removing bottlenecks and facilitating investors for smooth business operations.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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Inconsistent policies keep Chinese investors at bay: envoy

LAHORE: Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing says that inconsistent trade policies, high ratio of taxes and some other issues are reasons for the presence of fewer Chinese investors in Pakistan.

“The main reasons behind fewer Chinese investors in Pakistan are poor trade policies, high taxes, no tax incentives and lack of business-friendly environment,” a local news channel quoted the ambassador as having said while speaking to businessmen at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Wednesday.

“Your policies lack consistency, keeping investors from China and elsewhere at bay,” he responded when the business community asked why Chinese companies, after relocating their businesses from the United States, were preferring investment in other countries, including Cambodia and India, instead of Pakistan that was already executing several projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Yao says while PML-N govt paid full attention to Gwadar port, infrastructure and energy projects, it neglected completion of special economic zones

The ambassador said that under the CPEC, projects relating to the Gwadar port, infrastructure, energy and special economic zones (SEZs) were to be completed.

“Though the outgoing PML-N government paid full attention to the Gwadar port, infrastructure and energy projects, it neglected completion of the SEZs. Since there are no SEZs too, how Chinese investors can make investments,” he said.

Under the CPEC, Mr Yao said, the SEZs should be given priority because they would boost joint ventures, specifically in manufacturing and socio-economic sectors of the country.

“In SEZs and joint venture schemes, 70-80 per cent priority would be given to Pakistan shares and exports of Pakistan would increase by 70-80pc,” he maintained. He also revealed that the CPEC would soon be opened to the world for investment.

The Chinese envoy said Pakistan was required to make its trade policies better, besides bringing down ratio of taxes and duties and making its products competitive. “Improvement of competitiveness will help your country make trade balanced.”

He praised the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for having export-oriented vision. “The new government has an export-oriented vision and looks determined to resolve various issues,” the ambassador said.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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Shahbaz named PAC chief under opposition pressure: Fawad Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: Terming Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif and his party “blackmailers”, the government revealed on Friday that the decision to ,make him chairman, of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had been made “under pressure”.

On the other hand, the opposition continued its protest in the National Assembly over non-issuance of a ,production order for detained MNA Khawaja Saad Rafique, and boycotted the proceedings of the lower house by staging a walkout.

Take a look: ,Now that PAC impasse has been resolved, parliament must turn to its legislative responsibilities,

During the assembly session, Prime Minister Imran Khan was criticised for appointing his aides and close friends as his advisers and assistants and the opposition sought details of expenditure being incurred on their salaries, perks and privileges.

Prime Minister Khan claimed many times in recent past that he “would neither come under any pressure nor compromise on his principles” while making decisions on national issues.

Boycott of National Assembly continues in protest against non-issuance of Saad Rafique’s production order

However, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, talking to reporters in Jhelum, explained why the government took another U-turn and agreed to appoint Mr Sharif as PAC chief, saying the decision was taken because of the opposition’s pressure.

“In fact Shahbaz Sharif and his party — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) — are ‘blackmailers’ and we made him PAC chief because they are not letting the proceedings of the National Assembly run,” he said.

The minister said the opposition was bent upon creating hurdles in the way of proceedings of the National Assembly and, therefore, parliament was not fulfilling its basic responsibility — legislation.

He said the opposition leaders facing NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases were using the floor of the house to give clarifications about their “misdeeds”. “They are not discussing in parliament how problems of the people can be solved and what agreements the government had recently made with Saudi Arabia, China, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, but cursing NAB for investigating them,” he added.

Fawad Chaudhry said the government had thought that the opposition would calm down and stop its agitation in parliament after the decision to make Mr Sharif PAC chairman. “However, the opposition continued with its confrontational way in the house on Friday on the pretext of non- issuance of production orders of Saad Rafique,” he said.

As Mr Rafique was arrested by NAB after cancellation of his bail by the Lahore High Court, Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaisar was looking into legal aspects whether under such circumstances the production orders of the MNA could be issued or not, the minister said.

Responding to a question about the Panama Papers cases involving former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, he said the Flagship Investment references was in its final stages and predicted that Mr Sharif would be in jail soon.

Earlier, speaking on the floor of the house, Shahbaz Sharif called upon of the speaker to issue a production order of Mr Rafique. “We have been demanding for the last three days the production orders of the honourable member of this house but to no avail,” he said.

Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan Peoples Party also demanded that Mr Rafique be allowed to attend proceedings of the assembly and hailed the government’s decision to appoint Mr Sharif PAC chairman. “According to the old tradition of the house, the production order of a detained members is always issued,” he added.

The chief of his own faction of the Balochistan National Party, Akhtar Mengal, also urged the speaker to issue a production order of the PML-N leader and said he was not talking about the production of any Baloch leader but a leader from Punjab. “I know there is no law in the country under which ‘missing or detained Baloch MNAs’ can be produced in the house, but today I am asking for production orders of Saad Rafique,” he added.

Mr Mengal said the National Assembly was being run as a Mughal Darbar, before staging a walk-out in protest. He was followed by the entire opposition and the speaker adjourned the session till Monday evening.

PM’s advisers/assistants

Earlier, during the question hour session, PML-N MNA Murtaza Javed Abbasi raised a question over the appointment of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aides and close friends as his advisers and assistants and sought details of expenditure being incurred on their salaries, perks and privileges.

“There was no need to have advisers and special assistants in the presence of ministers concerned. For example there was no need to appoint the PM’s media advisers as the information minister is already there and the Press Information Department is also available to cover activities of the premier, he added.

Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, another PML-N MNA, accused the government of appointing some legal advisers in different government departments who did not meet the criteria nor had the experience required for the offices.

Aliya Kamran of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party also questioned the salaries and other benefits, if given, to the members of various task forces formed by the prime minister on different issues.

MNA Shahnaz Baloch demanded that representation of Balochistan be ensured in all task forces.

Replying to queries, Minister of State on Parliamentary Affairs Ali Mohammad Khan said the appointment of the PM’s advisers and special assistants was not a new phenomenon as previous prime ministers also had advisers and assistants in their cabinets. “PM’s Adviser Zulfi Bukhari (Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari) on overseas Pakistanis has spent a long time abroad and, therefore, he can understand the problems of overseas Pakistanis in a better way,” he added.

On inexperienced legal advisers, the state minister said he would definitely ask the relevant ministries and departments to take action on the matter.

PIA ROUTES: Responding to a question of MNA Aslam Bhootani on lack of air travel facility between Quetta and Gwadar, the state minister said the government had decided to revamp the crippled Pakistan International Airlines Corporation to transform it into a revenue generating organisation from a loss- incurring entity.

He said important routes of national flag carrier had been abolished like PIA flights to Washington, New York, Boston and Chicago in the US, Glasgow and Bradford in the UK, Moscow, Cairo, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Singapore, Bangkok, Amsterdam etc.

Waseem Ashraff Butt also contributed to this report from Gujrat

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2018

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Go to your offices daily or get ready to be replaced, PM Khan warns KP ministers

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had won the people’s mandate in the 2018 general elections without dishing out billions of rupees in development funds and solely on the basis of its performance.

Speaking at a ceremony held in connection with the completion of the ,Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s 100 days in office,, the prime minister thanked the people of KP for re-electing his party this year and said that the PTI had not employed any “traditional, political tactics” to win the polls.

PM Imran Khan inaugurated a  shelter home in Peshawar on Friday. — PID

PM Imran Khan inaugurated a shelter home in Peshawar on Friday. — PID

“In 2013 [elections], we got a coalition government and in 2018, the people of Pakhtunkhwa who never give another chance [to political parties] gave the PTI a fantastic mandate,” he said in his address at Peshawar’s Nishtar Hall.

In a reference to the PML-N, he claimed that the previous government of Punjab had spent billions in development funds in order to influence the 2018 elections.

He termed KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan as an “honest” man. He said the people had “made a lot of fun” when the PTI elected Usman Buzdar, who hails from a backward region, as the Punjab chief minister.

“The people of Punjab were in the wrong habit for the past 30 years of seeing a chief minister who acts a king,” he said, referring to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and president Shahbaz Sharif. In comparison, he said, Usman Buzdar was a “simple man” who did not use a heavy protocol or spend lavishly.

“[Buzdar] is an honest and a courageous [man] who stood up in the face of big mafias,” Khan said.

He said it was for the first time in Pakistan’s history that a government (of PTI) was making efforts to create a uniform education system in the country which he said would be crucial in bridging the rich-poor divide.

PM Khan is briefed on a shelter home in Peshawar. — PID

PM Khan is briefed on a shelter home in Peshawar. — PID

He reminded the ministers and officials seated in the audience that all of them needed to go to their offices daily and remain there till the evening, adding that he will know whether or not they are going to their offices.

“And then none of you should say ‘my ministry was taken away from me’ [if you are replaced for not going to work],” the prime minister cautioned.

In a lighter vein, Khan said previous governments always used to be afraid that if a minister is removed, he or she will form a forward bloc and “the government will be toppled”. “We don’t even face that issue now,” he added, amidst laughter from the audience.

“Keep in mind, I am receiving messages from a lot of MPAs who all want to become ministers, so if you don’t work [be ready to be replaced],” he said tongue in cheek while addressing the ministers.

The premier reminded the provincial lawmakers that the sole target of their 100-day plan should be to create policies for the uplift of the poor segment of the society. He urged the officials to remind the bureaucrats working under them that they needed to ensure ‘ease of doing business’ to generate investment in the country.

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‘Pakistan has arranged US-Taliban talks’

Prime Minister Khan reiterated that the same United States “that had been asking us to ‘do more’” is now asking Pakistan to facilitate its talks with the Afghan Taliban.

“When I used to say this matter cannot be resolved without dialogue, [they] would term me ‘Taliban Khan’,” he said, revealing that Pakistan had arranged talks between the US and the Taliban that are scheduled for December 17.

If peace is achieved in Afghanistan, he said, Peshawar would become a hub for tourism and commerce. He also announced that the Balahisar Fort in the city would be turned into a centre for tourism in order to generate revenue.

Khan said the government was collecting funds for the Mohmand dam, which when constructed will “solve Peshawar’s water problem forever”.

Before the ceremony, the premier inaugurated a shelter home in Peshawar during his one-day visit to the provincial capital.

PM Khan observes a shelter home in Peshawar. —PID

PM Khan observes a shelter home in Peshawar. —PID

The prime minister was also briefed on four more shelter homes that have been built by the KP government as part of its 100-day plan. The homes will have the capacity to accommodate 200 people each.

Last month, the premier had laid the foundation stone of a ,shelter house for the homeless in Lahore,.

An ,official statement, had said the prime minister would also attend a special meeting of the KP cabinet today. He will be briefed on the province’s 100-day performance.

It said that the provincial government had identified 25 initiatives to pursue during the next five years under the premier’s directions.

In health sector, the KP government has planned to recruit additional 4,000 lady health workers (LHWs) to ensure coverage of all rural areas in addition to rolling out a rural ambulance service to transport mothers and children to health facilities. The government will also ensure that 80 per cent of expectant mothers give birth in health facilities.

In agricultural sector, the government plans to introduce a functional IT-based market intelligence system to increase farmers profit by 15-20 per cent along with reclaiming 5,500 hectares of cultivatable wastelands.

It said that KP would become the first province to launch police station-based budget this year along with fourfold increase in the number of female police officers.

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Via DAWN.com

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