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  #101  
Old Sunday, September 07, 2008
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Agri credit target set at Rs250bn



Sunday, September 07, 2008

KARACHI: Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Saturday said that the central bank had set an indicative credit disbursement target of Rs250 billion for the agriculture sector for the current fiscal year (FY09), which can be further enhanced after having a detailed analysis of the rising input costs of the sector.

Chairing a meeting of the Agricultural Credit Advisory Committee (ACAC) held at the State Bank of Pakistan, Dr Akhtar commended the performance of banks that played a significant role in surpassing the target set for the last fiscal year.

Dr Akhtar informed the meeting that in 2007-08 banks had surpassed the agriculture credit target of Rs200 billion and disbursed Rs212 billion to the farming community, which is Rs43 billion or 25 per cent higher than last year’s disbursement of Rs169 billion.

She said that keeping in view the growing requirements of the sector, the State Bank has proposed an indicative target of Rs250 billion for 2008-09, which is Rs50 billion or 25 per cent higher than last year’s target and Rs38 billion or 15 per cent higher than the actual disbursements of FY08.

Dr Akhtar appreciated the fact that sector-wise agriculture credit disbursements during the last fiscal year showed diversification of the credit to non-farm sector as its share in the total credit disbursement increased to 25 per cent in FY08 from 17 per cent in FY07. She pointed out that recoveries of agriculture loans have shown significant improvement during FY08 and banks recovered 92 per cent of their recoverable amounts as against 83 per cent recovered during FY07.

While responding to questions posed by representatives of three less developed provinces on lower disbursement of agriculture loans to their respective provinces, the SBP Governor said that the banks are making efforts which have resulted in an increase in the disbursements during the last couple of years. Delegates pointed out that there are issues of credit absorption in these provinces because of low productivity, water salinity, lack of good farming practices by the farmers and other issues that need to be addressed by various provincial agriculture and extension services departments to create enabling environment for banks to increase their outreach.

Dr Akhtar urged the representatives of the three provincial governments to take the necessary steps to address these issues and improve the coordination between respective departments on fast-track basis to increase the flow of agriculture credit to the less developed areas of the country.

SBP governor also informed the meeting about the recently launched Crop Loan Insurance Scheme developed by SBP Task Force that would be implemented from coming Rabi crop. To facilitate the small farmers, the government has agreed to share the premium cost of subsistence farmers, she asked banks to adequately publicize the scheme for the benefit of the farmers. It is hoped that banks will also adjust their agriculture loan pricing following the introduction of Crop Loan Insurance Scheme, as it will mitigate their risk of losses due to natural calamity, she added.

Dr Akhtar briefed the committee about State Bank’s initiative of introducing guidelines on Islamic financing for agriculture. She urged all stakeholders to effectively publicize the scheme for creating awareness amongst the farming community.

The representatives of the farming community, while appreciating the efforts of State Bank and commercial banks in increasing the flow of credit to the farming community, highlighted the issues pertaining to low quality seeds, acute shortage of fertilisers, water scarcity and lack of marketing channels. They suggested to the committee to take up these issues with concerned Federal and provincial government departments so that the farming community can utilise the banks’ credit efficiently.

The Executive Director, State Bank of Pakistan, Jameel Ahmed informed the meeting that as per approved plan the banks will open six hundred branches during 2008, 20 per cent of which will be in the rural areas. Dr Shamshad Akhtar said that SBP will encourage the banks to open as many number of branches as they like in rural un-served areas in addition to approved plan.

The banks briefed the committee on their respective initiatives which inter alia include increase in number of agriculture lending branches, increase in agriculture credit officers, introduction of innovative lending products for farm and non-farm activities and number of awareness programmes conducted throughout the country.

While concluding the meeting, Dr Akhtar informed the committee about the introduction of a scheme under the DFID funded Financial Inclusion Programme, whereby the banks can provide wholesale credit to microfinance banks for onward disbursement to micro borrowers of rural areas against the credit enhancement guarantee scheme.


ZTBL disburses Rs67bn against Rs60bn target


Sunday, September 07, 2008


LAHORE: Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited on the directive of the Prime Minister disbursed a record amount of Rs67 billion in production loans to farmers across the country, against a target of Rs60 billion.

Executive Vice President (Credit Division) ZTBL, Muhammad Imtiaz Malik, told APP on Saturday that these loans were granted to farmers on first-come-first-served basis, under the one window operation during the last fiscal year ended June 30, through a network of 342 branches spread across the country.

He said foolproof arrangements were made for transparent disbursal of the loans to farmers at their doorsteps, while various teams from the bank paid surprise visits to branches to monitor the staff’s performance in this regard.

Responding to a question about refusal of issuance of loans to farmers at some branches on the pretext of non-availability of funds, Malik said that funds were made available to all branches on the basis of the number of local population.

When it was brought to his notice that Zafar Iqbal, a Branch Manager ZTBL, Tandlianwala, Faisalabad had refused a loan to Pir Zafar Hussain Shah of Pindi Sheikh Musa on different pretext, Malik said that he had directed the Zone Chief Faisalabad, Mubarak Ali Chaudhary to ensure disbursement of the loan to the complainant by tomorrow, otherwise strict action will be taken against the manager.

He said where ever any genuine complaint is received, prompt action is ensured for quick, on-the-spot address of the grievances.


Source : The News
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Old Monday, September 08, 2008
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Economy under severe stress


By Khaleeq Kiani
Monday, September 08, 2008


Pakistan’s economy is fast approaching an insolvency-like situation. Liquidity is drying up. The cost to protect $2.7 billion sovereign bonds in the international capital market from preventing default, is increasing.

The external debt and liabilities have increased in rupee value by more than Rs705 billon in less than six months just because of over 25 per cent or Rs15 per dollar decline in currency value. The country’s overall external debt stock has increased by almost $7 billion to $47 billion since June 2007.

At the same time, the stock market has fallen to a 28-month low by registering over 42 per cent decline since April 2008. In the process, the stock market capitalisation has almost halved to $39 billion from a peak in April because investors generally avoid markets where there is political instability.

The government plans to introduce two weekly holidays (Saturday-Sunday) soon after presidential elections and close down petrol pumps for the third day (perhaps on Friday) to reduce consumption of petroleum products. The federal cabinet has already approved the plan and announcement would be made sometime this week. These measures are estimated to save about $3 billion per annum in oil consumption.

In another step, the government has already imposed higher regulatory duties on import of non-essential items while letters of credit (LCs) for imports are opened on 100 per cent cash margin to discourage misuse of foreign exchange. These two measures are anticipated to save about $1 billion per year. But the most worrying thing for the finance managers is the interest repayments on the back of dried up pipeline of financial inflows.

The country’s total debt stock now hovers around Rs7 trillion, up by about Rs1.4 trillion from Rs5.6 trillion in March 2008.This includes about Rs3.4 trillion domestic loan and Rs3.6 trillion in foreign loan and liabilities. For many years in decades, Pakistan’s external debt in rupee value has surpassed the domestic debt.

The cost to protect sovereign bonds from default that stood at 788.8 basis points on August 22 has increased to 975 basis points, overtaking Argentina’s number one position of being the riskiest investment paper. Foreign-exchange reserves have declined from their peak at $16.5 billion in October to just $8.89 billion, less than three months of imports, while trade and current account deficits are widening..

This is happening at a time, when foreign investors in the capital market are loosing confidence and flight of capital by Pakistanis mostly to the Middle East is gaining momentum. Despite remittances and exports on a mild growth path, the inflows are not catching up with the rising foreign currency requirements on the back of limited financial flows from multilaterals and bilateral sources. On top of that, the environment does not seem favourable enough to float major sovereign bonds or sell government entities because of political instability and overall security situation.

Meanwhile, the last year’s consolidated federal accounts showed that the budget deficit had increased to a record Rs777.2 billion or 7.4 per cent of GDP during 2007-08 that was met through the highest ever bank borrowing of Rs625 billion and over Rs75 billion cut in development expenditure. The most depressing feature was a massive reduction in revenue receipts that declined to 14.3 per cent of GDP compared with 14.9 per cent in 2006-07 despite higher revenues in absolute terms. In contrast, the total expenditure in 2007-08 increased substantially to 21.7 per cent compared with 19.2 per cent a year before.

The government is taking up with International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the top level to secure a letter of comfort that should help Pakistan persuade the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to provide at least $1 billion in quick disbursement loans to overcome some of the immediate liquidity problems.

The senior level separate visits by the two bank officials last week have asked Pakistan to introduce tough decisions for macroeconomic stabilisation by allowing full pass-through in utility costs, removal of subsidies in petroleum products, reduced domestic borrowing and flexible exchange rate, so direly needed to reign in whopping fiscal deficit.

In this background, the IMF was expected to send its mission to Islamabad next week to take stock of economic situation on ground before issuing the required letter of comfort. Interestingly, both the ministry of finance and IMF’s office in Islamabad were unaware of the scheduled visit. Knowledgeable quarters suggest the government was trying to convince the Fund through some powerful capitals to help secure financing from the WB and ADB without going through procedural requirements given its severe financial problems as a goodwill gesture to support democratic forces.

Simultaneously, the PPP-government sent a delegation last week to Saudi Arabia with a wish-list of about $17 billion multi-year bail-out package for oil imports and balance of payment support. Led by foreign affairs minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and comprising secretaries of finance and petroleum, the delegation met the Saudi leadership and sought oil supplies on deferred payments and other facilitations for budgetary support to boost foreign exchange reserves.

The delegation wanted to have a soft term credit facility of about $2.5 billion from Saudi Arabia for essential commodities like fertiliser, another $7.3 billion oil imports on deferred payments or reduced rates and rescheduling or write off of about $5.8 billion amount it was required to pay to the brotherly state on account of oil it had imported on deferred payments during 1999-2004.

Likewise, Islamabad also wanted to have an arrangement with Kuwait on special terms for diesel imports of over $4 billion over a period of two years. Pakistan imports about one million tons of diesel from Kuwait for Pakistan State Oil under a long-term agreement. Relevant government agencies believed the United States’ reduced crude imports from Arab countries offered good chances for Saudi support to divert its surplus production.

The members of the delegation were hopeful of a positive response expected to come soon after the presidential elections on September 6. Although the arrangements for imports of crude from Saudi Arabia are yet to be worked out, any relief from the brotherly nation are seen as the best solution to economic problems. This could provide reasonable breathing space to the government till such time it comes out of the political crisis surrounding presidential elections and concentrate on economic revival.

Sooner the country returns to political stability, overcomes judicial crisis and puts in place an economic revival plan, better it will be for the restoration of investor confidence needed to attract direct investment and revive capital market. That requires seriousness of the political leadership in economic revival, poverty reduction and macroeconomic stability.


Development goals: bridging the gaps


By Afshan Subohi
Monday, September 08, 2008


Total earnings of Rs7500, a little under $100 a month, from two jobs was not enough to make a living.

Mohammad Jaffar a young migrant working 14 hours a day in Karachi as a loader during the day with a contractor and a waiter at a small restaurant in the evening, was forced by demands of survival to vacate Rs3000( about $40 a month) rented house and shift to a hutment with his family.

Jaffar arrived in Karachi with his wife four years back. Despite being hardworking today he is deep into debt struggling to sustain his family of four children. One of the four, Azam is ill and dying for health care which is expensive and beyond means of his family.

But Jaffar still prefers to stay on in Karachi over going back to his home village in southern Punjab because he is still better off in the city. However, if this is better what the worse would be like?

For this family and their likes life is nothing but a painful journey into disappointments. Indeed, there is little to suggest that those in power really care.

The fate of poor in resource rich country is as dismal as it can get. Excluded from the gains of high growth during 2004-07, they are now being advised by the wise men of the government to endure more than their fair share of pain as the economy is under a difficult patch. For both internal and external reasons, Pakistan is currently grappling with high inflation and slower growth.

Today of 1000, some 79 infants die at birth, 99 more die before their fifth birthday. According to latest figures compiled by international economic monitoring agencies, Pakistan has the highest proportion of under nourished population in Asia Pacific region. The government might feel uncomfortable with such observations but would find it hard to challenge them because it is still busy collecting and processing data on social indicators for 2006.

Sadly this is where the country has reached riding the Asian tide-- what the ex-prime minister Shaukat Aziz used to call ‘stellar growth’ ----when the sale of motorcycles multiplied from 90 thousand to 900 thousand.

Some press reports suggest that the elected President will lead Pakistan’s delegation to the UN General Assembly in New York later this month. A few high profile meetings are reported on the sidelines of the meeting. But nothing has so far been published about one of the main themes of the UN Sept 25 meeting that is to review the progress on Millennium Development Goals. One wonders, with so little to show in absence of the current background material, how productive the participation of the political leadership would be in a meeting of 188 nations that made a solemn pledge to the eight goals in 2000.

At the half way point to the target year of 2015, the world prepares to meet to take stock of the progress made towards these goals. The leaders in words of UN are ‘to review progress, identify gaps and commit to concrete efforts, resources and mechanisms to bridge the gaps’.

Pakistan’s participation is expected to be as embarrassing as its progress towards 38 targets that it set out for itself to achieve eight goals. These MDGs are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environment sustainability, develop a global partnership for development.

Pakistan committed to half the poverty rate to bring it down to 13 per cent by 2015.

The elected leadership is too preoccupied by other issues to spare a thought for MDGs or targets. The government functionaries have failed to deliver. No one expects any wonders from them but unfortunately, they have also not been able to bring out 2006 MDGs progress report in September 2008.

“The report of the year 2006 should be ready over the next few months” Dr Arshad Amjad, Chief Economist Planning Commission told Dawn from Islamabad.

Salman Farooqui, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, when contacted was unable to comment off hand on the issue. He, however, directed Dr Mohammad Aslam Khan, specialist on fiscal and monetary affairs, Planning Commission to respond to Dawn’s queries. The gentleman told Dawn that Pakistan is on track on many goals but was not able to justify the delay of the publication of the progress report that last appeared in March 2007 reviewing the performance for 2005.

Insiders told Dawn that the delay was because of the government’s interference in functioning of the cell responsible for processing and analysing data. “We are not allowed to work with numbers independently. All relevant numbers are audited by the government so that no number that the government perceives to be harmful to its political image is made public”.

“The government is very sensitive with poverty figures as they carry political weight. The last government forced us to suppress provincial poverty numbers as they reflected increasing intra provincial disparities”, a senior economist privy to the monitoring process said.

Most worrying is the low level of public awareness on the eight goals or the 38 specific targets. There is absolutely no pressure on the government from local stakeholders to reshape its spending pattern or re-arrange its order of priorities to achieve targets leading to sustainable development.

Most leaders and people, who should be spearheading the process in achieving those goals, when contacted, were little or not informed at all on the subject. Many admitted that they were hearing the word MDGs for the first time. This unaware mass includes people from all strata of society including drivers, clerks, plumbers, teachers, salesmen, doctors, lawyers, traders, housewives, etc.

Except in the Punjab, the situation in rest of the three provinces is bleak. In NWFP, some spade work started in 2005 but the tide of extremism and related law and order challenges did not allow the provincial government to move beyond planning stage. The Sindh government was found to be too fragmented to focus on anything worthwhile. Balochistan is too volatile politically to plan or execute a programme for MDGs.

Even the private sector that is supposed to be the key driver of the economy has totally been kept out of the picture in formulation of targets or their implementation. Tanvir Sheikh, President FPCCI admitted his ignorance about the goals this week over telephone from Multan.

It appears that so far it has all been a closed door ministry level activity. Yes, the reference is made to the goals in official documents such as Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF), the State Bank annual reports and the Economic Survey. The two progress reports were prepared primarily for the consumption of World Bank, IMF, UNDP, etc.
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Old Thursday, September 11, 2008
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Good practices for doing business: Pakistan ahead of India and Bangladesh


ASMA RAZAQ

ISLAMABAD (September 11 2008)

Pakistan ranks 77 in good practices applied for doing business as compared to Bangladesh and India that rank 110 and 122 respectively, a World Bank report revealed. According to the report, there are 10 indicators for measuring the good practices applied for doing business.

These include starting the business, dealing with construction permits, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contractors and closing a business.

The World Bank issued a report on 'Doing Business 2009'on Wednesday that focuses on easing the regulatory burden of doing business through reforms in most of the countries of the world.

The report shows that the introduction of reforms in business regulations makes it easier for a country to obtain credit by strengthening the legal rights of creditors and enhancing the availability of credit information. The main purpose of the report is to encourage the countries to bring about changes to improve their competitiveness globally.

The report shows that there are eleven procedures required to start a business in Pakistan in contrast with India where the number is 13, whereas it requires just seven procedures in Bangladesh to start a business. Similarly, it takes 24 days in Pakistan for starting any business while in Bangladesh 73 and in India it is 30.

According to report it requires twelve per cent of per capita income to start any business in Pakistan, while in India the trend goes up to 70 per cent and in Bangladesh it's 25 per cent. Pakistan stands 43rd on the table regarding the rigidity of employment while India is 30th and Bangladesh 35th, the report stated.

The report revealed that six procedures are required to register property both in Pakistan and India while in Bangladesh the number goes up to eight. The report indicates that the cost of doing business can be reduced to a great extent by easing regulatory burden through local reforms and getting inspiration from other economies.

According to the report, New Zealand can be considered as benchmark regarding the credit information, while Pakistan and India rank four in contrast to Bangladesh two. Pakistan ranks sixth in the table regarding the strength of investor protection, extent of disclosure and the extent of direct liability, the report reads.

The report shows that in Pakistan 47 payments are required for an entrepreneur to pay tax while the number goes up to 60 in India while the number in Bangladesh is 21. According to the report Pakistan requires $611 per container to export any commodity while the cost goes up to $944 per container in India whereas in Bangladesh the cost is $970. Pakistan requires $680 per container to import, while India requires $960 and Bangladesh $1375.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008




Activity at Karachi and Qasim ports



KARACHI (September 11 2008):

The Karachi Port handled 122,558 tonnes of cargo including 80,464 tonnes of import, 42,094 tonnes of export cargo and 3,679 loaded and empty containers (TEUs) during last 24 hours ending at 0700 hours on Wednesday.

The freights comprised of 96,458 tonnes of dry cargo including 58,273 tonnes of general cargo; 2,618 tonnes of fertiliser; 7,768 tonnes of wheat; 17,100 tonnes of coal; 10,699 tonnes of cement and 26,100 tonnes of oil/liquid cargo. Six ships namely Sari, Sinar Bintan, Bengal Orchid, Lalazar, Ocean Coral and Far Singapore sailed out to sea during the reported period.

Nine vessels viz Cape Negro, Sea Veteran, Lake Maja, Lily Noble, Far Singapore, Reovoung Prince, Hansa Liberty, Apl Cairo and Fusion-1 are currently at the berths. Three ships namely Cape Negro, Apl Cairo and Lily Noble expected to sail on Wednesday while another three vessels viz Hansa Liberty, Ocala and Red Sea Spirit are expected to sail on Thursday.

Five ships namely New Selukaze, Global Progress, Apl Chicago, Sea Bridge and Ramish due to arrive on Wednesday while another eight ships namely Maersk Rouen, Chemstar Brave, Soon Fu, Ym Initiative, Ibn Sina, Blida, Jin Cheng and Arcadia are due to arrive on Thursday.


PORT QASIM


A total cargo volume of 81,072 tonnes including 61,131 tonnes of import 19,941 tonnes of export cargo and 1,702 containers (TEUs) was handled during last 24 hours on Wednesday. The cargoes comprised of 36,175 tonnes diesel oil; 2,539 tonnes LPG; 10,350 tonnes of palm oil; 1,331 tonnes of wheat; 4,745 tonnes of iron ore; 2,085 tonnes of cement; 2,781 tonnes rape seeds and 21,066 tonnes of containerised cargo.

Four vessels viz MV Shinyo Integrity, CV Maersk Damietta, MT St. Kitts and MT Al-Soor-II sailed out to sea during last 24 hours. A total of ten ships namely Acx Dahlia, Saudi Tabuk, Clipper Trinidad, Oak Galaxy, Karolina, Multi Trader, Nova Noor, Energy Falcon, Captain Markos and Nordiana-G carrying containers, crude oil, palm oil, iron ore and cement respectively are currently at the outer anchorage.

Eight vessels viz CV Maersk Damietta, MV Mustafa Bay, MV Melpomeni, MV Med Salvador, MT St. Kitts, MT St. Rilen, MT Al-Soor-II and MV Hellenic Horizon are currently occupying berths to load/offload containers, cement, wheat, rape seeds, chemicals, palm oil, diesel oil and iron Ore respectively during the report period. Two container ships namely Saudi Tabuk and ACX Dahlia are expected to take berths at Containers Terminal on Wednesday.

Five vessels viz MT Prem Pride, MT Vema Ocean, MT Eastern Tera, MV Xu Chang Hai and CV CMA CGM Kingston carrying crude oil, furnace oil, chemicals, rape seeds and containers due to arrive on Wednesday while another vessel viz MV Arcadia with rape seeds is due to arrive on Thursday. Four ships namely Force Ranger, Akmi, Toto and Pos Dignity carrying wheat and iron ore are also due to arrive.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008
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Old Sunday, September 14, 2008
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Senate committee strongly advocates cut in oil prices


Sunday, September 14, 2008


ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat and Special Initiatives (Cabinet Division) has strongly recommended to the government to undertake downward revision of oil prices in view of the recent decrease of oil in the international market.

The meeting chaired by Senator Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi here on Saturday also asked the government to direct the gas companies to cut their line losses and improve efficiency. The meeting instructed the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to perform its regulatory duties diligently and to keep an eye on CNG prices and to initiate punitive actions against those stations, which are indulging in over-charging from the public and other malpractice.

The meeting was convened to apprise the parliamentarians of the role and functions of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and to review the recent increase in oil and gas prices in the country.

The chairman of the committee underscored the need to formulate a long-term oil and gas policy in view of the fact that present reserves are going to deplete within 20 years. He observed that “we must have a clear vision and roadmap of what we are going to do in the future to meet our energy requirements.”

The meeting urged the government to step up exploratory activities in Balochistan and elsewhere in the country to bridge the supply and demand gap. The members of the committee observed that generally privatisation and deregulation have led to the increase in prices and the basic purpose behind creation of authorities like NEPRA, OGRA, etc, was to protect the interest of the consumers.

If these authorities, they say, fail to perform their regulatory duties, it would be a major set back and blow to the general public. Therefore, in order to ensure healthy competition and with a view to protect the interests of the consumers, the regulatory authorities must perform diligently and efficiently the duties assigned to them.

The committee asked OGRA to monitor the working of various companies and to intervene immediately whenever it feels that the interests of the consumers are threatened. The meeting also instructed the authority to devise a mechanism for avoiding illegal and inappropriate use of LPG in taxis and auto-rickshaws.

Earlier, the acting chairman, OGRA informed the meeting that the authority was established in 2000 under the Natural Gas Regulatory Authority (NRGA) Ordinance to regulate natural gas pipelines, transmissions, distributions and sales thereof. He said that the basic objective of the creation of this authority was to increase private investment and ownership in the midstream and downstream petroleum industry, protect public interest, while respecting individual rights and to provide effective and efficient regulation.


Remittances rise 23pc to $1.22bn



Sunday, September 14, 2008


KARACHI: Remittances sent home by overseas Pakistanis continued to rise as $1,219.51 million was received in the first two months (July-August) of the current fiscal year 2008-09, showing an increase of $234.31 million or 23.78 per cent over the same period of the last fiscal year.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the amount of $1,219.51 million includes $0.06 million received through encashment and profit earned on Foreign Exchange Bearer Certificates (FEBCs) and Foreign Currency Bearer Certificates (FCBCs).

The monthly average remittances for the period of July-August, 2008 comes out to $609.76 million as compared to $492.60 million during the same corresponding period of the last fiscal year, registering an increase of 23.78 per cent.

The inflow of remittances in the July-August, 2008 period from USA, Saudi Arabia, GCC countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman), UAE, UK and EU countries amounted to $319.84 million, $264.64 million, $206.70 million, $201.45 million, $74.82 million and $32.70 million, respectively as compared to $265.33 million, $202.40 million, $142.88 million, $156.88 million, $82.81 million and $28.88 million, respectively in the July-August, 2007 period.

“Remittances received from Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan and other countries during the first two months of the current fiscal year 2008-09 amounted to $119.30 million as against $105.60 million in the same period last year,” SBP said.

During the previous month (August 2008), Pakistani workers remitted an amount of $592.30 million, up $102.79 million or 21 per cent when compared with an amount of $489.51 million brought into the country in August 2007.

The inflow of remittances into Pakistan from almost all countries of the world increased last month as compared to August, 2007. According to the break up, remittances from USA, Saudi Arabia, GCC countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman), UAE, UK and EU countries amounted to $151.45 million, $131.38 million, $101.39 million, $101.35 million, $32.78 million and $15.63 million, respectively as compared to the corresponding receipts from the respective countries during August 2007, ie $137.34 million, $95.85 million, $72.58 million, $79.53 million, $43.31 million and $14.07 million.

Remittances received from Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan and other countries during August, 2008 amounted to $58.31 million as compared to $46.70 million during August, 2007.



E-banking grew 32pc in 2007-08


Sunday, September 14, 2008



KARACHI: Electronic banking is getting popular in the country as the number and value of e-banking transactions showed a significant growth in fiscal year 2007-08.

According to a report titled ‘Retail Payment Systems of Pakistan (Paper-based and e-banking)’ prepared by the State Bank of Pakistan, a total of 124.6 million e-banking transactions worth Rs13.9 trillion were recorded during the last fiscal year, showing a growth of 25.4 per cent in number and 32.3 per cent in value when compared with 2006-07.

During FY08, the volume and value of transactions through e-banking channels (Point-of-Sale (POS), Internet, call centre/IVR and mobile) reached 20 million and Rs120.1 billion, depicting an increase of 15.6 per cent in volume and 31.9 per cent in value as compared to a rise of 46 per cent and 63.8 per cent respectively in the previous fiscal year.

According to the report, the quantity of active (in-use) debit/credit cards during FY08 reached 6.7 million, a growth of 15.8 per cent compared to an increase of 53.7 per cent in the previous fiscal year.

Separately, the volume of credit cards decreased by 8.9 per cent as compared to a 74 per cent increase in the previous year, reaching 1.5 million. In contrast, debit cards registered a growth of 24.7 per cent as compared to a rise of 45.3 per cent last year and stood at five million.

The SBP report pointed out that total number of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) during FY08 rose 21 per cent to 3,121 as compared to a 17pc increase in the previous year. The number of Real Time Online Branches (RTOB) during the year reached 5,282, recording a growth of 26.4pc as compared to a 5pc decline last year. The number of Point of Sales (POS) grew 21pc to 55,853 as against increase of 4pc in the previous fiscal year.

According to the report, during FY08 the volume and value of ATM transactions stood at 67.9 million and Rs453 billion, recording an increase of 31.8pc and 43.2pc respectively as compared to a rise of 47.1pc and 49.9pc last fiscal.

Moreover, the volume and value of RTOB transactions in FY08 rose to 36.9 million and Rs13.3 trillion respectively, an increase of 19.9pc in number and 32pc in value as compared to a rise of 46.2pc and 49pc in the previous fiscal.

The report said the volume and value of paper-based transactions during the period under review stood at 334.4 million and Rs137.4 trillion, registering an increase of 3.1pc and 20.9pc respectively as compared to increase of 48.1pc and 29.4pc last year.

According to the report, total retail payments during FY08 reached 459 million in number and Rs151.3 trillion in value, an increase of 8.4pc and 21.8pc as compared to a rise of 17.2pc and 35pc in FY07.

Retail payments are mainly made by consumers and between commercial parties to purchase goods and services. At the retail level, most transactions are done through paper-based instruments.

However, the electronics mode is also getting popular with the passage of time.

Retail payments comprise various paper-based and electronic instruments ranging from conventional cheques to modern smart cards.


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Government spending Rs 30 billion for improving infrastructure

LAHORE
(September 18 2008)


Senior Minister, Raja Riaz Ahmad has said that the government is spending an amount of Rs 30 billion, during the current fiscal year, for improving socio-industrial infrastructure in Punjab. The purpose is to provide good living conditions to the ordinary people.

He was talking to various delegations of people and the political workers who called on him at his residence here on Wednesday. Raja Riaz informed that developmental resources are being utilised for improving necessary infrastructure in the province in a most transparent manner. Raja Riaz told that government is spending Rs 17.50 billion on roads development, Rs 15.23 billion for construction of public buildings and another some of Rs 6.76 billion on urban development. These expenditures are 38 percent greater than previous ADP's allocations.

The government is also spending Rs 1 billion on improving environment, he told. The government is also giving importance to improvement of less developed areas and some of Rs 7.50 billion has been earmarked for the composite development of southern Punjab, he informed.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008


Business team to prepare points to discuss with President



KARACHI
(September 18 2008)


The business community has decided to establish a committee and prepare comprehensive suggestions on economic issues for discussing with President Asif Ali Zardari. The decision was made in a meeting held at the residence of Aquil Karim Dhady on Tuesday night in which prominent persons from FPCCI, KCCI, Kati, Site, KSE and other trade bodies participated.

The business community was of the opinion that the country is facing very serious economic crisis which needs government's immediate attention and taking up bold decision to revive economic and industrial activities. The announcement of names of the members of the committee expected to be made in the next few days. They demanded of the government to immediately reduce mark-up rate by 2 percent to revive industrial activity in the country.

They emphasised the need of unity in the business community of the country to start joint efforts for reviving industrial, trade and economic activities in the country. They were of the opinion that until and unless business community is united and started joint efforts problems would not be resolved. They criticised the State Bank's tight monitory policy.

Tariq Sayeed said that until and unless business community was united in the country their problems would not be resolved. He thanked Aquil Karim Dhady for inviting and uniting various fraction of business community at one platform after 40 years on economic issues.

He said that the country was passing through worst economic crises and in these conditions the business community must give well thought out workable suggestions to the government for its consideration and implementation.

He said that the cost of doing business had increased manifold and at this cost of production Pakistan would never succeed in marketing its products in world market. He said that due to the ever-increasing cost of doing business no investor is prepare to invest and establish new industrial units. Shopkeepers and traders are also facing multiple problems in sale of goods.

S M Munir expressed concern over continuous sliding down exports and said that due to high cost of production no one in world market is ready to purchase goods from Pakistan. He said that policy of increased mark-up has failed to reduce inflation. With the increase of mark-up inflation and prices of goods also increased, he added. He said that the President and Prime Minister must hold meeting with business community to discuss issues and make decision Zubair Motiwala said that the country does not need tight monitory police in the present circumstances.

What it needed is restoring business community's confidence. He said that Afghan transit trade has crippled Pakistan's economy. Involving IMF and World Bank in Pakistan's economic issues is not in the interest of the country, he claimed Mirza Ikhtiar Baig said that over 137 industries have already become defaulter and in these conditions monitory policy must be soft.

Zakaria Usman said that the country is facing serious law and order problems, and added that these problems need to be taken up on priority basis Aptma chairman Iqbal Ibrahim criticised government policies and said that dollar value increase was due to policy failure. The meeting was attended by Siraj Kassim Teli, Iftikhar Ahmed Shaikh, Haroon Agar, Zahid Hussain, Arshad Vohra, Ibrahim Panwala, Arif Habib and others.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008



Current account deficit widens to $2.5 billion in July-August

Rizwan Bhatti

KARACHI
(September 18 2008)


The country's current account deficit widened by 64 percent to 2.5 billion dollars during July-August of current fiscal year mainly due to slowdown in exports and rising trade deficit, besides slow foreign inflows.

Official statistics on Wednesday revealed that during July-August of FY09 the country faced a current account deficit of 2.572 billion dollars against 1.571 billion dollars during the corresponding period of last fiscal year, depicting an increase of some 1.001 billion dollars in first two months.

Economists expressed deep concern over the rising trend of current account deficit saying this would put more negative impact on the PKR and the country's economy, which is already facing a difficult situation for last one year. "With the current and continuously upward trend in the current account deficit, the government would also be compelled to get new foreign loans to meet the requirement of the increasing foreign payments," they said.

Increasing trade deficit followed by slow growth in exports and high imports coupled with rising oil and food import bill are the chief reasons for this raise in the C/A deficit, they observed. "Although, the government has taken some steps to curb the booming imports by imposing 100 percent cash margin and regulatory duty on the import of luxury items, however positive results are expected to be witnessed in next few months," they added.

The State Bank of Pakistan statistics indicate that principal factors responsible for the widening of current account deficit include a widening trade deficit, which surged by 67 percent. However, services deficit registered a negative growth of 2 percent in July-August of 2009.

The country's overall imports stood at 6.299 billion dollars and exports at 3.643 billion dollars registering a trade deficit of 2.657 billion dollars during first two months of current fiscal year. It earlier stood at 1.593 billion dollars during same period of FY08.

Services trade deficit stood at 1.068 billion dollars from 1.090 billion dollars, depicting a decline of 22 million dollars in first two months with 1.491 billion dollars import and 423 million dollars exports.

Similarly, income deficit also witnessed a slight increase of 44 million dollars to 683 million dollars from 638 million dollars. During the first two months, the country's overall income from abroad stood at 119 million dollars as compared to payments of 802 million dollars to overseas.

Overall deficit including trade, services and income stood at 4.408 billion dollars against the current account transfers of 1.854 billion dollars. Statistics show current account deficit without official transfers climbed to 2.633 billion dollars during the first two months of fiscal year 2009 as compared to some 1.575 billion dollars during FY08.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008
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Rs 100 million to be spent on basic facilities in rural Sindh


KARACHI
(September 21 2008)


Sindh Minister for Rural Development Zubair Ahmed Khan on Saturday said Rs 100 million would be spent on providing basic facilities in rural areas of Sindh. "It is the all out effort of the government to provide all basic facilities including clean drinking water, gas, sewerage system and electricity in rural areas so that their living standard is improved."

Talking to various delegations, the minister said that besides cities, supply of electricity to villages was the government responsibility. Zubair Ahmed said that soon after Eid, he would visit districts of Sanghar, Badin and Mirpurkhas to take stock of problems of their rural areas and provided with basic facilities by Rural Development Department. These areas would have model villages where all basic facilities besides school, hospital, Masjid, Community Centre etc would also be made available, he added.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2008


Business community hails Zardari's address

LAHORE
(September 21 2008)


Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on Saturday greeted the President Asif Ali Zardari for addressing the joint sitting of the parliament and effectively safeguarding the national sovereignty and frontiers from external aggression besides giving top priority to agriculture and power sectors.

Talking to APP on telephone, the federation acting President Tufail M Zubair, Vice President, Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Iftikhar Ali Malik and Chairman Businessmen Panel and former federation chief, Tariq Sayeed hoped that government would continue to serve the people in same spirit and zeal throughout its term.

Tufail said that politically matured newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari has far-reaching approach towards the solution of all important issues and hoped that business community, the backbone of the national economy, especially, pak-exporters would also get due attention of the government to steer the country out of looming monetary crisis.

Iftikhar Ali Malik said that it was first time that entire business community including FPCCI and all its affiliated chambers and trade bodies have reposed full confidence in the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari. He said it is good omen that all national and international issues confronting the country will be discussed in the parliament.

He said that the Presidential address would help a lot to restore the confidence of foreign and local investors. He said rule of law, supremacy of constitution, promotion of democratic values and safeguarding the frontiers are the panacea of all solutions.

He hoped that Asif Ali Zardari would steer the country out of ever looming deep economic crisis under his dynamic leadership by taking PFCCI and private sector into confidence for evolving violable practicable monetary policies. Tariq Sayeed said that political stability, good governance and better law and order is pre requisite for strengthening of the national economy.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2008


Inflation, high prices cut down purchasing power of people



TAHIR AMIN
ISLAMABAD

(September 21 2008)

Already under tremendous pressure of the high inflation, the low income group find it difficult to purchase clothes or other for their children as prices of garments and other accessories have shot up sharply with the nearing of Eid-ul-Fitr.

A survey conducted by Business Recorder revealed that as Eid comes close, prices of clothes, bangles and artificial jewelleries are soaring with each passing day in the capital. Consumers have been left at the mercy of shopkeepers, who have increased manifold, the prices of all Eid-related accessories.

The price of a single stitched suit for men has gone up to Rs 2500 to Rs 3000, as compared to Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 before Ramazan. Similarly the prices of unstitched clothes for men have gone up to Rs 1500 as compared to Rs 700 to 1000 before Ramazan.

Unstitched suit for female, which was available at Rs 1000 to 1500, is being sold at Rs 3500, which is quite shocking for any buyer. Similarly the prices of shoes have also gone up. A pair of shoes which was available at Rs 500 to 700 before Ramazan, is now being sold at Rs 1000 to 1200.

"Price of a dozen bangles ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 300, depending on their quality and style," a shopkeeper Ahmad Ali said. No haggling can be done with tailors, who are lurking these days in every nook and corner of the twin cities like elsewhere in the country to make most of the season.

In the holy month of Ramzan, tailors are busy like bees even in godly hours, making quick bucks with both hands in every small and large scale market and the people have no option but to yield to have their suits sewn for the Eid-ul-Fittar. These tailors have also raised their prices. In normal condition they stitch one suit at Rs 250 now stitching at Rs 300 to 500.

"We are having the real joy of Eid (Asal Eid tuo hamari ha) by making a lot of money", Tufail Khan, a tailor remarked when asked for comments on his business before Eid ul Fittar. In wake of the rocketing price hike, the poor and low-income group of our society are unable to buy cheerfulness and joy for their children in the shape of only normal clothes and shoes.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2008
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Pakistan to hold two investment conferences in China


BEIJING
(September 23 2008)


In order to lure Chinese investors, Pakistan is scheduled to hold two investment conferences in the month of November this year. These conferences are part of Pakistan government's efforts to attract FDI from China in terms of latest policy initiative of Chinese government to invest abroad as per policy of diversification of investment and business, said Economic Minister at Pakistan Embassy, Sardar Aminullah Khan while talking to APP on Monday.

He said the first Pakistan-China Investment Conference will be organised by the Investment Division of Board of Investment on November 17. The second such conference will be held in Shanghai on November 19, he added. He pointed out that conferences are likely to be attended by businessmen of both the countries interested in making investment in different sectors of power generation, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure.

Aminullah further said Pakistan is one of the attractive places for Chinese investors in view of most cordial relations between the two countries, besides geographic proximity, resource endowment of Pakistan and complementary in large economic fields.


Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2008



Pakistan and India agree to Kashmir border trade route


NEW DELHI
(September 23 2008)


India and Pakistan agreed on arrangements to open a border route for bilateral trade in disputed Kashmir, a joint panel said on Monday. "We have finalised the arrangement, the trade list and the modalities," Aizaz Ahmed Choudhary, a senior foreign ministry official leading a Pakistan delegation, said in New Delhi. "We will go back to our respective governments, it is for them to decide," he said after talks with Indian officials.

THE JOINT PANEL SAID THEY WERE HAPPY TO OPEN THE SRINAGAR-MUZAFFARABAD HIGHWAY TO TRADE, BUT DID NOT SPELL OUT DETAILS:

A joint working group comprising senior government officials from both countries held talks on starting border trade in Kashmir following unrest in held Jammu and Kashmir state over a planned government land transfer to Hindu pilgrims.

Last month, Hindus in occupied Jammu region cut off supplies to the mountainous Kashmir area after the government backed out of its promise to transfer land to build shelters for Hindu pilgrims.

The dispute polarised held Kashmir, split between the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and the Hindu-dominated region around Jammu city, severely curbing trade between the two areas. As a result, traders in Kashmir wanted to sell their goods in neighbouring Pakistan and asked the government to talk to its neighbour.

On Monday, the joint panel said they were happy to open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway to trade, but did not spell out details. Officials said bilateral trade would help improve relations between the two countries.


Copyright Reuters, 2008


QIE tightens security arrangements


LAHORE
(September 23 2008)

The Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate (QIE), in view of current law and order situation in the country, has further tightened security arrangements in and around the largest industrial estate of the province so that the businessmen could do their business with a peace of mind.

The decision to this regard was taken at an emergent meeting at Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate under the chair of QIE President Mian Nauman Kabir. He said that fool proof security arrangement were being made in the industrial estate and in this regard two security gates ie at Hamdard Chowk and Denim Chowk have been completed while six barriers were also established at all the important points that would help check the movement of suspicious vehicles.

The QIE President told the meeting that the Police and QIE internal security patrolling had been expedited besides equipping them with most modern equipment. He said that the Quaid-e-Azam Industrial Estate has its own central control system that is working very efficiently to avert any untoward incident in the industrial estate that houses more than four hundred industrial units with a manpower of more than 40 thousand workers.

Meanwhile, The President QIE Mian Nauman Kabir appealed to the people belonging to all segments of the society to come forward and play their role for the betterment of law and order situation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2008
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Rupee firms amid lack of payments

Saturday, September 27, 2008

KARACHI: The rupee ended firmer on Friday as import payments tailed off but dealers said the currency was likely to weaken in coming days on poor economic fundamentals and more payments.

Dealers said the rupee closed at 78.05/15 to the dollar compared with Thursday’s close of 78.21.30.

“There were no major payments today (Friday),” said a currency dealer. “But next week we might see the currency weaken as all payments for the month will have to be made by September 30.”

Dealers said there were payments due before the end of the month and before a holiday for the end of the fasting month of Ramazan at the beginning of October.

The rupee traded at a record low of 78.55 to the dollar on Monday. It has lost 21.07 per cent against the dollar since the beginning of the year.

Moody’s Investor Services on Tuesday downgraded the outlook for Pakistani debt to negative, and highlighted the foreign exchange market’s doubts over when funds would arrive to bolster dangerously low currency reserves.

Pakistan is struggling with inflation at more than 25 per cent and a widening current account deficit. The current account deficit widened to $2.572 billion in July and August which is equivalent to about 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product and compares with a full-year target of 6 per cent of GDP.

Data released on Thursday showed total foreign currency reserves had fallen to $8.82 billion in the week ending on September 20, down $90 million from the previous week. Dealers said there was also pressure due to security concerns following Saturday’s suicide truck bomb attack at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed at least 54 people.


Experts stress long-term policy to revive economy



Saturday, September 27, 2008
By Mansoor Ahmad


LAHORE: Economic experts have urged the government to devise a long-term policy for achieving sustained economic growth instead of looking for a short-term economy bailout package from developed countries.

They say the leaders of ruling party while consuming all their energies for a temporary relief to stay afloat are delaying an economic package which is necessary for revival of the manufacturing sector.

The experts say the entrepreneurs have not let the government down by paying 20 per cent higher taxes than last year despite a decline in production. However, the government has failed to take any facilitating steps that could improve the sagging growth.

The News has learnt that many leading economists the government has engaged to evolve an economic stabilisation programme have expressed strong reservations about the credentials of some newly-appointed government functionaries. They have politely excused themselves from the economists’ panel formed by the government. It has also been found that some of those who are on board have strong differences with the way the economy should be handled.

Many economists are appalled by the way the government is handling the economy as federal Finance Minister Naveed Qamar has stayed back while President Zardari seeks an economic package from the US and the Friends of Pakistan.

Even with a large foreign exchange support from the donors, they say, the economy would continue to slide unless radical changes in economic policies are made. The rulers have not set their priorities for taking the economy out of the present mess.

Senior economist Naveed A Khan, commenting on the issue, says the government seems to have no clear plan about the economy except the hope that foreign friends of Pakistan would rescue the country as a reward for the ‘fight against terrorism’. He says the friends may provide a temporary one-time relief but the survival of the country is linked to sustained economic growth through a dedicated plan which is nowhere in sight.

Dubai-based chartered accountant Faisal Qamar says the government has not learnt any lesson from past experience. He says the country has been brought on the verge of economic collapse by a renowned former banker prime minister. Now the government is contemplating to appoint another banker as economic adviser with the rank of federal minister. “Pakistan is not a corporate entity or a financial institution.”

They say the country needs a dedicated economic expert and not a banker to steer it out of troubles. Transparency and good governance needed for fair and equitable growth is absent.

Pakistani-Canadian Certified Public Accountant Asif Ali Shahid says Pakistan should have taken steps to improve its economic credentials first before asking for foreign assistance. The foreigners, he says, would think twice before committing aid to a country where inflation is high, currency is weak, interest rates are high and exports cover less than 50 per cent of imports.

No serious effort has been made by the government to improve macroeconomic indicators, he says, adding any assistance will go down the drain if these indicators are not improved.

Source : The News
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Government focusing on achieving export target of $22.1 billion


ISLAMABAD
(September 29 2008)


The government is focusing on the diversified sectors to achieve the export target of US $22.1 billion set for the current financial year. Sources told agency that a series of steps have been taken to boost exports of pharmaceutical items, gems and stones, furniture and herbal medicines.

In view of the good prospects of pharmaceutical export, the government has decided to support setting up of new pharmaceutical plants by providing an incentive of 90 percent exemption in the first year on investment in plant, machinery and equipment.

Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, diamond and precious stones would be exempted from levy of customs duty and sales tax with a view of increasing their exports. Further, Ministry of Industries would set up a wood seasoning plant and Navtec will set up a couple of vocational training centres on modern lines to promote export potential of furniture.

Similarly, a Flora Common Facility Centre would be set up in collaboration with Punjab government near Lahore while an Irradiation Facility in Karachi to promote floricultural exports.

To promote export of herbal medicines, 50 percent cost of registration of herbal medicines abroad would be picked up by the government. There will be an especial focus on promotion of various activities related to the Prime Minister's programme of "one village one product" with a view of promoting export of handicrafts. The sources said the export policy announced by the present government for the current year 2008-09 is aimed at poverty alleviation, value addition, compliance with international standards, reduction in cost of doing business and diversification of products and market.


Copyright News Network International, 2008



New industrial units could fight unemployment



LAHORE
(September 29 2008)


The Founders' Chairman, Dr Khalid Javed Chowdhry on Sunday has said that setting up new industrial units could only fight the dangerously increasing unemployment. He said the government is not solely responsible for resolving issues, the industrialists and investors too, should carry the task of overpowering the crisis that the country was passing through.

Dr Khalid who recently received Medipak Achievement award said that heavy responsibility lied on pharmaceutical companies as they have a direct link with human lives.

He stressed upon the government to pay attention to the issues faced by the public. Further, he stated that industrial representatives should be taken into confidence while evolving industrial policies.

He criticised few trade chambers that were taking illegal actions to protect their monopolies and asked them to concentrate on the issues and difficulties that the members were facing.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008



Pakistani handicrafts have global demand



LAHORE
(September 29 2008)


'Pakistani handicrafts are in great demand in foreign countries and we can earn a lot of foreign exchange by exporting them,' the Chairman, Chief Minister's Task Force for Industrial Development and SME's, Yawar Irfan Khan said.

He said this to a delegation of industrialists at his residence on Sunday. Stressing the need of arranging exhibitions of non-traditional items of Pakistani artisan abroad where they could display their items directly, he said, the artisan would be encouraged to promote the handicrafts and they would be given export training. Further, the Chairman emphasised on introducing modern marketing system for enhancing the export of non-traditional items as per global requirement.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2008


Pakistan keen to promote economic collaboration with China


ISLAMABAD
(September 28 2008)

Foreign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan is keen to promote economic collaboration with China and is aiming to raise the bilateral trade from $7 billion to $15 billion by 2011. He stated this during his meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session, says a Foreign Office statement here on Saturday.

Qureshi said that he was looking forward to visit China with President Asif Ali Zardari in the middle of October. The President valued China's friendship, which was demonstrated by his decision to send his son for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, he said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi said that China was proud to have assisted Pakistan and had done its best to advance co-operation. China would endeavour to continue this co-operation in the future as well. He said that China attached great importance to the PPP government's commitment to promote friendly relations with China.

The Chinese government, he underlined, was concerned about the security of its nationals in Pakistan. China appreciated the complexity of the matter and the efforts made by the Pakistan government for their safe release.

Foreign Minister Qureshi assured the Chinese Foreign Minister that the safety of Chinese nationals was important to Pakistan and it will do everything to ensure their protection. Meanwhile, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also called on Foreign Minister of Ireland, T D Martin on the sidelines of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York. The Foreign Minister appreciated the award conferred by Ireland on Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto. She had visited Ireland in 1994 and wanted to cultivate close relations with it.

The Foreign Minister requested the Irish Foreign Minister to open its embassy in Pakistan, which would give further impetus to the bilateral relations. He also requested the Irish Foreign Minister to encourage investment by Irish companies in Pakistan.

He invited Ireland to participate in the Food Technology and Agricultural Show, Expo 2008 and the Ideas exhibition. He said that Irish companies were already present in Pakistan in several fields including the power sector and oil exploration. He said as part of its Asia strategy, Ireland wished to develop strong economic relations with Pakistan. He felt that Pakistanis were playing a prominent role in Ireland and welcomed their presence in the country.


Copyright Business Recorder, 2008
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Asia to become economic powerhouse by next decade


ISLAMABAD
(October 01 2008)


Pakistan Economy Watch has said that only regional cooperation can provide relief to 500 million poor living in South Asia. Political differences, if set aside, will spur new era of growth and Pakistan will reap dividends as Asia will be world's centre of economic activity by next decade.

Pakistan needs to avail this chance and initiate preparation as we have missed many opportunities in past, Dr Murtaza Mughal, President, Pakistan Economy Watch said. "No doubt that Pakistan will be world's leader in textiles and banking," he added. He said 500 million people are living below poverty line in South Asia and their plight will only end if region can grow at a rate of eight per cent, which is only possible in presence of enhanced regional trade.

He said that regional trade is five per cent of the total Saarc trade activity while trade among Association of Southeast Asian Nations is 30 per cent. Intra-European Union commerce has been estimated at around 55 per cent. He said that a common strategy is needed for the purpose and India should rethink about her aims of regional dominance and expansionism. Otherwise, Dr Murtaza Mughal said, everybody including New Delhi will be at the loosing end.

He said that New Delhi is mulling to ban FDI from Pakistan which will sent very negative signals. Pakistan and India have lead role in regional grouping and the two countries can promise a good future to masses if they show flexibility, which will immediately result in augmented bilateral trade to the tune of 10 billion USD.

He said that the region need to focus on FDI, tourism, deficits and technical expertise in which it is behind other regions. "Political differences, corruption, lack of proper infrastructure etc are also stumbling blocks," said Dr Murtaza Mughal. He said agriculture insurance is a very positive step that can change the fate of Pakistan if executed properly.


Copyright News Network International, 2008
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