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Wapda decides to build Rohtas Dam

Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has decided to build Rohtas dam in a bid to effectively mitigate floods and store floodwater for its use in agriculture.

In a meeting presided over by Wapda Chairman Lieutenant General (Retd) Muzammil Hussain, the authority revealed that it had been evaluating the possibility of constructing the project more vigorously.

Highlighting the need for construction of dams, the chairman said Rohtas dam, like other water reservoirs, would play a pivotal role in saving the country from devastating floods and conserving floodwater to bring additional land under plantations.

Pakistan’s c/a balance recorded a $73 mn surplus in Sept

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that Pakistan’s economy was heading in the right direction as country’s current account balance recorded a surplus of $73million.

The current account – the difference between government’s foreign income and expenditure – was in surplus of $73 mn during Sept, the PM revealed.

This brought the surplus for 1st [quarter] to $792 mn compared to a deficit of $1,492 mn during same time last [year], the premier tweeted terming it great news for Pakistan.

He revealed that the growth was a result of exports growing 29 percent and remittances increasing 9 percent over the previous month.

Govt enhances wheat support price by over 14pc

The federal government on Wednesday decided to increase the minimum wheat procurement price by 14.3 percent to Rs1,600 per 40 kilogrammes and also agreed to give subsidy on fertilisers aimed at increasing farmers’ income.

The decision to increase the prices was taken during a subcommittee meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The subcommittee comprised 10 members, including almost all the members of the ECC.

It has been decided to increase the minimum wheat support price from Rs1,400 to Rs1,600 per kg– an increase of Rs200 or 14.3 percent, according the officials, who attended the meeting. The rates are for next wheat crop but it will set the trend in the market.

The raise is Rs150 or almost 10 percent less than what had been proposed by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to the ECC. But the price of Rs1,600 will be only higher by Rs13 or 0.8 percent compared to the estimated production cost of Rs1,587 per 40 kgs by the food security ministry. At this price and with an average 28 maunds per-acre output, the farmer will get additional benefit of Rs5,600 per acre.

Ministry withdraws pkr 70bn covid-related scheme

The federal government’s response to mitigate the impact of a deadly respiratory disease on the lives of people remains slow as it has not yet been able to approve about half-a-billion-dollar or Rs70 billion Covid-19 project.

The Ministry of Planning and Development on Wednesday withdrew the Covid-19 Responsive and other Natural Calamities Control Programme costing Rs70 billion at the eleventh hour due to the lack of consensus among its officials.

The project had been presented – for the second time – for approval of the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), chaired by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jehanzeb Khan. The CDWP approved two other coronavirus-related projects worth Rs8.2 billion to support the education system in Pakistan under the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Rs70 billion programme had been conceived to provide support for provinces to mitigate the impact of the deadly respiratory disease. The CDWP had cleared the Covid-19 umbrella project in June this year but it was again brought before the forum due to some changes in PC-I of the project.

SBP spends pkr 1.3 trillion during covid-19 pandemic

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has provided financial aid of over Rs1.3 trillion under financing packages and for medical facilities to mitigate the impact of lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The State Bank of Pakistan deputy governor, while addressing a meeting at the Korangi Association of Trade and Industry (KATI), said for loans, financing packages and medical facilities, the SBP had provided Rs1.3 trillion so far.

Cumulatively, the central bank’s support for the economy to combat Covid-19 amounted to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or Rs1,580 billion, according to a recent report of the SBP.

The State Bank disbursed Rs470 billion or 1.1 percent of GDP as interest rate benefit, as per the report. It deferred loans worth Rs650 billion, 1.6 percent of GDP.

The report stated that the central bank rescheduled loans worth Rs184 billion or 0.4 percent of GDP. It provided Rs207 billion or 0.5 percent of GDP to prevent layoffs.

The central bank also issued Rs69 billion or 0.2 percent of GDP to support hospitals. This included new investment for health facilities and BMR (balancing, modernisation and replacement) of the already existing facilities.

“It is our top priority to facilitate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) during the time of turmoil,” the SBP deputy governor said. The central bank official discussed relaxation in policies for exporters and direct coordination between the central bank and business community, according to a statement issued by KATI. They agreed on the formation of a combined committee for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Online shopping starts declining

After recording a significant spike during lockdown, the trend of online shopping has started declining gradually as Pakistani buyers are returning to shopping at physical stores. However, digital platforms have voiced hope that with time, the buyers will return to online shops.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Daraz Pakistan Chief Marketing Officer Ammar Hassan highlighted that conversion rate of the platform registered a 25 percent hike during lockdown.

Conversion rate is the difference between the number of people who visit a website per day and those who make a purchase. The nationwide lockdown imposed in late March was a very difficult time for businesses but it proved to be beneficial for the company because sales of dFresh segment increased ninefold, said Hassan.

dFresh is the department that deals with the sale of fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables.

“Around 800,000 people visited the e-commerce website but not all of them made purchases,” explained Daraz Pakistan Managing Director Ehsan Saya. “The number of people who made purchases from the platform increased 25 percent during lockdown due to the pandemic and subsequent closure of markets.”

That trend of online shopping gathered pace after the lockdown was imposed, he said. At its annual event, ie 11/11, the platform expects 2.5 million visitors in 2020 compared to 1.8 million in 2019. The conversion rate was better now than it was before Covid-19, he said, adding that the company’s October targets had already been met.

Saya added that after the spread of Covid-19, demand for products grew on the website but limited capacity for enhanced operation and hurdles emerging from the lockdown compromised the service. Initially, the Sindh government decided to shut all markets including e-commerce platforms and the company had to explain that continuation of e-commerce activities would mitigate the impact of lockdown, hence, they should be allowed to operate, he pointed out.

During the lockdown, 50,000 new sellers were registered on the platform from 88 cities of Pakistan, said Saya. In the past three years, the platform created 60,000 to 80,000 jobs.

The platform has introduced a new service for the sellers, which provides them the facility of storage and dispatching their merchandise given that the sellers can provide products in bulk to Daraz. He added that 25 percent of the sellers were currently utilising the facility while the company targeted to inflate the number to 40 percent.

For youth Tevta initiates skills programmes

The Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta), Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has taken various initiatives to bring the youth of K-P and newly merged tribal districts into the mainstream of development by imparting training in contemporary technical education.

“The main objective is to uplift the youth, prepare them to meet challenges of the current world and create new employment opportunities,” said a Tevta official while talking to APP.

He said various projects had been initiated by the authority to emancipate the youth and make them self-reliant.

Construction of polytechnic institutes has been started in the areas of merged districts including Orakzai and Miranshah and frontier regions Darra Adam Khel. All these educational facilities will be completed by coming June.

Businessmen community demand cut in policy rate

The business community has urged the government to slash the policy rate instead of hiking it in order to revive the economy and boost business and trade activities, which have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a meeting with traders and industrialists on Wednesday, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sherbaz Bilour anticipated that the government would raise the policy rate by 2 percent, which would prove detrimental to the Covid-19-hit domestic economy and businesses.

“If the government increases the policy rate, it can turn local industries uncompetitive against other countries, which will not be in the best interest of the country,” he said. He noted that business activities had slowed down owing to prolonged lockdown.

Government creates economic outreach roadmap

The National Security Division has created an economic outreach roadmap for economic diplomacy, which will be implemented through different ministries, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf.

Being the focal person of the economic outreach programme, Yusuf said the mapping exercise of ministries and government organisations had been initiated by the division.

In a meeting with Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Mian Anjum Nisar on Wednesday, Yusuf elaborated that the mapping exercise would identify Pakistan

’s comparative advantage in priority countries. He also presented a model that would develop Pakistan’s narrative.

Discord in cabinet over rate hike

Differences emerged within the federal cabinet on Tuesday over the reason behind the rising food prices as Prime Minister Imran Khan held hoarders responsible for the crisis.

During a meeting of the cabinet, prime minister’s aide Nadeem Afzal Chan blamed Adviser to the PM on Accountability and Interior Mirza Shahzad Akbar for the failure to curb the increase in sugar prices.

He maintained that the adviser had been unable to take action in line with the recommendations made in the sugar inquiry commission’s report.

He noted that the prices of sugar had jacked up even further after the findings of the commission were made public.

“Why were these people [sugar manufacturers] targeted in the report if it made no difference?”

Chan added that he was willing to assist the revenant authorities in binging down food prices, particularly those of wheat and sugar.

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