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Pakistan takes initiatives to boost bamboo production

Pakistan has decided to become a full member of the International Network on Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) to balance out the role of India in the body, a move aimed at boosting production of bamboo.

India is already a member of the organisation, which is an independent inter-governmental body with a global mandate to promote the development of bamboo and rattan in ways that are beneficial to people and the environment. Politically, Pakistan can balance out the space enjoyed by India in INBAR.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the area under bamboo cultivation had increased from 9,000 hectares in 1992 to 20,000 hectares in 2010.

A major boost to the cultivation of bamboo came during the war in Afghanistan, after the earthquake in 2005 and floods of 2010.

The Climate Change Division apprised the cabinet in a recent meeting that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed between the climate change ministry and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Beijing on November 3, 2018 to increase cooperation in the field of forestry, wildlife and biodiversity.

Government to end discounted tariff for fertiliser firms

The Government is set to end concessionary gas tariff for Fatima and Engro Fertilizer plants by mid of current year.

Currently, a concessionary gas tariff of $0.70 per mmbtu is being availed by Fatima Fertilizer Ltd and Engro Fertilizer Ltd. The concessionary period for Fatima Fertilizer is set to expire in July 2021 after completing 10 years from its commercial operation date (COD) whereas Engro Fertilizer’s concessionary period is coming to an end by June 2021.

However, the government and Engro Fertilizer are in dispute over expiration of gas supply agreement at discounted rates.

Once the concessionary period comes to an end for both the plants, the government would review the gas tariff for the entire fertiliser industry consuming indigenous gas and the existing distortions would be removed for creating a level playing field for all players, the Petroleum Division had informed the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) in a recent meeting.

Even though the plants of both the fertiliser companies had been receiving cheaper gas, they were selling the fertiliser to farmers at the same higher rate that was being charged by the other fertiliser plants.

Other fertiliser plants had been paying Rs302 per mmbtu for gas to be used as feedstock and Rs1,023 per mmbtu for fuel stock. However, new fertiliser plants of Fatima and Engro had been paying Rs112 per mmbtu for gas to be used as feedstock.

Government omits main data from debt report

The government has omitted critical information from its second debt policy statement that it was bound to share with the national assembly, compromising transparency and undermining the spirit of an act of the parliament.

The Ministry of Finance has submitted the Debt Policy Statement 2020-21 – covering the second year of the incumbent government, in the national assembly aimed at complying with requirements of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of 2005. However, some very critical pieces of information given in the 2019-20 report were missing from the new statement, including the status of compliance with the FRDL Act of 2005, showed the report that the Ministry of Finance uploaded on its website on Friday night.

The FRDL Act had been enacted in 2005 to ensure fiscal prudence, put the country on path of debt reduction and sustainable economic growth and let the elected representatives of the parliament know about these developments.

Section 7 (3) of the FRDL Act says, “The debt policy statement shall contain, assessment of the federal government’s success and failure in meeting targets of total public debt to estimated GDP, evaluation of domestic and external borrowings strategies and provide policy advice, analysis of the foreign currency exposure of Pakistan’s external debt and providing consistent and authenticated information on public and external debt guarantees issued by the federal government.

Uncertainty irks EV financiers

Despite issuance of electrical vehicle (EV) policy for two and three-wheelers, non-issuance of Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) for customs duty and sales tax has put potential investors in a dilemma.

According to a notification issued by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on February 3, 2021, to amend SRO 572(I)2020, there will be no more additional customs duty on the import of electric vehicles falling under Pakistan Customs Tariff (PCT) codes 8703.8030 (electric auto rickshaw), 8711.6040 (electric motorcycle), and 8711.6060 (three-wheeler electric-loader).

Even though the government of Pakistan has taken steps to promote electric vehicle technology in the country, the revenue board has exempted additional customs duty on the import of electric two and three-wheelers up to June 30, 2025.

SPI increases 0.53pc

The Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) for the week ended February 4, 2021 registered an increase of 0.53 percent for the combined income group, going up from 140.88 points during the week ended January 28, 2021 to 141.62 points in the week under review.

The SPI for the combined income group rose 7.82 percent compared to the corresponding week of previous year. The SPI for the lowest income group increased 0.46 percent compared to the previous week.

The index for the group stood at 146.45 points against 145.78 points in the previous week, according to provisional figures released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

During the week, average prices of 31 items rose in a selected basket of goods, prices of seven items fell and rates of remaining 13 goods recorded no change.

Government misses tax reform targets

In the first half of its five-year constitutional term, the government has made very little progress towards achieving 10 electoral promises about reforming tax system, ending corruption in tax machinery and moving towards more equitable taxation, says a report of an independent think tank.

Over the last two and a half years, out of the 10 promised tax reforms related targets, one has been fully achieved, according to a review of tax reforms under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government by the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME). The PTI came to power in August 2018.

PRIME said that six targets had been partially achieved, one was less than partially achieved and two remained unattended to. It added that work in some areas was limited only to the extent of files and there was no progress on the ground. But the report underlined that two and a half years were not enough to roll out tax reforms in any country, let alone a country like Pakistan that faces various socio-economic challenges.

It said that the current government made some efforts to reform tax policy and administration during the first half of its tenure.

Pakistan should make ideas to tap Libya

Pakistani businessmen and exporters must prepare to amass a mammoth share in Libya’s market during the expected large-scale reconstruction process in the African nation at an estimated cost of $100 billion, said Pakistan Ambassador-designate to Libya Rashad Javed.

During his visit to the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), Javed presented a comprehensive documentary on Libya.

He added that following the prolonged civil war, unified elections are expected to be held in Libya on December 24, 2021 under the supervision of the United Nations (UN).

“They will certainly usher the country into a new era of peace and reconstruction as its basic infrastructure is in tatters,” he said.

“Out of the $100 billion reconstruction package, $40 billion has been earmarked for the battered health sector.”

He said that Libya imported almost 80 percent of all consumable commodities for its domestic use and Pakistan could fulfil the African nation’s needs relating to agriculture, cereals and textile products in addition to exporting its human resource.

During Gaddafi’s tenure, 150,000 Pakistanis were working in Libya and even now, Islamabad can export its skilled manpower in order to enhance its foreign remittances, he stressed.

Business community demand gi tag for Pakistani products

The Business community has stressed that similar to Basmati rice, Pakistan needs to apply for geographical indication (GI) tag for other products as well to protect and promote locally produced goods that are popular in the international market.

Recently, Pakistan applied for GI tag to the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) after a conflict erupted when the European Union displayed India’s request for GI tag for basmati rice on its website. Basmati is aromatic rice grown in India and Pakistan.

If one country receives the GI tag, then other countries are either barred from selling the same brand in the international market or receive lower prices for it. Now that Pakistan has also applied for the Basmati GI tag, it is expected that both countries will get their fair share of rice export.

However, there are many more products of Pakistan that need government’s immediate attention for registration in the international market. Products having the GI tag get better prices in the international market.

Some famous products of Pakistan are Hunza apricots, Peshawari Chappal, Multani Sohan Halwa (dessert), Sindhi Ajrak (shawl), Sargodha kinnow, Kasur Methi (Fenugreek) and Sindh mangoes, said SME Farmers Association of Pakistan (SMEFA) Chairman Muhammad Saeed.

New goods clearance system introduced

Pakistan has introduced a system for pre-arrival clearance of imported cargo coming through the air route to slash clearance time, facilitate trade and improve supply chain management with the objective of steering ease of doing business in the country.

Initially, the Customs department receives details of goods on board through electronic means immediately after the flight takes off from an international destination and the cargo receives clearance for delivery to importers by the time the flight lands in Pakistan. The new project launched by the Customs department is called “Clearance in Sky”.

The system delivers a message to the importers or recipients of the cargo which can be shown to the authorities for receiving the delivery of cargo and it can also be used to track the status of goods.

The system can tell the exact position of goods and the period of time after which they will be ready for physical delivery at airports.

During the trial and test run of the project in December 2020, goods such as lifesaving drugs, documents like passports, human organ consignments and perishable items including vegetables and fruits were cleared successfully.

“At present, we are clearing import cargo of 12 commercial importers, manufacturers and exporters in the textile and pharmaceutical sectors of Pakistan,” Additional Collector of Customs Farah Farooq, who is heading the pilot project told.

Prior to implementation of the project, which is still in its preliminary phase, Customs clearance of the imported industrial cargo was initiated a few hours after the airplane landed in Pakistan.

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