Pakistan In Focus

Pakistan, Uzbekistan to finalise PTA in 3-month

Pakistan and Uzbekistan on Wednesday agreed to boost bilateral trade and economic ties to enhance economic integration and connectivity between Pakistan and Central Asian states.

The two sides agreed to organise specialised exhibitions (made in Uzbekistan/made in Pakistan) in Tashkent and Islamabad to promote a wide range of export goods and facilitate leading companies in pharmaceutical, textile, leather, construction material and agriculture sectors as well as transport and logistics services of both countries.

They would finalise the bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) within three months, which would give a fresh impetus to trade between Uzbekistan and Pakistan.

The sixth meeting of Pakistan-Uzbekistan Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation was held in Tashkent under the chairmanship of Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.

Government seeks clarity on PSEs board

The government will file a reference in the Supreme Court relating to the bar on the appointment of parliamentarians on the board of directors of state-owned public sector entities. During the last several meetings of the cabinet, its members had been discussing that parliamentarians should be on the board of directors of state-run public sector companies. However, the Law and Justice Division raised objections to the appointment of parliamentarians on the board of directors of state enterprises. Now, the government has decided to file a reference in the Supreme Court to seek clarity on the issue. During discussion on a case that pertained to filing the reference in the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution to seek clarity on the bar on parliamentarians ’ appointment on the board of directors of public sector entities, the minister for law and justice said that the draft reference was ready but requested a separate meeting with the prime minister to discuss certain issues prior to its filing.

Businessmen demand SC protection

The business community has criticised the government for its failure to incorporate their suggestions into the FY22 budget and has demanded intervention of the Supreme Court. At a press conference on Wednesday, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Acting President Nasir Khan vehemently opposed Section 203A of the budget, which empowered and expanded the discretionary powers of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). This law will only result in increase in corruption and harassment, he said. Although Section 203A has been amended through the introduction of slabs, still we are of the view that powers to arrest and prosecute will create a fearful and discouraging environment for small businesses. Citing that the section violated the basic rights, Khan called on the Supreme Court to intervene and protect the businessmen. A blanket exemption from federal excise duty (FED) has been approved for the erstwhile Fata without surveying and quantifying the genuine needs and total demand of the region’s population,” the FPCCI acting president pointed out.

Federal minister lays stress on technological progress

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Syed Shibli Faraz on Wednesday said that the evolution of existing system according to modern requirements is a prerequisite for progress as no country could achieve success by moving in the same rhythm. He was speaking at the “Open House and Career Fair of Civil, Electrical, Mechanical Engineering and Technology”, arranged by the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI). Faraz said only youth could help Pakistan take a quantum leap by utilising their potential and extraordinary creative talents for constructive purposes. Younger generation can move forward on the technology front, where our generation has lagged behind, to bring socio-economic stability to the country. Faraz said research should not be carried out for the sake of research but focus should be on development of the country through prioritising its linkage with market needs.

Pak-German energy cooperation grows considerably

Cooperation between Pakistan and Germany has grown considerably in the energy sector, said Federal Minister for Energy Muhammad Hammad Azhar. Talking to German Ambassador Bernhard Schlangheck on Wednesday, the minister appreciated the recent signing of implementation agreement for GIZ Pakistan’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency-II (REEE-II) project worth €8.1 million. “The new Renewable Energy Policy approved by the Council of Common Interests is a major milestone in the energy transition of Pakistan,” he said. “The policy will drive a substantial shift to renewable sources in the power generation capacity.” He elaborated that the renewable energy component in the total energy mix would increase from the current 6percent to 20percent by 2025 and 30percent by 2030. The minister apprised the German envoy of the various ongoing projects which the government had initiated in the energy sector.

Cable makers can meet 90pc demand

Stakeholders of the power cable industry have said that the sector has ample potential to emerge as a mainstream pillar of the country’s economy, however, it requires a level playing field and stable demand from the public and private sectors.

Newage Cables Director Amer Bakht Azam said that the industry had the capacity to fulfill nearly 90percent of the cable needs of the country through local manufacturing.

However, he lamented that $90 million of finished goods, related to this category, were imported every year due to concession in import duties.

“It is a win-win situation for those who are importing cables and at the same time it is discouraging for the local investors who are producing quality products,” said Azam.

Azam highlighted that the industry was expanding 15-20percent annually, adding that consistent demand from public sector companies could further accelerate the growth.

He pointed out that the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) was the largest buyer of 132kv and 500kv power cables and no other local company came close to it in terms of cable demand.

Low quality seeds hurdle to agriculture development

The government is working to ensure availability of quality seeds, development of cold storage facilities and farm mechanisation to enhance per-acre output of major crops, said Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam. Addressing an international conference on ‘Best practices for building sustainable food systems in OIC region’ on Wednesday, he said that despite having one of the world’s best alluvial soils and irrigation system, they could not fully harness the potential of the agriculture sector. The conference was organised by the Islamic Organisation for Food Security (IOFS) in collaboration with various international research organisations to discuss issues and challenges faced by the agriculture sector and shared expertise to address them.

Imam added that lack of quality seeds, cold storage facilities, farm mechanisation, trained manpower, post-harvest management, processing industries, and digital agriculture platforms were the main hurdles in local agriculture development.

Pakistan said to expand solar, wind capacity

Experts from the energy sector have emphasised that for a sustainable energy transition, Pakistan needs to incorporate global best practices in its energy sector, especially in Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) sector related policies.

Speaking at a webinar on ‘Future directions for VRE deployment in Pakistan – A discussion on the findings of the World Bank’s VRE report’, the experts discussed prospects of grid integration and locational study conducted by the World Bank for energy sector of Pakistan, and major challenges for revised version of Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP) 2030.

World Bank Senior Energy Specialist Oliver Knight shared various aspects of studies conducted by the World Bank on ‘Variable Renewable Energy Integration and Planning’ and ‘Variable Renewable Energy Locational Study’ with the participants.

Based on the outputs of both reports, Knight said the most optimum capacity expansion pathway for Pakistan is through increased expansion of solar and wind capacity as it will decrease the utilisation of existing generation facilities, which are no longer competitive.

Gwadar gateway of rapid growth in region

Gwadar, once a backward and destitute area, is emerging as a hub of connectivity and development. Multiple studies have established that after the completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route, Gwadar will be one of the most competitive connectivity hubs in the region and beyond.

China, the Middle East, North Africa and many Western countries will be the major beneficiaries.

The Advanced Journal of Transportation published a study in 2019, which analysed the possible impact of Gwadar on competitiveness and trade of China with six countries namely Oman, Saudi Arabia, France, Kuwait, Germany and the Netherlands.

Findings of the study suggested that travel time would be reduced by 20 days for Oman, 21 days for Saudi Arabia, 24 days for Kuwait, 21 days for the Netherlands, Germany and France by trading through Gwadar.

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