Pakistan In Focus

Call to unlock avenues for Pakistan-Asean partnership

Pakistan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) need to make joint efforts to enhance bilateral trade and economic ties, said Ambassador of Indonesia to Pakistan Adam M Tugio. Talking to source on the sidelines of a roundtable conference held in Islamabad on Thursday, the envoy called for improving ties between governments, business communities and people of both sides.

“There is a need to renew Pakistan’s relations with Asean members by refreshing links between businessmen of both regions,” he said.

SBP reserves rise $53mn to $17.2bn

The foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank rose 0.3 percent on a weekly basis, according to the data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Thursday. On October 29, the foreign currency reserves held by the SBP were recorded at $17,199.6 million, up $53 million compared with $17,146.7 million on October 22. The central bank gave no reason for the increase in reserves. Overall liquid foreign currency reserves held by the country, including net reserves held by banks other than the SBP, stood at $23,925.9 million. Net reserves held by banks amounted to $6,726.3 million. Earlier in the week ended on August 27, the foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank soared to an all-time high of $20.15 billion after Pakistan received general allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) worth $2,751.8 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on August 24.

Domestic gas production drops by 9pc

The production of natural gas from domestic fields dropped by 9 percent over the past one month to 3,109 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) ahead of the winter season when demand for fuel rises as the public braces up to operate heaters and geysers. Besides, two global liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers have already defaulted on delivery of their respective cargoes of gas to Pakistan which was due later this month. This hints towards a gas crisis in the making in Pakistan. The government has issued an emergency tender to import LNG from the spot market in November to avert the likely crisis for a third consecutive year in Pakistan.

Cement sales decline 9pc in Oct

Cement sales contracted 9.07 percent to 5.2 million tons in October 2021 against 5.74 million tons in the corresponding month of previous year. According to data released by the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) on Thursday, local cement dispatches were recorded at 4.6 million tons in October 2021, which were 5.29 percent lower than 4.9 million tons in October 2020. Export of the commodity dropped sharply as shipments fell 30 percent to 611,844 tons in October 2021. Cement manufacturers had shipped 875,266 tons abroad in October 2020. Last month, north-based mills sold 3.83 million tons of cement in the domestic market against 4.16 million tons in the same month of last year, a decline of 8 percent.

ECC allows power tariff raise

The hybrid Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet on Thursday decided to cancel import of 2.1 million tons of wheat and allowed recovery of over Rs17 billion from electricity consumers for the period when the country had been struck hard by Covid-19. The decisions were taken by the Shaukat Tarin-led sub-committee of the ECC, which were stamped within minutes by the Omar Ayub-led ECC under a hybrid arrangement. The ECC hardly met for 10 minutes and rubber-stamped the decisions taken by the sub-committee. Tarin, who is the Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, cannot chair any cabinet body meeting due to a decision of the Islamabad High Court. But the government is violating this decision as the prime minister has delayed Tarin’s election as senator after his six-month ad hoc term of finance minister ended on October 15.

Punjab to save Rs85bn by pension reforms

Pension reforms introduced by the government of Punjab will play a unique role in reducing financial burden on the province, remarked Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht. Elaborating on the reforms in a statement on Thursday, he said that given the current growth rate of pension and salary payments, the government of Punjab would run out of finances in the near future, which would impact development expenditure in the province.

“If pension expenditure continues to grow unchecked, it will limit the fiscal space available for development schemes,” he added. Punjab has begun implementation of pension reforms under which early retirement from government service has been disallowed before the age of 55 years or before the completion of 25 years of service.

Islamic banking important for poverty alleviation

The Islamic banking industry could play a vital role in eradicating poverty and inequality from Pakistan, said former State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor Dr Ishrat Husain. Speaking at the International Conference on Islamic Banking and Finance as a chief guest on Wednesday, Husain highlighted that a lot of work was needed to educate the public about the difference between Islamic and conventional banking. Quoting the growth figures of Islamic banking, he said that 18 percent market share and 30-32 percent growth rate was a good achievement, but it was below expectations. In 2001, Islamic banking was expected to achieve 25 percent market share by 2021, he recalled and lamented that the target could not be met.

President asks businesses to employ women

Businesses should employ women and differently-abled people and should focus on improving their skills to empower them financially, said President Dr Arif Alvi. Talking to a delegation of Entrepreneurs Organisation on Wednesday, the president emphasised the need for facilitating differently-abled people by providing them easy access to buildings and workplaces. He said that the government was taking every possible measure to provide a level-playing field to the business community and entrepreneurs. He underlined that the business community needed to adopt an outward-looking approach and remain abreast of the changing trends in the international market, which would enable them to compete in regional and global markets.

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