Trade gap shrinks to $11.5 bn in July-October
Pakistan has managed to cut its trade deficit by $4.2 billion, or nearly 27 percent, by blocking imports during the first four months of current fiscal year, which will compensate for the delay in channeling foreign loans.
The trade deficit shrank 27 percent to $11.5 billion in the first four months of current fiscal year solely on the back of a steep fall in imports, reported the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Wednesday.
Exporters kept disappointing despite getting hundreds of billions of rupees in subsidies, cheap loans, paying low taxes and 100 percent depreciation of the rupee in four years.
The gap between imports and exports came in at $11.5 billion in the July-October period, which was 26.6 percent, or $4.2 billion, less than the comparative period of previous fiscal year.
Government considers Rs 60 bn mini-budget
The Government may slap 17 percent sales tax on high-grade petrol as it is considering imposing more taxes on imports to cover a projected shortfall of Rs100 billion in customs duty collection.
Tax authorities have recently shared options with the government to bridge the shortfall by imposing taxes on duty-free imports and raising the additional customs duty to collect roughly Rs60 billion in taxes, according to sources in the Ministry of Finance.
ECNEC accepts $11.3 bn CPEC projects
Pakistan on Monday rushed to approve two infrastructure projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) at a cost of over $11.3 billion aimed at putting them before the Chinese authorities for fast-track implementation during Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit. The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the $10 billion Mainline-I project of Pakistan Railways and the $1.3 billion Karachi Circular Railway project. It was an emergency meeting as no Ecnec huddle was slated for Monday. The committee gave “in principle” approval to both the schemes as no proper homework had been done before calling the meeting. Ecnec met hours before PM Shehbaz Sharif’s visit to China. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chaired the meeting.
Fertiliser manufacturers warns of disruption in fertiliser supply chain
The Track and Trace System (TTS) installed on fertiliser plants is suffering from serious operational issues. The fertiliser industry contends that the system was imported without having conducted a technical feasibility study in relation to the working environment in Pakistan.
According to the Fertiliser Manufacturers of Pakistan Advisory Council (FMPAC), no reliable evidence of global performance of the TTS has been found within the fertiliser industry.
The fertiliser industry was forced to make a huge investment in the installation of the TTS despite apprehensions expressed in various meetings. The performance of the system has been dismal in the open environment and the consortium that provided the equipment has been unable to attend to the issues.
IT projects worth Rs 1.06 bn accepted
The Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication (ITT) Syed Aminul Haque said that as directed by the government, broadband, optical fibre cable (OFC) and other connectivity projects were continuously being rolled out in the rural and urban areas of Sindh without any discrimination.
“A project to provide mobile and high-speed internet services in Tharparkar district, worth over Rs870 million, has been approved,” said the minister, adding that, “it will be complete in 18 months, and will provide mobile and broadband facilities to more than 72 thousand residents of various unserved villages spread over an area of 10,432 sq. km.” According to an official statement, a broadband project for Balochistan has also been approved. The project is said to service over 15,000 people in 19 villages across Gwadar, and will cost approximately Rs188.1 million.
“Completion of these projects will provide the residents, of unserved, underserved and remote areas of Balochistan and Sindh, with an opportunity to connect with the digital world, digitise their daily routines and businesses,” said the statement.
Audit finds Rs 55mn irregularities
The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) has unearthed irregularities of around Rs55 million in the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) over unauthorised purchase and use of vehicles, and an exemption from making interest payments on car-loans given to employees.
The AGP highlighted the irregularities in its audit report for the financial year 2021-22.
Auditors noted that the members and executives of Ogra were not only receiving a monetisation allowance but they were also using official vehicles, to which they were not entitled.
Irregularities of Rs38.4 million, due to the unauthorised exemption from interest payments on car-loans provided to the employees, were also pointed out.
The audit also found irregularities of Rs16.4 million in the use of official vehicles and of over Rs1 million in the purchase of a vehicle while a ban was in place.
Punjab targets wheat sowing over 16.5 mn acres
All resources should be utilised to bring 16.5 million acres of land under wheat cultivation in Punjab during the current month, emphasised provincial Agriculture Secretary Ahmad Aziz Tarar.
The directive came in a meeting held to review progress on wheat plantations in the province. In a briefing on division and district-wise sowing, it was revealed that 64 percent wheat cultivation had been completed in rain-fed areas and plantation was underway in the irrigated areas.
Tarar issued directives for completing cultivation in the rain-fed areas as soon as possible while sowing should be accelerated in the irrigated zones through the mobilisation of local communities.
He also underscored the need for speeding up wheat plantation in the paddy areas so that work could be completed on time over the maximum area.