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AJK PM ASSURES OF EQUIVALENT DISTRIBUTION OF FUNDS

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Farooq Haider said Friday that his government would form new constituencies on the basis of demographic situation

Addressing a public gathering in Rawalakot, he said that government will not negotiate on equal distribution of development funds in all constituencies.

“People of Poonch made great sacrifices for liberation and resultantly, we are breathing in an independent territory,” Haider said.

Former minister Sardar Tahir Anwar presided the occasion, meanwhile Ministers of State Muhammad Aziz, Dr Najeeb Naqi and other PML-N leaders addressed the gathering.

Extoling the sacrifices of people living near Line of Control (LOC), the AJK premier said: “Our brethren are facing Indian atrocities every day; they are sacrificing their lives and households, 13 constituencies are directly oppressed by unprovoked Indian firing.”

Meanwhile, criticizing on past government Prime Minister said that when the new government came in power, its debt was Rs22 billion.

PAK HAS ADDED TO ITS DEBT – BUT THIS ONE MAY NOT BE AS BAD A DEAL

Pakistan has just borrowed $2.5 billion from international investors, adding almost another percentage point of liability in relation to its GDP, and taking overall external debt burden beyond the $85-billion mark. But the mood wasn’t sour in Islamabad.

The country raised $1.5 billion via a 10-year Eurobond issue at 6.875% and another $1 billion through a Sukuk at 5.625%.

Officials were pleased and the country’s stock market reacted positively, increasing 0.85% on Thursday. Some argued adding debt is hardly something to be pleased about, while others said the bond yield meant a good bargain.

The amount comes at a time when pressure on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves has increased, and noise over an imminent balance of payments crisis has gotten louder. With the current account deficit having already widened 122% in the first four months of the current fiscal year, amounting to $5.01 billion, talks of a bailout and debt repayment issues have become more common.

So how come a country, rated ‘B’ by ratings agencies for investment purposes and plagued by political instability as well as economic turmoil, earned such a good deal?

“The general view on the potential of the economy is still quite positive,” said Zain Zaidi, director in the loans and acquisition finance team at Citi, and responsible for all syndicated loan financing in the Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan.

“We led a transaction for the government in which we raised $542 million, primarily from Middle Eastern and Asian investors. There were other transactions just preceding ours. So there was a significant appetite for Pakistan credit including a number of new investors.

“So people are certainly buying into the Pakistan story. We were finalising some funding on the day the Supreme Court made the final Panama Leaks decision. Although it was negative news, investors went ahead and funded the transaction. So I think fundamentals of the economy are still intact.”

Zaidi’s comments came during a media meet-up in London earlier in November, ahead of the bond issue. But the low yield and significant appetite for Pakistan credit remained even after a devastating weekend for the government that saw religious protests turn violent and macroeconomic position continuing to remain worrying.

REGULATOR BEGINS CONSULTATION ON GAS TARIFF STRUCTURE

The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), in collaboration with the World Bank, has kicked off a series of consultative sessions across the country for the Third Party Access Rules 2012 and the tariff structure under gas sector reforms.

In this regard, the first session was held in Peshawar on Thursday, which was chaired by Ogra Chairperson Uzma Adil Khan.

Speaking on the occasion, Khan said, “We have initiated these consultative sessions for the input of all stakeholders which include provinces, Sui gas companies, lawmakers and consumers. The authority will look into the valid arguments and address the concerns, if any.”

A World Bank consultant gave a comprehensive presentation on the third-party access rules and network code whereas Ogra Executive Director Misbah Yaqub gave presentation on the tariff regime. At the end of the presentations, the stakeholders raised a number of queries which were recorded.

The government has tasked Ogra with finalising third-party access rules and a tariff methodology by the end of December this year in an effort to execute the plan of splitting large public gas utilities as part of critical reforms.

Talking to source recently, a senior government official said the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division) had decided to set firm timelines for putting in place the third-party access rules and tariff structure for new gas companies.

Gas utilities – Sui Northern Gas Pipelines and Sui Southern Gas Company – are being split in order to secure funds from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank. The government has directed the utilities to hire a transaction adviser for conducting due diligence.

Under the plan, the government, facilitated by the World Bank, will separate transmission and distribution segments of the gas companies by setting up a transmission company and four distribution companies. The aim is to bring efficiency in service delivery and reduce losses.

However, the process, which was planned to be completed by the end of June 2017, has been delayed and is expected to be completed next year.

At the consultative session, a large number of stakeholders including representatives of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Oil and Gas Development Company, K-P Chamber of Commerce and Industry, parliamentarians, lawyers and general consumers were present.

Consultative sessions will now be held in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad.

TO PLACATE PROVINCES, GOVT TO MAKE ENERGY DISTRIBUTION DATA PUBLIC

In an effort to end dispute among provinces over the distribution of electricity, Federal Minister for Power Division Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari has directed the Power Division to take immediate steps for displaying power generation and distribution data on the website of Power Information Technology Company.

It would ensure “maximum transparency and provision of accurate information to the public at large,” Leghari said while meeting a delegation of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government, led by provincial Minister for Energy Atif Khan, on Thursday.

Referring to K-P’s longstanding demand for unveiling the data of electricity supply to distribution companies, the minister acknowledged that it would be more transparent to share information with the general public.

He asked the K-P energy minister to provide help in curbing power theft in different areas of the province. In this regard, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) has been directed to offer incentives to its staff deputed in areas covered by high-loss feeders in order to control losses and ensure uninterrupted power supply.

Leghari revealed that the federal government was also considering providing incentives for the law enforcement agencies to support them in their endeavours to stop electricity theft.

“With consistent efforts of the government, power generation has reached the level where we can meet electricity demand in the country. There is no shortage of electricity right now,” he emphasised.

The K-P energy minister acknowledged that load-shedding could not be equal in high-loss and low-loss areas, adding the provincial government was ready to assist Pesco in its drive against power theft and to recover consumer bills.

In a separate meeting, Leghari directed the distribution companies to clear the backlog of requests for electricity connections in the next one month. It was a review meeting attended by CEOs of all distribution companies and officials of Pakistan Electric Power Company and the Power Division.

The minister took a strong exception to around 400,000 pending applications for new connections and underlined the need for taking swift measures to provide energy meters for the consumers.

He suggested that the distribution companies may call special meetings of their boards in order to accelerate the purchase of necessary material for new connections.

He directed that load-shedding should be carried out in high-loss areas as per fixed schedule proportionate to the percentage of losses.

FROM NEPRA: SRSP SEEKS ENERGY GENERATION LICENCE

The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) has submitted an application to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for a power generation licence for its 2MW hydropower project.

The 2MW Birmogh Golain Hydropower project has been designed with an intake system to divert the required volume of water discharge.

The SRSP has set up the project at an estimated cost of Rs342.11 million at village Birmogh District Chitral K-P. Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) has the exclusive licence to engage in the distribution service and to make sales of electric power to consumers in its service territory and its concession territory.

Pesco has issued its no objection certificate (NOC) for power evacuation from SRSP. However, the aforesaid NOC is conditional upon; inter alia, generation license from Nepra, signing of Power Purchase Agreement with CPPA-G.

RUPEE STABLE AGAINST DOLLAR

The rupee remained stable against the dollar at 105.4/105.6 in the inter-bank market on Thursday compared with Wednesday’s close of 105.4/105.6.

The currency market has fluctuated regularly in recent months with hefty rises and falls on some occasions. In the long run, however, the rupee has stood firm after experiencing extensive volatility, when it weakened from around Rs98 to a dollar to above Rs103 in the wake of political impasse over alleged election rigging.

The central bank has imposed 100% cash margin on the import of certain consumer goods to restrict the demand for US dollars.

However, the International Monetary Fund has repeatedly said that Pakistan’s rupee is overvalued by 5-20%. According to analysts, the artificial support for the rupee has adversely affected Pakistan’s exports.

GOOGLE PUTS PAK AMONG 4 STATES THAT WILL GIVE NEXT BILLION SMARTPHONE USERS

The ‘Next Billion Users’ of smartphones will emerge from four developing countries including Pakistan, according to a Google representative speaking at the launch ceremony of the company’s latest application.

The other three countries include Indonesia, India and Brazil, Google’s Asia Pacific Industry Head Khurram Jamali said on Thursday, as the company launched ‘Datally’, an Android-based app that helps smartphone users understand, control, and save mobile data.

“At least 40 million people are connected to the internet in Pakistan at the moment,” he said. “Before the introduction of 3G/4G, the number was about five million.”

He said that the number of people watching videos on the internet is growing by 66% annually while social media users are increasing by 35% per year, adding that 80% of the users surf the internet through mobile phones.

“Now mobile is internet and internet is mobile,” he stated.

The released app, ‘Datally’, works on all smartphones running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher, and is available on the Google Play Store globally.

Google found during extensive user research around the world that many smartphone users worry about running out of data. This is an especially acute problem for the new generation of smartphone-users from developing countries intending to come online, Jamali said.

People testing the app saved up to 30% of mobile data, depending on the way they used Datally, a presser released after the event stated.

Apps frequently use data in the background for updating content and information. Datally’s ‘Data Saver’ feature lets users control data on an app-by-app basis, so that data only goes to apps they care about.

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