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Pakistan, turkey share investment plans

Bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey is being transformed into a vibrant economic partnership.

To help realise the vision of a robust Pakistan-Turkey economic partnership, the forum featured a short documentary on business opportunities in Punjab. Turkish companies operating in Pakistan including Albayrak, Arcelik, and Coca Cola Icecek shared their investment plans with key stakeholders in the Punjab government.

“Relations between Pakistan and Turkey would continue to grow as a powerful factor for stability and prosperity in the region and beyond,” said DEIK Turkey-Pakistan Business Council Chairman Atilla D Yerilikaya while visiting Lahore for the Pakistan-Turkey Business Forum.

The two sides exchanged views in order to further deepen the ties, especially for development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey.

A Turkish delegation, led by Pakistan Business Council Turkey Chairman Atilla D Yerlikaya, includes around 16 senior Turkish business representatives from Zorlu Holdings, Anadolu Group, Arcelik, Havelson and Albayrak, along with representation from health, services and construction sectors.

Speaking on the occasion, Yerlikaya stated that notable progress has been made on cooperation in diverse fields including infrastructure development, health, communications, media, culture, and bilateral investments. He expressed the confidence that bilateral relations are expanding gradually and are expected to grow manifolds.

Advisor to Chief Minister Khawaja Ahmad Hassan welcomed the Turkish delegation at the business forum. It included addresses by PBIT CEO Jahanzeb Burana and Khawaja Hassan focusing on intensifying and further expanding trade and economic cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey.

Reforms needed to revive country’s agriculture

Use of modern techniques and technologies in agriculture is the need of the hour as it carries equal significance for both businessmen and men of science and technology.

This was the crux of the speeches delivered at a seminar on ‘High-Value Agriculture’ on Wednesday at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). Experts said that there is a dire need for reforms in the agriculture sector and addition in cropped area. “We cannot afford to stay where we are today in terms of cropped areas and per hectare yield because we are already running short of per capita food availability,” they added.

They said that the yield gap in the four major crops of Pakistan is three times more than the best producers in the world such as China and Egypt. The experts argued that low yield has contributed to poverty in rural areas besides forcing the country to import agriculture products to feed its population.

Speaking on the occasion, LCCI President Malik Tahir Javaid said that the agriculture sector of Pakistan continues to be the single largest and dominant driving force for growth.

Cabinet approves construction of jeep tracks in hilly areas

The government has further extended the scope of development schemes by including the building of jeep tracks in remote and hilly areas, which will enable the prime minister to launch such projects in his Murree constituency.

Earlier, the list of development schemes was expanded with the inclusion of union council offices which would be set up in the constituencies of parliamentarians in an attempt to ensure they reach out to the masses under the Prime Minister’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Achievement Programme before mid-2018 elections.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has already given a free hand to the departments concerned for the approval of development schemes in the constituencies of parliamentarians of the ruling and allied parties.

The government has also promised honorarium and reward to the officers and staff dealing with development schemes including new electricity and gas supply projects.

A senior official of the Parliamentary Affairs Division revealed that the government was earlier increasingly focusing on initiating electricity and gas supply schemes in untapped areas under the SDGs.

Now, the programme’s scope has been extended to cover the establishment of union council offices as well as grant and fund allocation for the running and upkeep of public infrastructure and facilities by local government institutions and bodies.

The cabinet, in a meeting held last month, noted that though the SDGs programme was being implemented successfully, there was a need to expand and enhance its scope in the area of infrastructure by including the laying of jeep tracks.

A steering committee had recommended to the cabinet that jeep tracks in remote and hilly terrains, which were effectively inaccessible, may be added in the SDGs programme as they would be cost-effective compared to metallic roads.

Following comprehensive discussions, the cabinet accorded its approval to the recommendation.

Earlier in a cabinet meeting held in November 2017, the parliamentary affairs minister and steering committee chairman underlined the need for expanding the SDGs programme by including more areas.

He pointed out that under the programme’s social sector, efforts were under way to provide missing facilities like furniture and fixtures for primary schools. However, he emphasised, such facilities with their maintenance were also required to be provided for the higher secondary schools – both existing and new – in order to strengthen infrastructure in the education sector.

PAC unearths bogus paperwork in funds transfer

The Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday barred the government from releasing budget after May 15 of every fiscal year after shocking disclosures that the ministries – with the consent of the finance secretary – were illegally transferring budget to non-lapsable accounts through bogus paperwork.

The illegal activity of transferring taxpayers’ money from a lapsable account to a non-lapsable account through bogus paperwork has been going on for the last many years.

“The move aimed at funding schemes submitted by politicians,” admitted Housing and Works Secretary Babar Hassan Bharwana before the PAC.

“The Ministry of Housing and Works illegally transferred Rs4.9 billion alone from a lapsable government account to a non-lapsable account during FY 2012-13, 2015-16 and 2016-17, through bogus documents,” Maqbool Ahmad Gondal, Director General Federal Audit Works told the PAC.

The Deputy Financial Adviser of the Finance Ministry also confessed before the PAC that the federal finance secretary was in the knowledge of this illegal activity and the funds were transferred with his consent in fiscal year 2015-16.

To fund the schemes in the constituency of Capitan (retd) Muhammad Safdar – the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif – the housing ministry transferred the funds to non-lapsable accounts during FY 2015-16.

However, Rs132 million against four schemes in Captain Safdar’s constituency could not be transferred and were lapsed.

According to the Financial Rules, the budget approved by parliament goes to the Personal Ledger Account–I (PLA-I) of the respective ministries and departments. The surplus money that is deposited in PLA-I has to be returned to the treasury before the close of the fiscal year.


Pakistan’s trade deficit with South America continues to rise

Pakistan’s imports from South American countries continued to outweigh its exports to the region, with a deficit of over $103 million registered during July-December last year.

Mercosur, a trading bloc of South American countries, is the fifth largest economy in the world today with a GDP of $2.7 trillion. However, Pakistan’s trade volume with the South American region has hovered around $600 million since FY2014-15, except FY2015-16 when the volume was recorded at $769.725 million.

While there has been an overall increase in the country’s imports from South America from $305 million in 2014-15 to $222 million in the first half of the current year, Pakistan’s exports to the region have gradually declined from $296 million in 2014-15 to $239 million in the last fiscal year.

Within the Mercusor, Pakistan’s largest trading partners have been Argentina and Brazil with bilateral trade volume at $160.894 million and $251.18 million, respectively, for fiscal year 2016-17, as per the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) figures.

The Ministry of Commerce says it recognises ‘the immense trade potential’ of the South American region and has taken steps to enhance trade with South American countries and Mercosur as a bloc. It says 2% additional drawback has been offered on exports to non-traditional markets including Latin America. Briefing a parliamentary committee recently, the ministry said it had proposed bilateral trade agreements to a number of South American countries but nothing concrete had been achieved so far.

Pakistan signed a framework agreement on trade with Mercosur on July 20, 2006 but no further progress was made. The ministry says it was due to a lack of consensus within Mercosur member states on signing a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Pakistan, as well as their preoccupation with finalising trade deals with the European Union. “South American markets restrict market access of textile products to protect the domestic industry and as such perceive textile products of Pakistan a threat to their domestic industry,” said the ministry’s compliance report submitted to the Senate.

‘Pakistan’s landscape ideal for entrepreneurial initiatives’

“Entrepreneurship is a necessity rather than a luxury to accommodate new graduates in the labour market,” Nadeem Hussain, founder of Pakistan’s largest microfinance bank Tameer, told audience in a filled-to-capacity room during a session on angel investors and start-ups on the last day of the Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday.

“The key is to become a serial entrepreneur rather than looking for a million-dollar idea,” he added, generating nods of agreement from his co-panelists Amir Adnan, owner of one of Pakistan’s largest fashion brands, and Hareem Bari, an accountant by profession who now advises companies on how to go beyond the start-up stage.

“Most successful entrepreneurs achieve success in their third or fourth venture rather than hitting a jackpot in their first try,” Hussain added, highlighting that past failures provide the business acumen and maturity for success in later projects.

“Most ventures do not look beyond the minimalist, subsistence needs of their businesses,” Hareem said, jumping on the bandwagon. “They will focus on ensuring basic supplies and expertise for their projects, but fail to look towards the future which causes most ventures to eventually crash and burn with varying degrees of success.”

After curbs on Iranian fruit import, Pakistan exporters fear retaliation

Pakistan’s recent restrictions on fresh fruit imports from Iran have sparked fears among domestic exporters that the neighbouring country may hit back by imposing similar curbs on shipments from Pakistan.

Since the restrictive measures by Pakistan, the inflow of Iranian fresh fruits has plunged by up to 90%. Demand for Iranian fruits had increased in Pakistan as well as other neighbouring countries because of their better quality.

Now that Pakistan has succeeded in reducing imports, it should consult Iranian officials in an attempt to design a new plan for enhancing mutual trade benefits. Exporters believe the two countries can substantially increase bilateral trade without targeting each other’s trade interests.

However, according to sources, Iranian policymakers have been concerned about the strict measures taken by Pakistan. This comes at a time when Pakistan’s exports to Iran are growing rapidly, creating an unhealthy trade environment for the neighbour.

“If Iran pushes ahead with its own restrictions, Pakistan may lose a lot as its growing exports to not only Iran but also to Central Asian states via Iran will come under threat,” commented an exporter.

Iran usually imports food commodities from Pakistan with relaxation in rules and quarantine standards. Owing to the preferential treatment, Pakistan’s exports to Iran have gone up 42% over the past nine months whereas Iran’s exports have increased only 7%.

According to Iranian data, Pakistan’s exports to Iran stood at $384 million compared to imports worth $630 million from Iran in the past nine months. The two countries, according to an agreement signed in 2016, expect to take bilateral trade to $5 billion by 2021.

Not only is Iran’s ministry of agriculture unhappy about the trade restrictions, but importers and exporters of the neighbour are also upset with the treatment they face while applying for a Pakistani visa.

The condition of having an invitation letter from a chamber of commerce in Pakistan prior to seeking visa and the requirement of submitting only hard copies of required documents have discouraged Iranian businessmen from visiting Pakistan.

Even the chief executive officer of Pak-Iran Investment Company needs to fly back to Iran and apply for visa after every three months.

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