Pak, Malaysia expected to finalise lng supply deal
Pakistan and Malaysia are likely to finalise a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply deal in a government-to-government arrangement during the upcoming visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad.
At present, 200 million cubic feet of LNG per day (mmcfd) is being handled by the second LNG terminal at Port Qasim, following short and long-term agreements with Gunvor and Eni respectively. As the capacity utilisation was far lower than the terminal’s capacity, the Cabinet Committee on Energy on Wednesday directed the Petroleum Division to arrange more gas imports in order to fully utilise the capacity of 750 mmcfd.
During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian premier discussed prospects of the LNG supply agreement. The two countries had already signed the Inter-governmental Agreement on LNG in November 2017. Malaysian energy firm Petronas offered LNG supply, but the agreement was delayed due to change of government.
Pakistan wants to export skilled and semi-skilled manpower to Malaysia, particularly in the information technology sector and for industrial-scale manufacturing in the field of electronics. Pakistan has also sought Malaysian investment in its oil and gas sector.
“The Malaysian premier will arrive on March 23 and several investment agreements are likely to be inked during his trip,” Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Deputy Secretary Information Chaudhry Hamid said. He said the PTI government had restored the confidence of investors in Pakistan due to improvement in security situation, therefore, investors were coming to explore investment opportunities.
“Investment by Saudi Arabia is an indicator for the rest of the world that Pakistan is an ideal destination for investment in different sectors,” he emphasised, adding that Saudi Arabia would inject money into the areas of oil, minerals, renewable energy and industry.
He said many countries were eyeing Pakistan for investment, adding that after the Saudi crown prince’s trip to Pakistan, the Malaysian prime minister would arrive next month. He stressed that without a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), different countries trusted the PTI as the government had taken several measures to stabilise the economy over the past six months.
Pak decides to export 500,000 tons of wheat
After producing surplus wheat in the past two years, Pakistan has decided to export 500,000 tons of the grain ahead of the arrival of new stock from March-April 2019.
The government is expected to earn Rs16.4 billion (or $117 million) from the volume set aside for export as it has offered to sell the grain at Rs32,759 per ton.
“The ECC (Economic Coordination Committee) of the cabinet has decided to sell half a million tons of wheat, including 400,000 tons by sea and 100,000 tons by land at the already received rate ie Rs32,759 per ton,” Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) said in a notification on Thursday.
An agricultural expert, however, believes the government has to award subsidy on export to make it commercially viable for cross-border traders keeping in view the comparatively low prices in the global market.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Pakistan has exported wheat at an average price of $210.5 per ton in the past six months (July-December 2018) compared to the offered price of $234 per ton (Rs32,759).
Passco – the state-owned agency responsible for maintaining stocks of wheat and other crops to avert shortage in the country and also responsible for conducting import and export operations for crops – achieved the Rs32,759 per ton price for wheat export in January through open bidding for 100,000 tons and wanted to sell another half a million tons at the same price.
“The highest rate ie Rs32,759 per ton was received through open bidding,” the agency said. The price was higher than the procurement rate of Rs32,500 per ton, it was learnt.
“Parties/bidders, who participated in the tender opened on January 11, 2019 and have not withdrawn their earnest money, are required to submit their willingness for the purchase of wheat at the rate of Rs32,759 along with quantity details,” it said.
“Besides, fresh applications are also invited on first-come-first-served basis from interested parties for the purchase of wheat (for export) at the already approved rate ie Rs32,759 per ton,” it added.
PM aide seeks to enlarge cooperation with World Bank
Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industries, Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood has emphasised that cooperation with the World Bank should be further expanded for improving business and investment environment in Pakistan.
“The World Bank has played an important role in modernising and supporting various development initiatives in Pakistan,” remarked Dawood while meeting a World Bank delegation, led by Country Director Patchamuthu Illangovan. The adviser stressed that Pakistan government was committed to taking necessary measures to improve the ease of doing business, enhance export competitiveness and promote industrialisation. He highlighted the importance of agriculture sector which was critical for the growth of industrial sector.
He informed the delegation about the government’s vision of restructuring the public sector and improving governance for more efficient service delivery.
Committee displeased with cut in it budget
The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on Thursday expressed displeasure over the reduction in the IT ministry’s development budget and stressed the need for restoring the original allocation.
The Senate body, chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, met to discuss budget allocation and utilisation of funds by the IT ministry. The committee was informed that the development budget was slashed by 50%.
Senator Abdul Rehman Malik pointed out that around the world great emphasis was laid on IT projects and software development. “This is the only thing that will take Pakistan forward,” he asserted. Speaking on the occasion, Senator Sana Jamali said if Pakistan wished to compete with developed countries, it was imperative to develop the IT sector.
Discussing details of the Universal Service Fund (USF), Malik said the mandate must be revised so that issues of least developed areas could be resolved.
Regarding the lack of services of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (Ufone) in various areas of the Malakand district, Senator Fida Muhammad informed the committee that there were three service providers in the area – Ufone, Telenor, and Zong with 17%, 70%, and 90% coverage respectively. He said Ufone provided the least service in the area and hence the issue must be resolved.
Officials of the Ministry of Information Technology said as per license obligations the service providers must meet the license conditions. It was also revealed that service providers tend to provide services in commercially viable areas.
Energy condition of Pakistan has improved’
The Belt and Road project has given birth to a new concept of development, said Federal minister for planning and development Khusro Bakhtiar.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony for Friends of Silk Route organised by the Pakistan China Institute on Thursday, he said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is above the interests and affiliations of the political parties. The energy projects related to CPEC have shown considerable impacts, he added.
He said that the energy situation of the country has improved over the past five years, as the sector has benefited from the CPEC-related projects. Bakhtiar shared that the government wants to expand the CPEC project to drive more regional development.
“The current year is the year for industrial support. Our government has signed contracts with the Chinese government to promote industry and agricultural sectors.” The minister also emphasised that there is a need to strengthen public contact and economic support between the two countries.
On February 24, a Chinese delegation will arrive in Pakistan to review possibilities and projects for social development, the minister said they wanted support in scale and human development. Giving details on the progress, Bakhtiar said that the Rashakai Economic Zone will be inaugurated in the next six weeks and new power plants and water projects will soon kick off in Gwadar.
Also speaking on the occasion, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs member Mushahid Hussain Syed welcomed the 14-member delegation from China. He said that the Friends of Silk Route project will bring harmony among the people and states lying in the region.
Cabinet orders gas, energy for industrial zones
The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to provide gas and electricity to various industrial zones on an immediate basis in order to facilitate investors, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
The cabinet met in Islamabad with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair. Briefing the media about the decisions, Chaudhry confirmed that the next round of talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban representatives would take place in Pakistan.
“There are many irregularities in the gas sector,” he said. “Taking note of the irregularities,” the minister added that the cabinet had asked the authorities concerned “to ensure provision of gas and electricity to the industrial zones” across the country.
He told the media that the upcoming visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was highly significant for Pakistan. “It is a milestone in path to numerous successes of the government on the foreign policy front,” he added.
“Pakistan has met with lots of foreign policy successes, as the country once again becomes a key player in Middle East politics. Pakistan is attracting large investments from all over the world,” the minister said, adding that Saudi Arabia alone would invest $8 billion in an oil refinery in Gwadar.
Pak meets all FATF requirements
Pakistan has taken all the five actions prescribed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) ahead of its first review, but India is expected to play the spoiler’s role and may push the case to get tougher on eight proscribed organisations.
The FATF’s plenary meetings would take place from February 17 to 22 in Paris. The global body that is working to combat money laundering and terrorism financing would hold the first review of Pakistan after placing the country on its grey list with effect from June 2018.
Islamabad had been given a 27-point action plan that the country will implement till September 2019.
Pakistan’s case would be presented by the Asia Pacific Group that will report progress on five out of 27 agreed actions, according to the Ministry of Finance officials. The authorities are hopeful that the country will be able to pass through the first milestone.
A Pakistani delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Financial Monitoring Unit would leave for Paris at the weekend. The FATF has placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose terrorism financing and anti-money laundering laws are described as deficient.
The FATF will review progress in four key areas –Terrorism Financing Risk Assessment report, report of the customs department on cash couriers, implementation on the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and inter-agency coordination. On basis of these four areas, the FATF had identified five actions for the first review of the implementation on the 27 point Action Plan.