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ECONOMIC TIMES OF PAKISTAN
Conditions eased for solar panel import

The government has relaxed some conditions for an extended period in a bid to clear and release hundreds of containers carrying solar panels and related equipment stuck at the port.

The matter of delay in release of containers holding solar panels and related equipment was taken up in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 20.

Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda drew attention of the cabinet to the issue. Consequently, PM Imran took notice of the matter and gave directive for resolving it.

Now, the Ministry of Commerce has delayed the application of SRO 604, which pertains to the quality standards required to be followed for the import of solar panels and related equipment, up to August 31, 2019. The SRO had been issued on May 28, 2019.

The ministry introduced several standards, including some stringent conditions, under the SRO for the import of good-quality solar panels and equipment. This led to the piling up of around 500 containers at the port.

‘B2B ties necessary for technological progress’

Promotion of business-to-business (B2B) relationship is essential for technological and industrial development of Pakistan under the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), remarked Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing.

In a meeting with Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Hammad Azhar, the envoy added that this would help enhance Pakistan’s export capacity.

He reiterated his government’s commitment to the strategic relationship with Pakistan and voiced hope that his office would further strengthen relationship between the two countries, according to a statement released on Friday.

The ambassador updated the minister about the progress made on CPEC-related projects.

Yao stated that in the second phase of CPEC, socio-economic development projects, coupled with the grant of financing for the benefit of common man, were a priority.

Speaking on the occasion, Azhar underlined that CPEC was a flagship project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which was now entering a new phase of development.

He emphasised the government’s commitment to a swift implementation of the second phase for the benefit of people of Pakistan.

Middle Eastern Airlines demand more rights

Contrary to objectives of Pakistan’s National Aviation Policy 2019, the Middle Eastern countries demand more rights when Pakistani authorities invite them to revisit and reduce the number of flights under previous agreements.

“With a view to further exploring avenues of mutual cooperation in the aviation industry, the delegations representing aeronautical authorities of Pakistan and Oman met in Islamabad on the request of Pakistan in pursuance of the vision of the government of Pakistan,” read a statement issued by Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) on Friday.

Pakistani side was led by Aviation Division Senior Joint Secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar and Omani side was headed by Oman Public Authority for Civil Aviation Air Transport Department Director Salim Hamed Al Husaini.

“In accordance with the vision contained in the National Aviation Policy 2019, both delegations discussed different avenues for further strengthening aviation relations and giving more benefit to the aviation industries of both countries,” said the statement. Pakistan and Oman agreed to continue consultations in order to promote their respective aviation industries.

Under the aviation policy, it was promised to reduce the number of flights of Middle Eastern airlines, which was criticised by Pakistan’s air carriers for stealing their traffic.

Following the censure, the PCAA amended the National Aviation Policy 2015 and provided tax incentives to local airlines and promised to revisit bilateral agreements with the Middle Eastern countries.

APG places Pakistan on enhanced monitoring list for at least 1-year

The Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering has placed Pakistan on its enhanced monitoring list after Islamabad’s performance was found unsatisfactory on three-fourth of the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) recommendations.

In its Mutual Evaluation Report, the FATF style regional body observed that the effectiveness of Pakistan’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes were of low level.

The APG prepared the Mutual Evaluation Report after two visits to Pakistan during which they exchanged at least four technical annexures with Islamabad – the body provided government ample opportunities to improve the situation.

Pakistan’s Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) played an effective role as coordinating agency to highlight areas for improvement on which authorities were required-to focus and address the issues.

Islamabad now has six months to show progress as the first enhanced monitoring report will be submitted in February next year to APG. APG findings will be presented in the FATF Plenary. Pakistan’s “enhanced monitoring”, on the other hand, begins immediately.

PM seeks economic revival plan

Amid a sharp economic slowdown, Prime Minister Imran Khan has given directives for drawing up a new economic revival plan – giving an uphill task to his team to find avenues for growth and job creation in the midst of an unprecedentedly harsh International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme.

PM Imran has asked economic managers to rewrite the recently approved macroeconomic framework, which has been stamped by the IMF Executive Board hardly two months ago, sources told.

However, the economic managers have very little room left to tinker with the design of the $6-billion IMF programme due to stringent conditions such as the limit on spending, increase in taxes, ban on printing currency notes and restrictions on issuing new sovereign guarantees.

Sources said the areas where the finance ministry was seeing room for change was improving perception about the economy before seeking private-sector investment and convincing the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) governor to stop further increase in the interest rate.

The SBP is trying to contain inflation fuelled by its own actions and those of the federal government – like a steep depreciation of the rupee, unprecedented heavy taxes and increase in prices of gas, electricity and petroleum products.

 

PKR strengthens against $

The rupee strengthened against the dollar at Rs157.7/158.2 in the inter-bank market on Friday compared with Thursday’s close of Rs158.35/158.85, according to forex.pk. Earlier, the SBP let the rupee depreciate massively in the inter-bank market after finalising an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan programme on May 12. The IMF has asked Pakistan to end state control of the rupee and let the currency move freely to find its equilibrium against the US dollar and other major world currencies.

SPI declines 0.08pc

The Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI) for the week ended August 22, 2019 registered a decrease of 0.08percent for the combined income group, going down from 272.05 points during the week ended August 16, 2019 to 271.83 points in the week under review. The SPI for the combined income group surged 18.91percent compared to the corresponding week of previous year. The SPI for the lowest income group increased 0.04percent compared to the previous week. The index for the group stood at 250.54 points against 250.43 points in the previous week, according to provisional figures released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). During the week, average prices of 24 items rose in a selected basket of goods, prices of seven items fell and rates of remaining 22 goods recorded no change.

NAB not to pursue sales, income tax cases against business community

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will not pursue sales and income tax related cases against the business community and existing ones would be transferred to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), announced NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Friday.

The development comes two days after Law Minister Farogh Naseem had announced that laws would be amended to strip NAB of the powers to take action against private individuals – particularly the business fraternity.

PM’s Information Adviser Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, while addressing a news conference on Tuesday, said that in view of apprehensions of the business community against the graft watchdog, the federal cabinet discussed how the practice of arm-twisting and threatening of businessmen by some elements in NAB officials can be halted.

Speaking to a delegation of the business community, the NAB chief said that the business community is backbone of the country and the anti-corruption watchdog acknowledged their services in progress and prosperity of the nation.

Pak fast gaining access to markets of developed nations

Pakistan is fast strengthening trade ties and getting access to markets of several developed countries around the globe in an attempt to increase exports, which is a must to do away with the pressure on the rupee, build foreign currency reserves and steer the country out of the financial crisis.

“We have got increased market access to China, Europa, Indonesia…and a small market access in Qatar,” said Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Investment, Industries, Production and Textile Abdul Razak Dawood during a visit to a Dawlance factory on Friday.

“Now I am going to the United States to get more market access there,” he said, adding that there were four other countries with whom Islamabad was negotiating to get more market access, which included Canada, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

“All of us in Pakistan must understand that without (revival of) exports this country is not going anywhere,” he remarked while emphasising that exports were increasing at a fast pace.

“Are the country’s exports increasing fast,” he asked and said in the same breath “the answer is yes.”

He said exports increased 14percent in July 2019 compared to July 2018. “That is good, but still not good enough. We have to do a lot more. Data for August is keenly awaited to see whether the trend is sustained,” he said.

Pakistan’s exports remained almost static at $24.22 billion in FY19 compared to $24.76 billion in FY18, according to the central bank.

Dawood said exports, which started improving at the outset of second year of his government, would help ease pressure on the rupee and build foreign currency reserves of the country.

The current account deficit dropped significantly to $13.5 billion in FY19 compared to a record high of around $20 billion in FY18. “The deficit will be further restricted in the range of $5-7 billion in the current fiscal year,” he said.

He, however, regretted too much reliance on textile exports and urged other sectors of the economy to play their role in diversifying exports. “We have to now move towards export of engineering goods, chemicals, IT products, processed food and others,” he said.

The PM aide was happy to note that engineering firms like Millat Tractors and Dawlance had started exporting their products to African and European countries respectively.

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