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Karakoram highway and Lowari tunnel opened for all kinds of traffic

National Highway Authority has successfully completed its snow clearance an operation from Karakoram Highway (N-35) and resultantly all kinds of traffic is plying on it. Likewise NHA has also removed snow from the North and South portal roads of Lowari Tunnel located on N-45.

According to details, at average 01:00 metre to 01:50 metre snow was recorded there. The officers and staff of National Highway Authority and personnel of contractor of routine maintenance arranged snow removing machinery including Bulldozers, Graders and tractors at affected sites and completed snow clearance operations on emergency basis. Now Lowari Tunnel and access roads have been opened for safe passage.

Further, Karakoram Highway, a symbol of Pak-China Friendship, is termed life line for the whole Gilgit Baltistan region. As per report, severe chill spell and heavy snowfall affected the Sost-Khunjerab section of the KKH. In order to clear the road from land sliding and snow, pragmatic steps were undertaken and now the road is opened to all types of traffic.

It is to recall that NHA is endeavouring hard to make its network trafficable in recent severe cold season, and to this effect all resources are being utilized in the best possible manner to facilitate the commuters. NHA is also in close coordination with local and district administrations and extending full cooperation for the purpose.

NHA’s Snow Removal Operation
All critical section of highways in Balochistan cleared to traffic

In recent severe snowfall in Balochistan National Highway Authority (NHA) undertook emergent steps and ensured earlier removal of snow from affected sections of National Highways in Balochistan.

According to details, consequent upon the weather alert issued by Metrological Department regarding heavy snowfall in Balochistan Province, National Highway Authority Quetta prepared a comprehensive plan for the said task in order to ensure successful execution of the critical snow removal operation for the safety of commuters. Routine Maintenance contractors and personnel were asked to deploy their machinery and staff at the critical locations of Khojak Pass, N-25 (2 Graders, 02 Loaders, 10 Tractors), Mastung-Lakpass-Quetta, N-25 (2 Graders, 1 Loader 2 Tractors), Kolpur N-65 (2 Graders, 6 Tractors), Khanozai-KanMehterzai-Muslim Bagh, N-50 (7 Graders, 2 Loaders, 3 Tractors) Mangocher-Kalat-Surab, N-25 (3 Graders, 1 Loader, 2 Tractors) and Lakpass-Kanak N-40 (1 Grander, 2 Loader).

The field officers of NHA also remained at site during the spell of snow fall and were all time in coordination with District Administration of all the concerned Districts i-e Qilla Abdullah, Mastung, Pishin, Kalat, Bolan and Qila-Saifullah to ensure early removal of snow from National Highways and management of traffic.

All critical sections of national highways were cleared timely by deploying heavy machinery such as graders, loaders, tractors, pickups and by sprinkling salt at cleared sections.

Governor Balochistan Mr. Amanullah Khan Yasinzai and Chief Secretary Balochistan Mr. Aurangzeb Haque along with MPA Ms. Shahina Kakar visited N-50 and appreciated the efforts of NHA for clearance of main critical sections and instructed to help district administration and people of the area in clearance of link roads along N-50.Two graders were therefore deployed by NHA on Provincial Link Roads of KanMehterzai Town.

Since the initial spell of snowfall, NHA Quetta had been working on all National Highways in Balochistan to ensure their operational activity. Snow Clearance Machinery was deployed from the very first day which was augmented due to severity of the weather. These efforts were appreciated by Chief Secretary Balochistan and he personally conveyed this fact to Chairman NHA Capt ® Sikandar Qayyum.

Chief Minister Balochistan Mr. Jam Kamal Khan also called the Chairman NHA Capt ® Sikandar Qayyum for arrangement of an additional crane and a few graders. Accordingly 02 x additional graders and 1 x crane were arranged for Khanozai-KanMehterzai-Muslim Bagh section.

Nielsen and IBA CDC opens Nielsen academy for students

Nielsen in collaboration with the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi’s Career Development Center (CDC) launched an educational market research initiative for graduating students titled Neilsen Academy at the Main Campus. The ceremony was attended by students, faculty members, research professionals and experts.

The program, comprising of both coursework and fieldwork aims to not only equip students with the necessary knowledge required to excel in the workforce but will also provide them the opportunity to learn about the latest research dynamics from experts in the field.

“Through our collaboration with Nielsen, we are excited to provide our students a platform where they can test their potential by utilizing their educational learning in challenging practical scenarios,” remarked Associate Dean Faculty of Computer Science (FCS) IBA Karachi, Dr. Sayeed Ghani. He further added, “It is important for them to understand how market research takes place, especially in our local context, by differentiating how academic research is different from actual market research”.

While addressing the students at the launch, Operations Lead, Nielsen, Moutasim Ehsan said, “It is a privilege for us to work alongside IBA to bring something unique for these students by helping them build their skill set and gaining insights on the evolving role of market research in today’s world as well as in Pakistan”.

Nielsen Academy is part of Nielsen’s community outreach efforts to offer young soon-to-be professionals with the opportunity to complement their academic experience with practical insights by engaging them in an interactive learning process with market research professionals.

The launch concluded with an interactive Q and A session with students on research areas, sector growth, and market potential.

Metro inaugurates ‘star farm academy’ for skilled youth

METRO Pakistan Ltd in collaboration with Star Farm inaugurated the Star Farm Academy at its Canal Store Lahore, with the vision of “Enhancing Skills for Better Tomorrow”. The inauguration ceremony was attended by the senior management of both, METRO Pakistan and the Star Farm Pakistan.

Star Farm Academy aims to enhance skills of youth who are seeking support in filling the gap between their existing skills and the required skill set of jobs.

The first project titled “Retail Sales Associate Training Program” was initiated by the Star Farm Academy, and implemented in collaboration with Generation and Pakistan Skills Development Fund (PSDF) funded by the Government of Punjab and UKAid. The 3 weeks long project is designed to have rigorous class room sessions along with on-the-job training to upscale the retail sales skills. On completion of the program, the project aims to introduce these trained professionals to different retail organizations for permanent job placement.

Up till now 103 candidates have been trained under this project and 30 have already been placed in sales force department of leading retail brands.

Western union now at MCB bank in Pakistan

Western Union, a leader in cross-border, cross-currency money movement and payments, and MCB Bank, one of the leading banks in Pakistan, last week announced the launch of Western Union money transfer services across over 1,400 MCB Bank branches in both major cities and remote areas of Pakistan.

Customers can receive money from their families and loved ones from around the world – coming both from Western Union’s digital services in more than 75 countries, plus additional territories, and its walk-in Agent network of more than 550,000 locations throughout more than 200 countries and territories.

“Pakistan is an important market for Western Union and we are delighted to collaborate with MCB Bank to boost financial inclusion and offer customers a seamless option to receive money in cash,” said Ali Badreddine, Western Union Country Director for Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and South Sudan. “We believe that when money moves, better things happen. A world of opportunity becomes available to those with economic backing: small businesses grow, a child goes to school, economic aid arrives the moment it’s needed and economies bloom.”

Personal remittances received in Pakistan are an important contribution to the country’s GDP. According to World Bank data, Pakistan was the world’s seventh largest remittance receiver country in 2018. The country also has one of the highest international migration rates, which highlights the importance of offering efficient money transfer services to consumers locally.

“As people move to other countries in search of better employment opportunities, remittances become an important source of family income for many back home. They boost not only the economic growth of the country but also that of the household. We are delighted to offer customers access to money transfer services with Western Union – a brand globally recognized for the speed, reliability, trust and convenience of its services,” said Muhammad Naeem Saigol, Division Head, Transaction Banking Division, MCB Bank.

Western Union has operated in Pakistan for the past 20 years and currently has a network of 9,600 Agent locations across the country.

LKMWT with hunar foundation continues awareness drive in safeguarding common ailments

Latif Kapadia Memorial Welfare Trust (LKMWT) keeping their effort to create awareness for various basic health issues and the particular effects of consuming gutka, chalia and other tobacco related substances in our society have continued their collaboration with the Hunar Foundation (THF) to safeguard the common ailments within the society by adapting precautionary measures and spreading awareness.

Following their alliance, an event ‘Hazards of tobacco related substances and Oral Hygiene’ was held at the Karachi Women’s Institute of The Hunar Foundation, with the core purpose of educating the students about the harmful effects of consuming gutka and chalia by educating the students toward the necessary precautionary steps that need to be ensure to overcome this addiction and menace.

The awareness session and Oral Health screening camp was conducted by Dr. Dinaz Ghandhi, Honorary Board Member LKMWT who is also a Professor at the Altamash Institute and Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon at the Aga Khan University Hospital. Ms Naeema Kapadia, Executive Director, LKMWT along with Mr Arsalan Khan, and Mr Ghulam Haider of LKMWT.

The junior doctors of Altamash Institute of Dental Medicine carried out an Oral Health screening camp for around a 100 students and staff members of THF.

Commenting on the occasion, Ms Naeema Kapadia of LKMWT said, “We are extremely happy to continue our collaboration with THF and be given this platform where are able to provide health awareness. Not only with the students be sound vocationally but will also be healthy and a healthy mind is a progressive mind. We are also thankful to the Altamash Institute of Dental Medicine for being a part of this event and cause.”

Dr Dinaz Ghandhi while commenting on the occasion said, “This event is a follow up to the awareness sessions conducted earlier on the hazards of gutka, paan, chalia etc usage and oral health awareness. Conducting Oral Health Screening camps for the students is very crucial to see how many of them indulge in use of the above hazardous substances and show signs of precancerous lesions like Oral Submucous Fibrosis (OSF). It will help identify individuals who require further medical assistance,” she concluded.

IBA Karachi and UBL collaborate to facilitate students

The IBA, Karachi received a cheque from the United Bank Limited (UBL) to provide scholarships to 4 students of the Institute for 4 years, that is, the duration of their studies. UBL has also given donations for the scholarships and capacity building of Masters of Science in Journalism (MSJ) Program.

The objective of this scholarship is to help facilitate talented and deserving students to gain higher education.

The donation to the MSJ covers scholarships and trainings that will facilitate students as they immerse themselves in learning the skills required in all forms of journalism – digital, audio and video – and gain practical experience.

In the ceremony, the IBA was represented by newly appointed Executive Director IBA, Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi, Head of Alumni, Corporate Relations, and Communications Department (ACRC) Malahat Awan and her team, and Assistant Manager IBA Talent Hunt Programs, Rizwan Bukhari Executive Talent Hunt Programs Zahoor Detho, from the National Talent Hunt Program (NTHP) team, while UBL was represented by Group Executive Human Resources Sadia Saeed, Senior Manager Corporate Affairs Raza Mustjab Haider and Assistant Manager Corporate Affairs Ayesha Ahsan. After the ceremony, the UBL team visited the CEJ where they presented a cheque to Director CEJ Kamal Siddiqi and were given a tour of the Centre.

The UBL representatives also met the entire NTHP team, including the 4 students from remote areas, whom they will be sponsoring for 4 years.

Jazz introduces the world’s most affordable smartphone

To improve digital access, Jazz, Pakistan’s leading digital company has launched Jazz Digit 4G – ‘Pakistan ka smartphone’ (Pakistan’s smartphone). While Pakistan boasts having some of the cheapest tariff rates for voice and data, the main barrier to internet has been the affordability of smartphones. To help address this barrier Jazz has partnered with KaiOS Technologies to release the Jazz Digit 4G smartphone at the most affordable price point, offering a suite of unique features.

Jazz Digit 4G becomes the most affordable smart feature phone on the global market, at a down payment of just PKR 1800 (USD 11*). The customer is required to sign up for a one-year service with Jazz at an extremely affordable PKR 300/ month which includes 1,000 minutes, 1000MB data, free SMS and free calling to doctors along with unlimited Facebook and WhatsApp for the first 3 months.

This initiative targets the wellbeing of the lesser privileged and underserved segment of our society with over 55% of Pakistan’s 165m subscribers using feature and 2G phones with internet penetration standing at 35%. While access to the internet is said to be the most effective driver of GDP for emerging economies.

The smartphone comes equipped with a Jazz Super 4G SIM that powers WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Voice, and Jazz TV as part of the 200 and more apps they can access at the KaiStore, since the device runs on KaiOS, the third largest mobile operating system worldwide. With a sophisticated front-and-back camera and flash, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Hotspot facility, this phone provides an almost all-inclusive feature set that any leading smartphone may have.

The launch event was attended by leading government and telecom leaders who lauded a private sector company for being invested in improving the country’s digital and financial inclusion landscape.

 

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation and Chairperson BISP, Dr. Sania Nishtar stated, “The Ehsaas programme is the Government’s signature programme dedicated towards poverty alleviation in Pakistan through leveraging technology and promoting access of the vulnerable population to digital and financial inclusion.” She then continued, “Most of the digitally excluded segments are poor women, and initiatives like KaiOS which further digital inclusion can improve outcomes significantly. Ehsaas has multiple initiatives that can utilize digital technologies to target the neediest populations effectively”

Whereas globally countries are looking to sunset 2G and focus more on 4G technology, Pakistan has been unable to effectively align with this global trend, due to regulatory policy challenges. This step by Jazz comes at the right time as the government pushes for an aggressive spectrum roadmap to propel digitalization.

Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim, who has been championing #DigitalPakistan for the past two years, said, “We want 2020 to start with this new device setting the benchmark for a nationwide 4G revolution. Although, we have successfully tested 5G, our biggest challenge and opportunity is to take 2G customers to 4G and to offer good quality broadband to every Pakistani. We saw an inequality, and we went ahead and tried to fix it with this affordable phone.”

“We’re excited to help bring another device to the people of Pakistan,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “The digital divide continues to be a persistent issue across the country, but we know smart feature phones, like the Digit 4G, will positively impact the lives of new users.”

Jazz celebrated its 25th-anniversary last year with a robust 60 million subscriber base, and this smartphone launch marks another milestone in the commitment to empowering Pakistan’s youth through technology.

IBA-CICT to participate in digital Pakistan conference as an academic strategic partner

The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi’s Center for Information and Communication Technology (IBA-CICT) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with AMFCO Technologies to participate as an academic strategic partner in the Digital Pakistan Conference. The conference will be held on April 15, 2020 at a private hotel in Karachi. The ceremony was attended by C-level executives from a number of organizations.

Sharing his views on this occasion, Director IBA ICT and CICT, Imran Batada said, “As we know that the world has entered into the fourth revolution which is driven by new technologies such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Block Chain, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning etc, therefore, it is high time for Pakistan to bridge the gap in order to achieve the goals. Digital Pakistan Conference is not ‘just-another-conference’ but through this platform we would like to contribute to the government’s agenda of digitalizing Pakistan.”

CEO AMFCO Technologies, Maroof Ayub said, “Digital Pakistan Conference envisions a digital Pakistan which will be characterized with e-governance, digital skilling and its implementation, and utilization of latest technologies. We are really glad to collaborate with the IBA, Karachi for the first time to organize this conference. We hope that this conference will provide digital awakening in Pakistan.”

Digital Pakistan Conference will aspire globally successful entrepreneurs, technology experts, and leaders, and help in bringing them together to showcase the potential of Pakistan as a tech-hub. The conference will explore five main pillars of digitization in Pakistan including: 1) Access and Connectivity, 2) Digital Infrastructure, 3) E-Governance, 4) Digital Skilling and Literacy, 5) Innovation and Entrepreneurship. These pillars can play a pivotal role in the overall socioeconomic growth of the country. The conference will provide a platform where participants can not only share their ideas with each other, but will also provide guidelines for the government’s various projects.

Disruption of fertilizer supply feared

The Federal government has passed a Tax Ordinance on 26th December 2019, which restricts fertilizer companies from claiming input sales tax on retailing of urea to unregistered dealers. This overnight knee jerk action by the Government has very serious implications for the industry and the farmers as 99% of urea dealers are not registered in Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The law reads “A registered manufacturer shall make all taxable supplies to a person who has obtained registration under this Act failing which the supplier shall not be entitled to claim credit adjustment or deduction of input tax as attributable to such excess supplies to unregistered person”. While the intent of the law is appreciated, it has serious business implications. The supply chain of fertilizer across the country would be disrupted badly since registration of existing dealers’ network or induction of new dealers is expected to take considerable time. The loss on account of inability to claim the refund / adjustment on the attributable input sales tax on supplies to the unregistered dealers may lead to uncalled for price hike leading to incremental burden on farmers that is not the desire of industry or Govt. Industry wide impact is expected into Billions of rupees per annum. In the middle of Rabbi season, any disruption of supply of Urea will have serious implications for the wheat crop and endanger the national food security.

On the edge of government policies, the fertilizer industry is already facing the input and output GST imbalance and this new ordinance, which has been enforced without addressing the legitimate concerns of the fertilizers companies, will lead to losses in billions.

Describing the issue, sources in fertilizer industry disclosed that they pay GST to government in various ways, such as in feed stock gas @ 5% GST is applicable and on fuel stock gas, the fertilizer manufacturer is paying 17% GST and on account of other input taxes industry in paying 17 percent GST, while the output GST is collected @ 2% GST.

In simple terms, a fertilizer manufacturer is paying 125 rupees as input GST and collects 40 rupees as in output GST, thus 85 rupees refund to the fertilizer manufacturer per bag. As per the new ordinance fertilizer companies would not be able to claim the 85 rupees to government because 99% urea dealers are not GST registered, which costs the industry in a loss of 10 billion rupees. Furthermore, at this stage the government is already liable to pay 29 billion rupees of fertilizers manufacturers on account of previous sales tax adjustments.

In the statement Executive Director of Fertilizer Manufacturer of Pakistan Advisory Council (FMPAC) Brig (Retd) Sher Shah stated “Contrary to the government’s claim of promoting ‘ease of doing business’, this Ordinance may have serious implications on the fertilizer industry as well as the farmers, as the entire supply chain is feared to be disrupted since registration of the existing dealers is expected to take considerable time.” Therefore, FBR has been requested to allow reasonable time to targeted dealers for registration, he further added in his statement.

Economic confidence sees a bounce for q4 2019, finds ACCA-IMA survey

A survey of nearly 100 senior accountancy experts on economic conditions in Pakistan shows a marked increase in economic confidence during the last three months of 2019, recovering strongly to above both its long run and recent average levels.

However, the global report Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS), jointly published by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) also points to an unusual economic picture for Pakistan: while confidence increased, the orders balance was weak and below average.

Explaining the situation, Sajjeed Aslam, head of ACCA Pakistan says: ‘This is unusual, but in fact it makes sense as the rise in confidence relates to progress in addressing structural imbalances while orders point to continued weak GDP growth in coming quarters.’

Results for Pakistan show:

  • The focus of policy continues to be the correction of imbalances in the government and external sectors and the reduction of inflation from double digit rates to within a 5 to 7 per cent target range.
  • There has been a big fall in the current account deficit, including a monthly surplus in October 2019, mainly as a result of weaker imports.
  • The fiscal deficit is also declining as revenue raising measures instigated by the IMF take effect. The bad news is that inflation has increased in recent months, reaching 12.4% in December compared with just over 7% at the start of the year. Nevertheless, the State Bank of Pakistan kept interest rates on hold at 13.35% at its latest policy meeting in November.
  • The outlook for the economy remains for modest growth of around 3.5% in 2020, below the long run average.

Sajjeed Aslam adds: “The view from Pakistan’s central bank is that temporary factors have pushed up inflation to an elevated rate, notably through food prices. As these effects diminish, inflation is likely to moderate. In addition, the State Bank of Pakistan notes that a stable currency and the end of monetary financing of government deficits have eased inflation expectations.”

The global picture

Global economic confidence bounced back in Q4 2020, to around its level in mid-2019. The global poll of 2,560 accountants shows that all key regions reported a bounce in confidence and the most confident part of the global economy was again South Asia and the Middle East.

In Q4, GECS’s inflation measure fell to the lowest level in three years at 42%. Inflation in developed and many developing economies is running at low levels. Indeed, in some cases concerns are growing that inflation is too low such that deflation cannot be ruled out

Looking ahead, the GECS report takes an in-depth year ahead look at the prospects and risks facing the global economy in 2020, predicting that after slowing in 2019 the global economy is likely to expand at a steady if modest rate this year of close to 3%. It also says that the risks of 2019 will mainly persist into 2020, including a re-escalation of trade tensions, geopolitical risks especially in the Middle East, high levels of emerging market debt and the UK-EU trading relationship post-Brexit.

Speaking of the global picture, Michael Taylor, ACCA’s chief economist added: “Many risks to the global economy in 2020 are the same as in 2019, including trade tensions between the US and China, which were a major cause of slowing global growth. Recent developments in this area have been positive, but risks of a re-escalation with renewed tariff increases remain. The Middle East is the current focus of geopolitical risk although the potential for conflict here to hurt the global economy through a surge in oil prices is much reduced.”

Sajjeed Aslam concludes: “What our GECS Q4 2019 emphasises is the fact that individual country’s economies are hyper-connected. Social, political or fiscal movements in one country affect another, sometimes very powerfully. There are risks ahead which need to be managed very carefully, such as debt levels which are at elevated levels and rising in many emerging markets.”

GECS Q4 2020 can be found online at: https://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/professional-insights/global-economics/GECS_Q4_2020.html

AlHuda CIBE will organize 2nd international interest-free banking and takaful forum in Addis Ababa

The second International Interest-Free Banking and Takaful Forum will convene in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia on 18th February, 2020 to explore and discuss regulation and supervision of interest-free finance industry, governance, investment, and innovative financial inclusion strategies that can create clear pathways to financial and economic Solutions. This Apex event is organized by AlHuda CIBE with the support of The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and Millennium Information Solution FZ LLC.

More than 18 countries will be participating in this prestigious event. The theme of the forum is to develop interest free banking and Takaful regulations for smooth operations and growth and to adopt the latest trends, address the challenges and discover the new opportunities in interest-free financial industry of Africa. Interest-Free Banking and Takaful is good solution for Banking and insurance industry needs. The forum will cover a variety of topics including frontier of Interest-Free banking and Takaful, regulation and supervision of the industry, Shariah governance of interest-free banking and Takaful industry, investment opportunities.

The main objectives of the summit include e.g. recognizing significant smooth developments in Interest-free Financial Infrastructure of Africa, regulations and supervision of interest free banking and Takaful industry, linkages of African Interest-free Finance industry with international financial market, share the best practices of the international Interest-free banking market with African Interest-free finance Industry, assessing innovations in Interest-free financial markets through the growth of newly developed research based products etc. The event is open for the public with very nominal entrance fee. It is highly recommended that more and more organizations, companies and banks join the summit in order to gain the maximum benefit from this international event in Ethiopia.

Muhammad Zubair Mughal, Chief Executive Officer, AlHuda CIBE-UAE echoed his thoughts, and said that Interest-free finance is fastest growing area in African countries, Interest-free finance is not only developing its roots in Muslim countries but many non-Muslim countries are getting benefit from it. AlHuda Centre of Islamic Banking and Economics (CIBE) is committed to providing specialized Training, Advisory and Research globally with commitment, dedication, and aspiration in Africa. Keeping the above vision in mind, AlHuda CIBE with its vibrant staff has been working with full dedication since 2006 for strengthening Interest-free Financial System. He also added that AlHuda CIBE already have its footprints in Tanzania, Somaliland, Uganda, South Africa & Nigeria but in next six month they will unlock two new countries from Africa including Ethiopia for their services.

He further said that five new interest-free banks are ready to start its operations in the market including Zam Zam Bank, Hijre Bank, Zad Bank, Shabelle Bank, and Nijashi Bank. More than 10 interest-free window operations are also going to start their operations for the development of economy to strengthen the growth of the market and to uplift the living standards of the public. A few of the banks are also coming into the markets with stand-alone branches for interest free banking operation. Insurance industry is also participating with zeal and zest and two – three Takaful insurance companies are also starting the operations in insurance market.

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