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Finance Act renders PM's housing policy ineffective

The housing policy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been rendered ineffective as the Finance Act 1999-2000 limits the scope of various incentives to the builders and developers of only 500,000 housing units proposed to be constructed under the Prime Minister's Housing Policy for the low income population.

Industry sources told that the incentives offered to the builders of houses for the low income population envisaged in the policy directives (Prime Minister's Housing Policy) provide reduction of presumptive tax to the level of one percent, booking of the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) loan as expenses from the tax point of view, and no capital value tax (CVT) on immovable property.

Commercial courts to be set up soon, says Dar

Commercial courts will start functioning in Karachi and Lahore very soon to decide business disputes and ensure quality products for exports purposes.

"On quality we are not going to compromise and those who are found guilty of exporting inferior products will have to face these commercial courts", said the Minister for Finance and Commerce Ishaq Dar.

Speaking at a news conference here on Thursday to elaborate various issues contained in the new Trade Policy for 1999-2000, he said that value addition and quality control will be given utmost importance during the current financial year to increase the country's export earnings.

He assured that there will not be any devaluation to artificially achieve the export target at the end of the year. He said the government would ensure that Pakistan's currency was stable and did not warrant any depreciation as has been the case in the past.

Banking court

A retired judge of the Supreme Court is being given an important assignment to help set up the special banking courts to recover huge outstanding loans from the defaulters.

According to official sources, the government has contacted Justice retired Shafi ur Rehman to frame laws for establishing special banking courts to be operational soon.

Dar will visit China to negotiate $24m loan for Saindak

Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Sardar Kamil Umar informed the National Assembly Wednesday that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is going to China to negotiate a $24 million loan for Saindak Project.

He was responding to a calling attention notice by MNAs Sanaullah Baloch, Shakeel Ahmad Baloch and Shabbir Ahmad Chandio regarding the non-allocation of funds in the budget 1999-2000 for Saindak Metal Copper and Gold Project in Chagi district.

Replying to a question by Shabbir Ahmad Khan Chandio, the Parliamentary Secretary for Finance said, "We feel strongly that if the matter is discussed with China, they will agree to it."

Govt stakes in POL, ARL to be off-loaded

A high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif here on Tuesday decided to quicken the pace of privatization specially by disinvesting PTCL, KESC, banks and DFIs during 1999.

According to informed sources, the prime minister said that with the Kargil issue subsiding, it was necessary now to undertake greater economic activities and that maximum privatization should be done before the end of this year.

Chairman Privatization Commission Kh Asif told the meeting that KESC, PTCL, Habib Bank and the United Bank were almost ready for privatization.

He said that since the stock market was improving, state-owned entities were likely to get better price.

The prime minister directed the officials of the PC to get rid of the loss making units so that their recurring expenditure could be saved.

He also said that country's most expensive debt which was about 8 billion dollars should be retired on priority by selling the state entities.

The prime minister was also informed that 30 per cent government shares in the oil and gas sector were also being off-loaded to get 6 to 8 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to divest its minority shareholding in Pakistan Oilfields Ltd (POL) and Attock Refinery Ltd (ARL), as part of its broader policy of restructuring and reform of the oil and gas sector.

According to the PC, the current government share-holding in POL and ARL is 34.76% and 35% respectively, and the planned divestment is not envisaged to make any change in the existing management structure of the two companies.

NWFP to set up investment board

The NWFP government has decided to set up an investment board in the province and the provincial finance department is working on this proposal, official sources said.

"The move has been undertaken under the instructions of the provincial chief minister, Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan, to facilitate the flow of investment, offering one-window facilities to local and foreign investors", Saeed-ur-Rehman, financial adviser to the government of NWFP said while talking to this correspondent at Peshawar.

Plans to set up stock market in Peshawar

Bank of Khyber (BoK) is contemplating a programme to assist the province of NWFP build a financial market and set up a stock market in Peshawar.

"Serious efforts are being made to establish capital market in NWFP," said Tahir Abbas, the newly appointed managing director of BoK.

New rules for duties, taxes under baggage scheme

Central Board of Revenue has announced new procedure of collecting duties and taxes on import of vehicles and baggage in foreign currency.

Through a Customs General Order No 22/1999, dated July 15, 1999, the CBR says: Consequent upon federal government's decision, vide the budgetary measures 1999-2000, that customs duties and taxes on the passengers' accompanied and unaccompanied baggage and on the import of motor vehicles under the relevant schemes/rules, shall be changed in foreign exchange, the following procedure is laid down for implementation in the light of the State Bank of Pakistan's letter No 44/5/FEP/537/99 dated June 28, 1999, addressed to the Executive Vice President, International Division, National Bank of Pakistan.