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Sep 20, 1999

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ECNEC okays Rs9.4bn projects

The Executive Committee of; the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved here on Thursday different development projects in various sectors of the economy, including education, communication and agriculture with a total cost of Rs 9.497 million.

The ECNEC meeting was presided over by Minister for Finance and Commerce Ishaq Dar.

In education sector the committee approved a project to upgrade and improve existing facilities at the University of Karachi.

The project will remove the deficiencies in some of the basic facilities like class room space, laboratories equipment and expand capacity of the university to increase enrolment and output of those students who are needed in market based businesses and scientific fields which the country needs. Karachi University which has produced 350 PhDs since 1991 will further enhance its capacity in this field.

In communication sector a project for Azad Jammu and Kashmir was approved to provide telephone services to the people. The antiquated system will also be modernized.

In the agricultural sector a programme to alleviate the rural poverty through raising agriculture productivity in an efficient and sustainable manner by financing key agricultural investment projects in areas such as agricultural research and extension, livestock, fisheries and forestry sub-sectors will be started.

The Agricultural Sector Investment Project (ASIP) of the World Bank would fund a slice of the agricultural investment programmes of federal and provincial governments.

The ECNEC approved the strengthening of SAP Monitoring and Evaluation System to raise the quality of services being provided to the beneficiaries at the federal and local levels to focus on key areas of monitoring and evaluation in the SAP-II.

Unsold cotton to cause losses

The sub-committee of Standing Committee on Industries and Production of the National Assembly on Thursday, forewarned that after suffering huge losses on account of unsold stocks of cotton the growers next year would cultivate less cotton which may further deepen economic crisis in the country.

"The growers of southern Punjab under the burden of huge unsold stocks of around 250,000 bales are presently facing severe financial crisis which strongly indicates that next year they would opt for other crops," asserted convener of the committee Mian Muhammad Munir.

Although, the sub-committee members comprising minister and MNAs in a meeting held at Textile Commissioner's Organization office were unanimous in their view that an the players in the cotton should get level playing field but they were also equally emphatic that the policy of free import/export of cotton has made growers to suffer. On a short crop the spinners this year imported over one million cotton bales to see the season through.

CNG industry to cater for O.lm vehicles

A big sum of Rs 2 billion has been invested in the compressed natural gas (CNG) industry, with a view to converting 100,000 cars into gas-driven vehicles, cutting consumption of 140,000 tons of gasoline and saving more than $ 30 million annually in the process.

Director general Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan, Hilal Reza told that 50,000 vehicles had already been converted to CNG, served by 45 CNG stations in 12 principal cities and towns of the country. About 8 million cubic feet gas is daily consumed by these vehicles of various sizes and descriptions.

Balochistan seeks Chinese assistance

Balochistan chief minister Jan Muhammad Jamali has sought Chinese financial and technical expertise and assistance in setting up a mini steel mill at Mastung.

He has also sought Chinese financial assistance of Rs 1,500 million as working capital for the commercial production of coppergold project completed at Saindak, in Chagai district.

In his meeting with the visiting Chinese ambassador based in Islamabad, Mr Lu Shulin here on Tuesday, chief minister said Mastung mini steel mill could very well be based on iron ore deposits found at Naukundi and other areas of Balochistan.

Pakistan's GDP to grow 4.5pc in 1999-2000: ADB

The Asian Development Bank on Tuesday predicted Pakistan's economy would grow by 4.5 per cent in the current fiscal year but warned the economic situation remained weak.

The Pakistan government has forecast gross domestic product growth of five per cent for the year ending June 2000, up from actual growth of 3.1 per cent in 1998/99.

The lower growth last year was blamed by government officials on US-led sanctions imposed on Pakistan after it conducted nuclear tests in May 1998.

The Manila-based ADB said sustained implementation of structural reforms initiated in the last two years was essential for Pakistan to achieve its long-term development objectives.

"In the short run, attaining fiscal and balance-of-payments stability remains the government's most important goals," the report said.

But the bank stressed Pakistan needed to expand exports and reduce its current account deficit to avoid another serious economic crisis in future.

Pakistan has projected a current account deficit of $1.77 billion in fiscal 1999/2000, compared to $2.4 billion a year-earlier.

PMHA opting for short-cut routes

Facing "bureaucratic procedural hurdles" in moving ahead on its ambitious financial plan of more than Rs 33 billion for the construction of 50,000 residential units in the first phase, before the end of the current fiscal year, the Prime Minister Housing Authority is, in all likelihood, taking up a direct and short route, by-passing all the procedures.

Instead of raising funds through floatation of the term finance certificates with 18 months maturity period at the rate of 14 per cent, the PMHA is now placing demands directly on the banks and on the financial institutions. Newspapers have reported that a demand of Rs 20 billion has been placed on the five top banks.