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Dec 06, 1999

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

Over-staffing handicaps industrial growth

Pakistan's industrial and commercial growth and export competitiveness are severely handicapped by weak and over-staffed public sector institutions.

According to a latest World Bank study, this commercial and industrial growth has also been hampered by poorly targeted investments, neglect of essential highway maintenance, high transport costs, and poor safety standards.

The government plans to implement a 10 year National Highway Improvement Programme to improve public spending, increase maintenance components, introduce more private and road-user sources of financing, improve and commercialise road sector agencies, and to promote private sector provision and operation of highway-related services.

In the urban sector, the burgeoning urban population is growing at almost 5% annually and is outstripping the expansion of delivery of urban services. Improving water supply, sewerage systems, and solid waste management are important priorities for improving the situation. The government plans to undertake major reforms to development the capacity of local governments to deliver better service, while encouraging private sector participation in urban service delivery.

China to explore mineral resources

China and Japan have shown keen interest in making the best use of the minerals available in Balochistan, official sources said.

Chinese have evinced interest in setting up a mini steel mill at Macch. According to sources, the proposed mill would be based on 273 million tons of iron ore reserves in Dilband, Chigendik, Pachinkoh and Chilghazi.

Moreover, China needs two million tons of chromite annually, which is available in Chagai district. This aspect will be fruitfully negotiated with the Chinese authorities.

Similarly, Japan has shown interest in the import of building stones abundantly available in Balochistan.

Privatization process at a standstill

Pakistan's slow moving privatization process, which includes its flagship telecommunications utility, has ground to a complete stop since the military coup, privatization sources said.

They said the state's Privatization Commission had been clueless about its future without a chief and a board.

Gen. Musharraf, due to announce an economic revival package on December 15, is expected to unveil a plan for privatization, which had slowed down under Sharif's stopgo management and is a key demand of the International Monetary Fund.

'We are headless without a board, and no decision can be taken unless we know what is expected from us or what this government wants,' said a Privatization Commission official who asked not be identified.

Officials said Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, supervising a team of experts working on an economic revival plan, was expected to be briefed by commission officials about the status and prospects of privatization.

The privatization list covers most government-run enterprises including banks, railways, airline, oil refineries, gas distribution and power companies.

The process is supposed to bring in $5bn to $8bn when all the firms are sold, a process which could take several years. Pakistan's foreign debt is $32bn and all proceeds are supposed to be used for debt retirement.

On top of the list is Pakistan Telecommunications Co. Over the past three years its sell-off has run into several snags, including abrupt changes of government.

The ousted government had planned road shows to market PTCL in April this year but then delayed them to the end of the year due to disagreements on some core issues that needed to be resolved before the company was offered to buyers.

Pakistani expertise in Iraq's oil, gas sector sought

Iraq is keen to utilize Pakistani technical expertise for the development and rehabilitation of its oil and gas industries.

This was stated by Hisam Al-Din, leader of a seven-member delegation of Iraqi State Company for Oil Projects during a meeting on Tuesday with vice chairman Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Syed Masood Alam Rizvi.

Hisam said that Iraq was currently producing nearly three million barrels of oil per day which, he said, is likely to be enhanced progressively to six million barrels a day with the lifting of the US sanctions, hopefully, in the near future.

Textile made-ups deprived of low yarn price benefit

The benefit of cheap cotton is not making its way to textiles made-ups, as yarn prices in local market continue to stay near last year's high levels, when lint prices had sky-rocketed owing to crop failure.

The present soaring rates of cotton yarn have no relation to the fallen cotton prices which otherwise should have been shared by the spinners with the textile made-up sector to keep them competitive in the world market.

Offer for shipbreaking project in limbo

Pakistan has not been able to avail itself of the British firm's offer for the development of shipbreaking industry and international tourism at Gadani along the Arabian sea.

Knowledgeable quarters told a group of newsmen on Saturday the firm, Infrastructure Development Co. under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA) had committed to complete a 4-point plan at Gadani to meet the requirements of rerolling mills and allied industries during the tenure of the Nawaz government.

The firm, sources added, could not fulfil its commitment because there were no positive signals from the previous government. The firm, despite its readiness to go ahead with the preliminaries has not been able make any progress in this regard.