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Mar 27 - Apr 02, 2000

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District govts by August next year

Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf on Thursday announced the timetable for district government elections to be held on a non-party basis in two stages, with the process starting on Dec 15 and ending in July.

Addressing a press conference here, he said that by Aug 14, 2001, the district governments would be in place with full financial powers.

The CE clarified that the district governments would remain within the provincial framework and their relationship with the federal government would be through the provincial governments. The present divisions would cease to exist after the district governments were set up.

Voting age for these elections would be lowered from 21 to 18 to increase the number of voters and also to bring youths into the mainstream.

He said he would announce the schedule for provincial and national assemblies elections in due course, after introducing electoral reforms.

To a question, he implied that elections to the provincial and national assemblies would not be held until the suspended parliament completed its constitutional tenure of five years.

However, for the new assemblies to start functioning as soon as the tenure of the current suspended houses ended in February 2002, elections would have to be held by early January that year and the date for it announced by early November 2001.

In order to empower the local governments with enough financial autonomy, the CE proposed the setting up of 'provincial finance commissions' on the lines of the NFC which is a constitutional obligation.

'Cut in oil prices will be followed'

The government is expecting reduction in international oil prices within this month, benefit of which will also be passed on to the Pakistani citizens, assures the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Usman Aminuddin.

" We are hoping that the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), scheduled to meet on March 27 in Vienna, will announce the reduction in international oil prices to be followed in Pakistan as well", he added.

He said that the new upward revision in the oil prices was inevitable keeping in view the increased international prices. He, however, said that real effect of increase in the international prices was not passed on to the people.

One-window facility for investment

The federal government is planning to create one-window facilitation offices in major towns for the overseas Pakistani investors.

The Board of Investment has started processing a proposal to set up these offices while the CBR and Ministry of Commerce have been asked to remove all the bottlenecks, sources said.

They said representatives of overseas Pakistanis who have expressed intentions to invest in certain sectors, met the Chief Executive last month and submitted a list of requirements for their investment proposals to be realised. They met the CE in Islamabad.

IMF's $2-2.5bn expected by April

An enhanced $2-2.5 billion financial package is expected to be finalized between International Monetary Fund and Pakistan in April and the finance minister Shaukat Aziz will announce the budget by end-May, a financial ministry official said.

He said the budget will be out soon after the finalization of a funding agreement with the IMF, which is expected to be firmed up in two weeks when an IMF delegation will be in Islamabad to work out final details, after which the exact size of the package will be indicated.

Officials say that the IMF package will be in the region of $2 billion to $2.5 billion. For its part, Pakistan has finalized its draft for the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF), under which the IMF will lend to Pakistan.

US investors want more incentives

Islamabad-based senior commercial counsellor of US embassy, Mr Aamir Kiyani, expressed satisfaction that Pakistan and USA had good bilateral trade relationship and both the countries enjoyed the status of the most favoured nation (MFN) in the field of trade and commerce, but, US investors did not somehow find the existing policies investment-friendly and, according to him, that was why the investment from USA in Pakistan had declined a good deal compared to what it used to be.

NAB recovers Rs 50bn in five months, NSC told

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has recovered approximately Rs 50 billion, 30 per cent of the recoverable amount, during the past five months, from the loan defaulters and corrupt politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats.

This was disclosed by NAB Chairman Lt General Syed Mohammad Amjad while briefing the National Security Council meeting, held here on Wednesday, with Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, in the chair.

Amjad told the meeting that after October 12, 1999, the NAB recovered Rs 14.551 billion in cash. This included deposits made against bank defaults as well as corruption cases.

POL products prices raised

The federal government on Monday announced an average increase of five per cent in the prices of petroleum products after a quarterly comparison with the sale price of the products in the international market, a government announcement said.

Maximum increase has been made in the price of High Speed Diesel which has swollen from Rs 11.50 to Rs 12.80 per liter. Prices of Regular and Super Petrol have recorded an increase of 50 paisa each and now would be sold at Rs 27.50 and Rs 29.50 respectively. Light Diesel Oil registered an increase of Rs 1.10. Furnace Oil prices increased to Rs 8,800 per tonne against the old price of Rs 8,377.75.

The government made the changes in the petroleum prices after three months as it had announced to review it every three months in the backdrop of international prices. Last raise was made in December when an average of 10 per cent increase was recorded.