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Jan 17 - 23, 2000

  1. International
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NWFP IT zone achieves 43% recovery target

Peshawar-based income tax authorities achieved 43.85% of recovery target under the heads of income and wealth tax at the close of the first half of the current financial year, official sources told.

The zone dealing in IT cases pertaining to businessmen, has set a total target of Rs 2700m under the heads of income and wealth tax for the current year.

Reserves at $1.469bn

Pakistan's liquid foreign exchange reserves inched up to $1.469 billion on January 1, reveals the latest statistics released by State Bank on Thursday. The statistics show that on January 8, approved foreign exchange reserves totalled $1.216 billion whereas balances held abroad in cash and short-term securities stood around $252.7 million.

Investment in govt securities decline

The investment of all scheduled banks in the government securities fell to Rs 317 billion on December 31, 1999, down from Rs 338 billion on December 24.

According to the State Bank statement on time and demand liabilities of banks released here on Thursday, investment of scheduled banks in government securities including treasury bills fell to Rs 317 billion. The statement shows that investment in treasury bills alone stood at Rs 142 billion.

NWFP gets Rs200m loan tranche

The federal government has released a development loan tranche of over Rs200 million to the NWFP, sources told.

The disbursement of the cash development loan (CDL) has been made after a discontinuation of two months. The province under the CDL should have received over Rs250m in January but it has received just over Rs200m, said the sources.

In accordance with the formula agreed between the centre and the province, the former releases CDL funds to the province(s) in 12 monthly instalments whereas the proportionate share, out of the total CDL, is calculated on quarterly basis.

Banks retain 25pc of deposits

Three major banks managed to retain more than one fourth of the total Rs45 billion deposits they had mobilized through four lottery schemes last year.

Inquiries made at these banks showed that they retained around Rsl2 billion out at the end of December 1999 after phasing out their lottery schemes.

An executive of state-run Habib Bank said the bank managed to retain Rs6 billion out of Rs20 billion deposits mobilized through Crorepati certificates. A senior executive of state-run United Bank said UBL retained roughly Rs4 billion out of Rsl3 billion deposits raised through its two lottery schemes — CarAmaad and ZarAmaad. An official of partly-privatized Muslim Commercial Bank said MCB retained around Rs2 billion out of its Rsl2 billion worth of deposits raised through its lottery scheme "Maala Maal".

PTCL finally inches towards privatization

The Privatization Commission finally seems to inch towards the billion dollar privatization of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited.

The Commission said on Wednesday, it was ready with the information memorandum on Pak Telecom that will be presented to the representatives of Goldman Sachs when they visit Pakistan later this month.

Goldman Sachs is the financial adviser to the Privatization Commission for the proposed strategic sale of 15 to 26 percent of the PTCL shares along with the company's management control.

Private banks set to cut lending rates

Local and foreign private banks would shortly announce 1-1.5 per cent cuts in lending rates. Their executives say this is essential to keep these banks competitive after 1.5-2 per cent cut in lending rates by five major banks i.e. National Bank, Habib Bank, United Bank, Muslim Commercial Bank and Allied Bank.

"Our lending rates are already low but we may further cut them by 1-1.5 per cent," said head of credit division of a big private bank. He said the board of directors of the bank had a final say in this matter "but the management of the bank knows it has to be done."

"Our lending rates are already capped below 15 per cent but we know we have to cut it further," the banker said. He said this is necessary to keep intact the wedge between their rates and those of five major banks. Traditionally lending rates of private and foreign banks remain 3-4 per cent below the maximum rates of five major banks. That is why these banks cannot afford to let this differential fall—and lose some of their clients.

Executives of other private banks also said market conditions called for downward revision in their lending rates.

"Foreign banks may not go for immediate rate cuts," said head of credit division of a European bank. He said lending rates of foreign banks were already low and as such they did not face an immediate threat by 1.5-2 per cent cut in lending rates of five major banks. "Foreign banks may slash their lending rates if they realise after some time that they would no longer be competitive at present lending rates." Foreign banks operating in Pakistan serve a selected clientele comprising blue chips and borrowers of best track record. That is why they keep their lending rates down by 3-4 per cent than those of state-run and partly-privatized banks.

Five major banks recently capped their lending rates at 16.0—16.80 per cent in response to 2 per cent cut in the interest rates on national saving schemes and a similar cut in the State Bank discount rates. The whole exercise is aimed at making cheap credit available for increased production activities so that the economy comes out of the present spell of recession.