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Aug 21 - 27, 2000

49 units to be sold for $4 billion

Privatization Commission chairman Altaf Saleem on Thursday announced a $4 billion plan for the sale/disinvestment of 49 public sector enterprises and shares.

The chairman told a press conference that the process would be completed in two years and added that a regulatory framework, to be announced shortly, would govern this process.

The sale/disinvestment of utilities organizations would be covered by a regulator for price control, shares would be handed over to bidders with the debt burden, and benchmarks would be set for evaluation of the organizations and their shares, he said.

The financial and utilities organizations which are to be unloaded wholly or in part by December are: Allied Bank (disinvestment of 49 per cent shares); NBP, HBL, MCB and Sui Southern Gas Company (public offer); nine oil/gas fields (working interest); LPG and meter manufacturing units of the SSGC, SNGPL and PSO, POL, ARL (minority share-holding); PSO shares in PRL; and Pak-Saudi Fertilizers.

Industrial units are: Pak Steel Fabricating, Suzuki Motorcycles Pak Ltd, Sindh Engineering, Kohinoor Oil Mills, Morafco Industries, A.C Rohri Cement, Javedan Cement, Lyallpur Chemicals, Hazara Phosphate, Ravi Rayon, Larkana Sugar Mills, Shahdadkot Textile Mills, Talpur Textile Mills, Dir Forest Complex, PECO (Badami Bagh), and TDC Vehicle Engineering.

Besides, transactions envisaged to be undertaken during the medium-term privatization plan (ending on June 30, 2002) include telecommunication, financial/banking, oil/gas, power/electricity, insurance, industrial, etc.

Constitution being amended

The government said on Friday that two amendments would be made to the Constitution to provide safeguard to the devolution plan.

It would also be ensured that the future governments should not bulldoze the amendments, the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Tanveer Naqvi told a news conference. He said the two amendments were necessary at this stage.

One of the proposed amendments, he said, would provide constitutional protection to the local government system and the other would ensure that the Constitution should not be amended by the future governments in 10 minutes as had happened in the past.

"We will take all possible measures to ensure that the local government system could not be reversed by the succeeding governments," the NRB chief said in response to a question.

Mr Naqvi also said that the NRB would now start work on the second phase of the plan under which the powers would be shifted from the federation to the provinces. In the same phase, to be completed by August 2001, the question of provincial autonomy would also be addressed.

District govts to levy various taxes

The proposed district governments will impose a number of new taxes like on births, deaths, marriages, etc., and the National Reconstruction Bureau will prepare a schedule of those taxes, it is learnt.

The schedule, to be ready by early next year, will be provided to every district government so that they could levy the taxes.

The existing local government laws provided cover for taxes on births, deaths and marriages but these taxes were never collected, sources said.

Japan shows interest in small enterprises

The resumption of talks between Pakistan and India, Afghanistan, signing of CTBT, terrorism, and exploring new avenues of economic collaboration, particularly in the field of information technology, are some of the issues that the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshira Mori seeks to discuss with the leaders of Pakistan and India during his visit beginning from Sunday.

Japan is evincing keen interest in the efforts being made in Pakistan for upgradation of the small and medium-size enterprizes and focus on value-added items in the new textile vision. The members of the Japanese prime minister's team are expected to get an update brief on these exercises in Islamabad.

Govt, traders agree

The government has reportedly agreed to reduce the turnover tax from two to one per cent. An agreement to this effect is likely to be signed between the traders and the government in next couple of days, says a government official involved in the negotiations with the traders.

The government's chief negotiator, Altaf Saleem told on Thursday that a final round would be held on Monday. When contacted, the trade leaders told that the talks would start on Friday and "most probably an agreement will be arrived at on Saturday."

HUBCO to seek compensation

Chief executive Hub Co said on Wednesday that the company will seek compensation from the government after the Supreme Court judgment barring the Company's move to seek international arbitration.

Speaking at an annual briefing, the chief executive Syed Khursheed Husain while lauding the comments about the Hub Co by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, said these observations should be converted into action to solve the long standing dispute between the company and the Wapda.

Rules for Modaraba companies relaxed

Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan on Saturday allowed various incentives for Modaraba companies to improve their performance.

According to SECP statement here, the condition for issuing bonus certificates by modaraba companies has been relaxed and now they can issue them if the break-up value of their certificates stands higher by 25 per cent to the face value.

Previously modarabas could issue bonus certificates only if their certificates were marketed at 50 % above the face value on the stock exchange for a period of three months prior to the announcement of bonus.