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Aug 28 - Sep 03, 2000

Rs5 billion Information Technology policy unveiled

The government has unveiled an information technology policy, allocating Rs5 billion for the development of the IT and telecommunication sector.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the federal minister for science and technology, Prof Attaur Rehman, said that under the policy, which had already been approved by the federal cabinet, four IT universities and one virtual IT university would be set up. He added that a faculty of IT teachers and professionals would be engaged from abroad.

The minister said a National Testing and Accreditation Service would be set up to ensure quality IT education and training.

A written press statement containing the salient features of the policy said the government had committed Rs5 billion for the IT and telecommunication sector for 2000-2001. Rs2 billion, it said, had already been allocated as a block allocation.

The minister said IT boards would be set up in all the provinces. He added that the government would include local software houses in public projects.

He said that for the development of the hardware industry the government would waive duties and taxes on the import of hardware, and would offer incentives aimed at reducing the cost of raw material and inputs.

Mr Rehman said that for the growth of the internet, unnecessary regulations would be avoided and its provision at low cost would be ensured.

He said the government was currently working on legislations, such as the digital signature act, the intellectual property and copyright act and the consumer protection act, to provide protection and enhance the confidence of users, providers and facilitators of information services.

Musharraf, Mori hold wide-ranging talks

The chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, on Monday assured Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that Pakistan would always act in the most responsible manner in the nuclear field and would not be the first to break its moratorium on nuclear tests.

Islamabad would be open to any offer to intercede on or mediate in the Kashmir dispute with Delhi as has been repeatedly stated earlier, the Foreign Office spokesman told a news briefing.

At their formal talks, the CE urged the Japanese premier to assist Pakistan in relieving the debt burden. Mr Mori reiterated that full economic relations, including the aid, would have to wait till Islamabad adhered to the CTBT and nuclear non-proliferation.

The CE informed the Japanese premier that the economic sanctions imposed on Pakistan were a serious handicap in its efforts to recover and restructure its economic and political affairs. Tokyo and several other industrialized countries had slapped those sanctions on Islamabad after its nuclear tests in response to India's in May, 1998.

Support price initiative suspended

The Chief Executive office has immediately suspended finance ministry's initiative to abolish support price system for seven agricultural commodities by notifying an inter provincial nine-member support price committee under the Chairmanship of M. Shafi Niaz, an Advisor to the CE General Pervez Musharraf on Agriculture.

The agriculture ministers of NWFP, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab provinces have been made members of the new support price committee which has been constituted on the demand of agriculture ministry.

50% insurance cos may wind up

About 50 per cent of the private general insurance companies will be pushed out of the business following the promulgation of Insurance Ordinance 2000, on Saturday after the repeal of Insurance Act 1938.

The new ordinance sets for private insurance operators higher limits for capital base to be met in next three years, fixes a solvency margin that excludes the furniture, fixtures and vehicles and receivables as company's assets, enhances the statutory deposit requirement by 33 times from Rs350 thousand to Rs10 million. It grants sweeping powers to the Security Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) which would decide every year the extension of business licence to any insurance operator on virtual discretion.

Sales tax reimposed

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz has said that the sales tax is being reimposed on cement under a new package prepared for the industry which envisages removal of excise tax which he said "is a dying tax".

The finance minister said four cement units in the Frontier province, which have been allowed sales tax exemption under a package operative up to the end of Dec 31, 2000, will remain exempted. "They have been offered the facility under a contractual settlement", he said.

PC gets Rs630 mn offer

The Privatization Commission received a total offer of Rs630 million when the LPG business of three state-owned companies came under hammer on Thursday.

The bidding of LPG business of Sui Southern Gas Company was closed at the highest Rs369 million offered by Caltex. SHV, another private firm, offered Rs140 for PSO's LPG business, while Petrosin won the bidding of SNGPL at the highest offer of Rs121 million.

WB lauds devolution plan

The World Bank praises the present government's initiative on devolution plan and also lauds its efforts to build Kalabagh dam but without showing any sign of financial assistance. Influential diplomatic sources told that the World Bank agreed that the Kalabagh dam was the most viable project to be pursued by the government.

SBP warning on TCs buying

The State Bank on Wednesday warned authorized money changers to desist from buying travellers cheques. It also asked them to file their weekly statements of sales and purchases regularly.

If money changers fail to comply with these instructions their licences would be cancelled. An SBP circular (F.E. no 13) reminded money changers that in July last year the SBP had refrained them from buying or selling travellers cheques and made it clear that they were supposed to deal in "foreign currency notes and coins only."