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Dec 11 - 17, 2000

Exim bank to be set up by June

Pakistan's Export Import Bank is expected to be established by the end of the current fiscal year in June, says Export Promotion Bureau chairman Tariq Ikram.

Talking to reporters at the regional EPB office on Monday, he said the government had already approved in principle the concept of the proposed Exim Bank and the "matter is being considered by the finance ministry for further action".

Responding to a question, he said it would be too early to say something about the paid-up capital of the proposed bank, or about other details.

The chairman said exports from Pakistan need to grow 17-18 per cent in the next seven months over the last year, if the ambitious export target of $10 billion for the present fiscal year is to be achieved. "I'm not sure how much of the target will we be able to achieve. But the export growth of 13 per cent $352 million during the first five months of the year is pretty encouraging," he said.

He said the export target for the year could be attained if we succeed in selling one million tons of surplus wheat and rice by taking advantage of the opportunity presented by a poor rice crop in Vietnam because of floods. He said exports could not be raised overnight without bringing about structural changes and building infrastructure.

The growth in exports during the first five months is said to be a $170 million increase in textiles and garments sector. Non- traditional items have registered 39 per cent increase in exports followed by 17 per cent in developmental items like marble, gems and jewellery and 15 per cent in leather, rice and other sectors. Ikram, who met the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan officials later in the day, said the government was making efforts to increase the rice exports. He said he had received an inquiry from Saudi Arabia for 200,000-500,000 tons of basmati, irri-6 and irri price. He said: "We want to regain our share of what is said to be close to 50 per cent once in the Saudi rice market." He said the rice exports had already registered 51 per cent increase during the current fiscal year.

Pakistan plans to export petrol in 2001

Pakistan plans to export 100,000 tonnes of petrol a year from 2001, after production from a new refinery in the centre of the country is in full swing, industry officials said on Thursday.

He said officials from neighbouring Iran visited Pakistan recently and showed an interest in purchasing petrol that would be surplus to Pakistani needs after Pak-Arab Refinery (PARCO) would be at full capacity by January.

Industry sources said petrol exports are likely to come from refinery operations in Karachi, while the mid-country refinery would feed petrol demand in the populous Punjab and north of the country.

Industry sources said the commissioning of the new PARCO refinery would create a 193,000 ton petrol surplus over the next year. Demand was forecast at 1.3 million tonnes and production at 1.493 million tonnes.

The 4.5 million-tonne per year PARCO, which began production in late August, is set to boost the country's total refining capacity by 60 per cent to 11 million tonnes, against domestic demand for all petroleum products of 18.5 million tonnes a year.

EU commits for drought victims

The European Union has committed 7.8 million euro (about Rs380 million) new humanitarian aid to the victims of drought in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

The new programme follows an earlier grant of 5.5 million euro, said a statement issued on Thursday by the EU's office for humanitarian aid.

Through the new programme the victims of the worst drought would be alleviated in 30 years in the region, it said.

NWFP gets Rs780m

Islamabad has released Rs780 million to the NWFP as its share from the Federal Divisible Pool (FDP) for November, officials said.

So far, during the current financial year, the province has been released a total of around Rs6.2 billion from the FDP.

Of this amount, the province received in cash Rs3.27 billion in five tranches whereas the remaining Rs2.935 billion has been deducted at source from it by making book adjustments against the multi-billion development loan that Peshawar availed from the federal government to support its development budget in the past.

Merrill Lynch

The government has appointed Merrill Lynch Bank as the Financial Adviser for the privatization of Oil and Gas Development Company Ltd (OGDCL).

Official sources said on Thursday that with the appointment of M/s Merrill Lynch, the process of disinvesting of OGDCL will start from January 2001, in phases.

A decision has also been taken to offload 10 per cent shares of Habib Bank Ltd through stock market in March next year. The government has already approved the corporatization of HBL, UBL, ABL and NBP.

IFC wants its funds back from BoK

International Finance Corporation wants the provincial public sector, Bank of Khyber, to return its funds which the bank had availed before getting the $10 million credit line discontinued by the IFC, official sources told on Tuesday.

In a recent communique, said the sources, IFC had requested the repayment of its funds from the Bank of Khyber (BoK). Under an agreement signed between IFC and BoK, back in November 1995, the former was supposed to extend a credit line of $10 million.

Foreign aid policy

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, on Monday said, government plans to minimize its dependence on foreign assistance and a new policy in this regard is in the offing.

He made these remarks during a meeting with the delegation of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by its President Raja Tariq Kiyani.

Shaukat Aziz said there is no chance of default and IMF's recent tranche has minimized the pressure of utilizing foreign reserves and the government is committed to enhance its resources for the betterment of economy.