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Feb 28 - Mar 05, 2000

  1. International
  2. Finance
  3. Industry
  4. Policy
  5. Trade
  6. Gulf

Shaukat hopes to achieve 4pc growth rate

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz hoped that the government would achieve 4 to 4.5 per cent growth rate during the current financial year owing to good results being shown by the agriculture sector.

"We are expecting a bumper wheat crop this time round whereas cotton, onion and potato crops have already showed better results than previous years," said Mr Aziz in his address at a gathering of local industrialists.

He said the government's move to six wheat support price at Rs300 had brought about a positive change and there might not be any need to import wheat next year. He expected a record wheat production of 20 million tons in the coming season.

The minister said that the situation for Pakistan was becoming all the more encouraging with the international cotton market picking up. It was expected, he added, that the country's total export during the current financial year would end up between $8.5bn and $9bn, recording an increase by 8 to 10 per cent in comparison with the last financial year.

He said that with the achievement of over 4pc growth rate — from the 3pc during the last financial year — there would be enough liquidity in the market. Therefore, he said, there should not be any serious problems viz-a-viz foreign currency reserves even after repayment of certain loans.

He viewed a proactive and holistic role for the banks to play in the future by increasing their economic expertise to facilitate the industrial sector. Banks were not only supposed to give loans and receive interest but they also needed to explore good projects to lend money.

Banks' loans, he said, had not grown to bigger proportions even after effecting a 2pc reduction in the investment saving schemes and lowering down the rate of interest.

Farm sector gets Rs23 billion

Banks and specialised financial institutions lent only around Rs 23bn to agricultural sector in first seven months of this fiscal year against the full year target of Rs 53bn.

Senior bankers told that five major commercial banks plus Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan (ADBP) and Federal Bank for Co-operatives (FBC) disbursed Rs 22.7bn worth of farm credit during July '99 to January 2000.

These institutions had disbursed around Rs 25bn worth of farm credit during July '98 to January '99 and Rs 42.8bn in the entire fiscal year of '98-'99.

The Rs 22.7bn farm credit forms part of Rs 30.3bn worth of total credit disbursed to the private sector in first seven months of this fiscal year against full year target of Rs 104.5bn.

The State Bank assigns six-monthly targets of disbursement of farm credit to five major banks i.e. NBP, HBL, UBL, MCB and ABL as well as ADBP and FBC. Normally ADBP disburses more than 70% of total farm credit and others disburse the remaining 30% or so.

Rs20m for tea processing

The government will provide Rs 20 million for establishment of first black tea processing plant, official sources said.

The plant will be constructed under the supervision of Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) at Shinkiari (NWFP). Sources said that PARC had demanded Rs 31 million for the plant as the import of tea alone costs Rs 10 to 12 billion per annum in foreign exchange, the sources added.

The installation of tea processing plant would act as a catalyst to induce local farmers towards tea cultivation. Out of Rs 20 million, Rs 15m would be used for the procurement of black tea processing plant and Rs 5 million for the increase in acreage of tea, the sources informed.

Crushing ends

Sugar mills have practically finished seasonal sugarcane crushing with the total production of about 2.8 million tonnes, against 3.5 million tonnes of last year, it is learnt.

A few mills in Sindh and Punjab are still operating, but with small quantity of sugarcane left for crushing.

Beverage company expands its operations

The CocaCola Co has acquired ownership of eight of its 10 bottling operations in Pakistan through its subsidiary Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Ltd (CCBPL), which announced the acquisition of assets of the Asian Group of Bottles (AGB) that includes three bottling operations.

The Group with its bottling operations in Lahore, Rahimyar Khan and Multan is responsible for producing 30% of Coca-Cola products in Pakistan.

Dilband iron ore

The Pakistan Steel is exploring the possibility of using 50000 to 300,000 tons of iron ore annually from Dilband deposits for production of pig iron through blending.

Official sources said that iron ore deposits at Dilband in Mastung district are said to be huge. These reserves have more than 35 per cent iron ore content and are almost free from large impurities as in the case of iron ore from other areas.

Power plant

A US-based company has again expressed its interest in setting up a 450 megawatt coal-fired electric power station in Sindh, north-east of Karachi, widh an investment outlay of $500 million plus.

Govt giving top priority to oil, gas sector

Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Usman Aminuddin has said that the government is giving special importance to oil and gas sector as success in this field will have a major impact on the economy of the country.

This he stated during a visit to Gwadar Well No 1, 8 nautical miles offshore Gwadar, Balochistan.

Thomas Cavanaugh, Vice President and Chief Geo-physicist (Ocean Energy) and Randall W. Vines, International Drilling Manager, Ocean Energy, made a presentation on the exploration activities of Ocean Energy in the area.

Gwadar Well No. 1 is being drilled by the Ocean Pakistan (which is wholly owned subsidiary of Ocean Energy, Inc., a leading independent oil and gas exploration and production company based in Houston, Texas, USA).