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May 21 - Jun 03, 2001

Expat's FCAS to be protected: Aziz

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Thursday that the government would introduce a law in the coming budget with a view to protecting the Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs) of the overseas Pakistanis.

"Our incentive package is ready which will be announced at the time of my budget speech on June 16 for overseas Pakistanis to invest in the country," the minister told a roundtable conference organized by the representatives of the overseas Pakistanis.

Assuring full protection to foreign investment, he said there was no question of freezing foreign currency deposits in future. "And that is why we are bringing a law that would provide all necessary protection against any freezing of accounts."

Mr Aziz stated that a decision had been taken to expedite remittances by the overseas Pakistanis through banking channels. He observed that situation had considerably improved as overseas Pakistanis were now sending their remittances through banks. However, he said, the government would announce incentives in the budget to discourage hundi.

Announcing that special packages would be offered to overseas Pakistanis to invest in various fields, the minister said that the Board of Investment had finalized various new sectors which would attract foreign investment.

He said the business of the moneychangers was being regularized by converting them into 'exchange committees'. In his speech, Privatization Minister Altaf Saleem said the interested overseas Pakistanis would be given special offer for buying state units on kerb rate instead of the official rate.

He said the purpose was to attract foreign investment, particularly the one by the overseas Pakistanis. He said there existed a great potential for the expatriates to take part in the privatization process. He advised the overseas Pakistanis to contact the Privatization Commission in this regard.

Pakistan and China establish research fund

A joint revolving fund has been established by Pakistan and China to ensure implementation of mutually agreed projects in different fields of science and technology.

According to a press release issued on Tuesday, the establishment of the "Pak-China Joint Research Fund" would allow the financing of joint research and development projects in fields of mutual interest.

This would also enable Pakistan to gain knowhow and expertise from China in various fields of science and technology, such as biotechnology, microelectronics, space sciences, material sciences, lasers, engineering sciences, industrial engineering etc.

The fund would also help Pakistan to acquire the services of experts to train young scientists in selected fields through attachments in Chinese institutions and universities.

Drug prices to rise in June

The federal government has, in principle, allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase prices of both controlled and decontrolled drugs. According to sources, the prices are likely to be increased next month.

The sources said that the government had accepted the pharma industry's demand and recommendations of two high-powered committees formed in the 90s that there should be an indexation for drug prices, based on devaluation of the rupee during the intervening period, to allow pharmaceutical firms to re-fix drug prices .

The sources said that the federal health ministry, in collaboration with pharma industry, was at present devising a formula for allowing an increase in drug prices on year-to-year basis and for finalising the quantum of increase to be made effective next month.

WAPDA, PC at odds

Wapda and Privatization Commission have developed serious differences over the sale of thermal power stations in public sector, specially the 150MW Lakhra Power Plant (LPP) in Sindh.

While the Wapda chairman is all for privatizing weaker and loss-making stations first to put a break on economic bleeding instead of selling profitable units, the PC believed that putting such unit for sale would have a negative impact on the overall privatization programme and has thus expressed its inability to include it in the list of saleable units.

Foreign investment banks role restricted

The government has decided to restrict international investment banks from winning multiple contracts of financial or technical advisory service in the privatization of state-owned entrepreneurs (SOEs). Official sources told that a decision to this effect was taken by the Privatization Commission Board (PCB) recently to avoid monopolistic role of foreign banks in privatization transactions.

New Power Policy

New policy for power projects, aimed at introducing incentives to attract investment in this sector, will be announced by the first week of next month.

According to sources in the ministry of water and power, the final draft of the policy has already been sent to federal cabinet for approval after the vetting by the ministry of law and justice.

Union Bank

Union Bank Limited and the Union Leasing Limited have decided not to change the name of companies to UBank Limited and ULease Limited. Separate shareholders' meetings have been called on June 11, to approve the directors' decision to stick to the old names.

Both the companies (Union Bank and Union Leasing) said that the SECP had given its approval to their earlier request of change of name to "UBank Limited" and "ULease Limited".

KESC, PIA sell-off next year

Federal minister for privatization Altaf Saleem said on Sunday the process to privatize PIA and KESC had been initiated and it may be completed by next year. Speaking at a pre-budget seminar, the minister said the government was pursuing a programme to gradually privatize the industrial units to enhance the role of the private sector for consolidation of the economy.