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July 23 - 29, 2001

Australia offers to invest $1 bn

Australia has offered to invest $1 billion for development and commercial exploitation of copper deposits near Saindak in Balochistan.

Cabinet sources told that BHP, a petroleum and mineral exploration company of Australia, "has shown interest in developing Rekodek copper deposits near Saindak" in Chaghi district.

President Gen Pervez Musharraf had told the cabinet recently that Rekodek deposits would produce 40,000 tons of copper annually.

The Australian company had earlier done exploratory work in the area, partly in consultation with the Balochistan government, the sources said.

The area is adjacent to Saindak copper-gold project that was given, under a lease agreement, to a Chinese company during Prime Minister Zhu Rongji's visit to Islamabad in May this year.

The Australian company believes, say the sources, that the Saindak agreement has created a tilt towards China in mineral-rich Balochistan that could lead to its disadvantage and China's monopoly over precious natural zones.

The sources said that foreign companies, mainly the Australian and Chinese mining firms, were competing with each other in getting hold of Balochistan's vast mineral deposits of copper, gold and other precious metals.

A number of multinational companies are currently engaged in examining prospects of exploration and developments of precious and base metals in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan. BHP, Lake Resources and Pasminco of Australia, Ornamore of Ireland and Minorco of Holland have spent around $29 million on mineral exploration.

The foreign direct investment in the mineral and quarrying sector peaked at 26 per cent in 2000-01 as against 13.6 per cent in the previous year. Pasminco is busy exploring lead and zinc in Lasbela district.

Steps to attract investment

Various steps to attract foreign investment to the province came under discussion at a meeting between Provincial Industries Minister Dewan Mohammed Yousuf Farooqui and Chairman Board of Investment Waseem Haqqi on Tuesday.

Dewan Yousuf said the steps taken by the Sindh government, especially the setting up of Provincial Committee on Investment and Privatization Commission, are aimed at attracting investment.

He said that Nooriabad and Nawabshah Industrial Estates have been upgraded and provided water, gas and other infrastructure facilities. He said that new industrial units have been set up in Nooriabad and Nawabshah industrial estates and more were in the pipeline for the next year.

IT revolution in five years

Speakers at a talk show on 'e-talk 2001' were divided over 'IT revolution in Pakistan', as some predicted slight chances, while others forecast at least five years.

Around a dozen IT specialists including software exporters, internet service providers, head of government task force on e- commerce and marketing chiefs, participated in the talk show: "e- business: will IT be imperative to economic fate", organized by Iqra University in collaboration with Sindh IT Board on Tuesday.

The compere of the show also sought the opinion of students and audience over the chances of an IT revolution in the country, but hardly 10 students showed their support. However, many students were highly concerned about their future job prospects in the IT sector, and they asked various queries from the speakers on this sensitive issue, but speakers could not give cogent and satisfactory replies.

G8 group backs talks resumption

Foreign ministers from the world's most powerful nations welcomed on Thursday the Pakistan-India summit and expressed hope that dialogue would continue between the two countries.

"We welcome the Agra Summit between India and Pakistan and strongly support their intention to continue the high-level dialogue in order to make progress on their relationship," the ministers of the Group of Eight industrialized nations said in a statement.

"We call on both countries to continue their policy of restraint and call on them to refrain from any action which could adversely affect their relations and regional stability," the statement said.

EU wants dialogue to continue

European Union governments on Thursday called for continuing contacts between India and Pakistan, saying the normalization of relations between the world's two newest nuclear powers was vital for world peace and stability.

In a statement welcoming the resumption of an India-Pakistan dialogue at the highest level, the 15 EU governments said it was crucial that Delhi and Islamabad continued to build goodwill generated by the summit talks in Agra between the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

PIA seeks loan

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), suffering severe financial woes, said on Tuesday it was negotiating with a consortium of state-run banks for a bridging loan of Rs6 billion ($9.36 million).

ADB offers $150m facility

The Asian Development Bank is offering a facility of $150 million political risk guarantee for the Pakistani importers for confirmation of their letters of credits for imports that are required for export production.

UK firm to acquire CGU business

Old Mutual plc, a London-based listed financial services company, has struck a deal with CGU International Insurance plc (CGU) to acquire all its existing business in Pakistan, including the 51 per cent stake in the listed Commercial Union Life Assurance Company (Pakistan) Limited.

A separate public company would be incorporated in Pakistan, with Old Mutual (OML) as its principal shareholder, which would take over the assets and liabilities of Commercial Union's general business operations.