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Aug 27 - Sep 02 , 2001

PTCL to invest Rs16 billion

PTCL has planned to invest Rs16 billion during this financial year in a number of IT and telecom projects to improve and expand its services, which includes extension of Ufone service to even remote areas.

Akhtar Ahmed Bajwa, chairman PTCL, said that these initiatives will have positive and far-reaching impact on the IT growth and boost economic activity, besides narrowing the existing digital divide, says a press release. Bajwa said so far over 435 towns have access to Internet, and in near future it would be expanded to about 800 towns. PTCL has reached out to some of the most primitive rural localities and connected them to the world through backbone infrastructural facilities.

PTCL's bandwidth rates are the lowest among the under developed nations. The PTCL chairman also said, in the realm of education and information dissemination, PTCL is collaborating with public sector universities providing them the most advanced service at concessional rates.

He said Quetta-Shikarpur optical fibre link would usher in a new era of progress and would open up new avenues of employment in the province of Balochistan.

It would also enhance economic activity and improve local industry and encourage e-commerce in the province.

Talking about Telecom development achievements for Balochistan, he said PTCL has also planned to invest another Rs950 million during the current financial year adding 20,000 telephone lines, expanding Universal Internet Access and laying of more fibre optic cable from Quetta to Chamman, Loralai, Mastung and Rakhni. High capacity digital radio link will be established on the coastal areas including Pasni and Ormara with linkage to Turbat and Khuzdar. In 2000-2001, PTCL has made an investment of Rs570 million for expansion and improvement of telecom infrastructure in Balochistan.

Fiscal devolution systems in three years

The fiscal devolution systems would be evolved gradually over a period of three years though the current National Finance Commission (NFC) is expected to provide funds for local governments under a fresh award this fiscal.

On July 28, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, who is also NFC chairman, is reported to have told newsmen that in the first NFC meeting, matters relating to funding of local bodies were discussed.

Currently, the provinces have very little fiscal space to undertake new projects. Local governments are being financed mainly by federal and provincial grants. An initial transitional fund of Rs3 billion has been created to meet district government expenses during the current fiscal. The National Reconstruction Bureau had sought a sum of Rs10 billion.

Three Rs443 million projects

President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Saturday launched three major projects for Karachi which will be completed within two years at a cost of over Rs443 million. The three projects Shah Faisal flyover, FTC flyover and KDA Naya Ghar Re-settlement Scheme are part of the 20 development projects which the government has planned to launch within a week in all four provinces to create large a number of jobs.

The President, who earlier in the day had performed the ground-breaking ceremony of KDA's Shah Faisal flyover and KMC's FTC flyover, launched the Naya Ghar Resettlement Scheme at Korangi, where he addressed the newly-elected Nazims, Naib Nazims and councillors and later had a brief chat with the women councillors.

Autonomous to manage reserves

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) would be made autonomous for management of foreign exchange reserves.

Sources here said that the draft revisions to the SBP Act to guarantee autonomy to the central bank in respect of management of reserves is expected to be ready by the end of current month.

Over 2,000 cos get ISO certificates

More than 2,000 Pakistani manufacturing and export companies have acquired the ISO-9000 and ISO-14000 certificates so far. Till December 2000 the figure was 1,444 units.

Waqas Muslim of Total Quality Management Experts Cell (TQMEC) of the FPCCI told on Tuesday that the number of companies acquiring the certificates may exceed over 2,500 by end of this year.

Parco, SSGCL boards to have new chairmen

The government will make fresh appointments for the chairmen of the boards of directors of Pak-Arab Refinery Limited (PARCO) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) within a couple of days.

Authentic sources told that Salim Abbas Jilani, a former and longest serving defence secretary, has been proposed to replace M. Aitzaz Shahbaz as chairman SSGCL board of directors.

Farm tax to focus on landlords

The four provincial governments would focus primarily on the country's 30,000 biggest farmers as part of their new strategy to boost collection from agricultural income tax, sources said.

The provincial agricultural income tax will become fully operational this year. And the farmers are expected to file their income tax returns by the end of next month. Sources said the big names in politics who hail from rural aristocracy would be brought into the tax net.

Under the new income tax law, all incomes above a threshold of Rs80,000 per annum will be taxed on the basis of rate schedules which are broadly the same across provinces with a top marginal rate of 15 per cent for annual income of Rs300,000 or more.

Banks may shortly start reporting KIBOR

Pakistan is set to introduce KIBOR or Karachi Inter-Bank Offered Rate within weeks. Senior bankers say homework on KIBOR is almost complete adding that treasurers of ten leading local and foreign banks are meeting senior State Bank officials next week to finalize the specifics of calculating and reporting KIBOR on daily basis.

Shares for listing

Bosicor Pakistan Limited, an upcoming refinery in the private sector, plans to offer up to 14 per cent of its stakes to the public in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in September this year.