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POLICY

Oct 15 - 21, 2001

WTC incident to cause loss of $1bn to Pakistan: WB

The World Bank believes that events following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington have dealt Pakistan a "sharp economic blow", estimated to cost the country at least US $1 billion this year alone, and fears that the figure could rise if the situation in Afghanistan is not resolved in the short term.

This is stated in a World Bank press release issued after talks between bank president James Wolfensohn and visiting Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz on Wednesday. Mr Aziz was said to have assured Mr Wolfensohn of Pakistan's commitment to stay the course with the reform programme and accelerate its implementation.

The finance minister also met the chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the US, Mr John E. Robson, and discussed financing of transactions to supply US commercial aircraft to Pakistan.

While there is renewed interest in Pakistan following Islamabad's decision to join the anti-terrorist campaign, the World Bank press release points out that much before this, in March, a gathering of international donors had commended Pakistan's commitment to address long-standing problems of poverty, education and health and, in parallel, to tackle corruption and other policy and institutional constraints to business activity and growth.

World Bank lending to Pakistan in the previous financial year is $374 million and is slated to increase during the current fiscal year. Mr Wolfensohn was reported to have assured Mr Aziz of the Bank's continued support. "We have been immensely impressed by Pakistan's reform programme, which started two years ago," he said. "Of course, right now, as the country faces a particularly challenging period, we will be there to help it keep that reform programme on track. It is a programme which targets poverty and which brings a powerful new discipline into the country's institutions to remove unnecessary obstacles to growth. It is a real opportunity for all Pakistani people to build a sustainable future and we must not lose sight of that, even at this most difficult time."

Germany assures Pakistan of help through IMF, WB

Pakistan has suggested a broad-based coalition government in Afghanistan with representation from all sections, saying that "no regime can be imposed by outside powers".

The Germany's state secretary of foreign affairs, Juergen Chrobog, told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday that President Gen Musharraf had made that suggestion to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder during a telephonic conversation on Tuesday. President Musharraf, according to Mr Chrobog, told the German chancellor that a broad-based coalition government would be acceptable to the Afghan people.

He said Gen Musharraf had emphasised that no regime could be imposed on Afghanistan by outside powers. The two leaders, he added, had discussed the post-Taliban scenario in Afghanistan. He stated that the German chancellor had assured Gen Musharraf of increased economic cooperation and support in the international financial institutions, including the Paris Club, the IMF and the World Bank.

EU for new treaty with Islamabad

Relations with Pakistan climbed up the European Union's foreign policy agenda on Monday as the bloc's 15 foreign ministers promised to "continue and develop" political ties with Pakistan and said they were ready to sign a new cooperation treaty with Islamabad.

The European Commission has been instructed to look into plans to revive the agreement which was put on ice following a military take-over in the country in October 1999. Diplomats say the EU is also considering an unprecedented package of budgetary aid for Islamabad in addition to increased humanitarian assistance.

Pakistani textile officials meanwhile are discussing improved access to the EU market for the country's textile and garment exports. The turn-around in EU-Pakistan relations is directly linked to Islamabad's support for the US anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan, say officials.

Hubco AGM in December

Hub Power Company Limited on Thursday announced that its share transfer books will remain closed from December 12 to December 21 (both days inclusive) for holding of Annual General Meeting during this period.

British media

As US-led operation against terrorism continues, Pakistan has come under the spotlight of British media. The amount of coverage Pakistan is getting is unprecedented. Each and every day, leading British newspapers bring out several stories about anti-US demonstrations in Quetta and other cities of Pakistan. Almost all reports describe Pakistan's support to the US-led action as crucial, and the tone of the press is extremely friendly.

HBFC to work on interest-free basis

The federal cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the House Building Finance Corporation Act, 1952, to bring its provisions in line with a decision of the Shariat appellate bench of the Supreme Court and render its functions interest-free.

According to the proposed amendments, the corporation will not borrow on interest basis (which in the first place is not practised for rupee transactions in the banking sector since 1984).

PTCL, NP sell-off delayed: Altaf

Pakistan's major privatization transactions have been delayed due to prevailing situation, arising out of September 11 terrorist attack on America and subsequent air strikes against Afghanistan.

"Under these circumstances bigger transactions like PTCL, National Power Company and off-loading of the government's shareholding in 9 oil wells have been delayed," said Minister for Privatization Altaf M. Saleem.

LPG companies asked to reduce prices by 20pc

The federal government has directed the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) companies to reduce consumers prices by at least 20 per cent and base future pricing on six monthly revision in advance.

Official sources said that these directives have been issued under rule 18 (2) of LPG (production and development) rules 2001 following inability to implement a two month old decision.