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Feb 26 -Mar 04, 2001

PC told to privatize PTCL by June

The cabinet committee on privatization on Tuesday approved the reference price of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas business of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines.

Sources said the CCOP approved the same reference price which had been okayed by the SNGPL's board of directors. Earlier, the board had rejected the highest bid offered by M/s Petroson of Singapore.

The meeting decided that the new bidder would not be offered any particular quota of the product. The bidder would be told to sell the product on the market-based prices by further developing its own infrastructure.

Presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, the committee also approved exclusion of sale of Pakistan State Oil shares in the Pakistan Refinery from the short-term privatization programme.

Mr Aziz directed the Privatization Commission (PC) to make sure that the PTCL was disinvested by June. The government was anticipating to earn $1 billion by disinvesting majority shares of the PTCL, sources said.

The meeting also discussed the privatization of the Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation within this year for which the ADB has committed $150m for restructuring the KESC.

The meeting was informed that the efforts to privatize HBL and the UBL had also been accelerated. The government had injected Rs18bn into these banks to cover up their financial loss.

The meeting was informed that the PC had paid about Rs5 billion under the golden handshake scheme and voluntary separation scheme for the privatization of a number of industrial units which had been either privatized or closed down for privatization.

The meeting discussed the privatization of 30 per cent government shareholding in the oil and gas sector which could fetch around $3 billion.

US team holds talks with Musharraf

A three-member US Congressional delegation met the chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, on Thursday and discussed with him various aspects of bilateral relations.

The CE briefed the delegation on the government's reform agenda and the steps being taken to restore democracy, including the holding of the local bodies elections, according to a Foreign Office press release.

The delegation was led by David Bonior and comprised Joseph Pitts and Jim McDermott. It also discussed the Kashmir situation and other issues of regional peace and security.

The issue of Afghanistan with particular reference to developments in the wake of the United Nations sanctions on that country, also came under discussion.

CE assures incentives for business

Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf has promised new incentives in the coming budget to make conditions conducive for business, including capital market and insurance.

The chief executive on Thursday held talks with some 50 economists, businessmen and experts and discussed with them a number of issues with special reference to increasing domestic and foreign investment in Pakistan.

After the meeting, the finance minister told newsmen that the extensive briefing was given to the chief executive on six major sectors, including poverty alleviation, agriculture, capital markets and insurance, trade and balance of payment, industry, privatization and strategic coordination for the revival of industries.

The meeting was held on the basis of the recommendations of the Economic Advisory Board, that met last week.

CE wants cut in debt servicing

The chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday that reduction in debt servicing and short-term fast track growth were two key issues, being addressed by his government.

"We must focus all our efforts on converting high interest loans into low interest ones which, together with proceeds from privatization, will reduce our debt servicing liability and provide the much-needed room for development", he said.

Gas prices

The cabinet on Wednesday approved an "unspecified" increase in the price of natural gas for all kind of consumers — industrial, commercial, domestic and CNG (vehicle fuel).

The federal cabinet decided that domestic tariff of natural gas for those consuming up to 100 cubic metres would remain unchanged. The consumers using more than 100 cubic metres will have to pay higher rates.

Banks seek review of tax policy

A high-level meeting of tax collectors and bankers was held at State Bank to discuss matters relating to "banking tax policy," official sources disclosed on Tuesday.

Sources privy to the meeting said the bankers expressed their deep concern over high taxes on banking business and pressed for overall review of the tax policy on banks.

KSE forms committee

Karachi Stock Exchange, Chairman, Yasin Lakhani, stated that a committee had been formed by the Exchange to set parameters for approval of offers of buy-back of shares from 'companies interested in delisting'.

Talks with IMF mission satisfactory: Shaukat

Minister for Finance Shaukat Aziz said on Thursday that talks with the visiting IMF review mission had proved to be "very good" to qualify for the next 130-million-dollar tranche due in March this year.

"Our talks had been very good with the IMF as both sides achieved an agreement on major issues," he further stated. Both sides, he claimed, were fully satisfied with the level of negotiations.

Briefing reporters on Thursday, he said that talks with the IMF would be finalised on Friday after which the officials would go back to Washington to propose to their executive board to disburse the next tranche.

"This is absolutely untrue that the Fund has expressed any no- confidence in the policies of the present government," Aziz said adding that he was very much pleased with the outcome of negotiations with the IMF.