Sep 19 - 25, 2005


One of the major decisions taken by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz last week was the ordering of a probe into the alleged malpractice by the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) in the award of a contract. Besides, he laid the foundation stone of 24-story Telecom Tower in Islamabad, opened "freight express train" of Pakistan Railways at Lahore, and launched the expansion plant at the Honda Atlas factory at Manga Mandi, Lahore,

Prime Minister during his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister who visited Pakistan last week once again declared that Pakistan was opposed to any move to use force against Iran as it considered that it was Iran's right to attain nuclear technology for using it for peaceful purposes. He made an impassioned appeal to the opposition to avoid street politics and settle its differences with the government at the forum of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister hosted a luncheon in honour of Agriculture Ministers of G-20 countries and speaking on the occasion, he urged the developed countries to reduce their tariff, do away with subsidies and give a clear timetable in this regard in order to make the gains of globalization more equitable. He met a delegation of International Trade Union leaders and the President of the Asian Development Bank.

Prime Minister ordered the Ministry of Petroleum (MoP) to conduct inquiry into an Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) tender case that the local companies claimed was meant to keep them out of bidding process. The Prime Minister Secretariat directed the Secretary Petroleum to submit his probe report on urgent basis. OGDCL had floated a tender some time back wherein it invited bids from oil companies for sharing and operating its discovered oil and gas fields. Sources said OGDCL's terms and conditions, in particular, that 20 years experience of operating in Pakistan's oil and gas sector with annual turnover of 4 billion is needed, was a major concern to the local companies. With an exception of three local companies including two in public sector, Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), Mari Gas Company Limited (MGCL) and only one POL from the private sector, none met the criteria.

The local oil and gas companies raised the issue with the Prime Minister and apprised him that OGDCL tailored the tender in order to offer the same to some pre-selected groups. They informed Shaukat Aziz that the terms and conditions laid down were contrary to the government's fundamental objectives to attract investment in oil and gas sector and maintained that the tender appeared to have been structured to exclude participation of the local oil companies. The complainants were of the view that the local oil and gas companies pressed the government to auction dormant and small OGDCL's fields to ensure that these are developed to increase oil and gas production.

The aggrieved companies noted that OGDCL's tender reflected unprofessional approach to the issue. Unfortunately, they added, that the tender appeared to have been structured to eliminate the participation of local companies knowing fully well that foreign oil companies will not bid as the fields are too small for them and thus uneconomical. Since the offered fields were too small to get the attention of any reputed foreign or local company, and to top that hard conditions of the tender could add in turning the entire process of bidding into a futile exercise. The aggrieved companies demanded of the Prime Minster that OGDCL should be directed to revise the terms and conditions of the tenders to ensure that maximum local oil companies get the chance to participate in the bidding process.

Speaking at the laying of the foundation stone of Telecom Tower in Islamabad, the Prime Minister said that the government's policy of privatisation with appropriate regulation was helping the business to grow to its full potential and benefit the common people. The 24-story Telecom Tower, which will be the tallest building in the federal capital, is an example of massive growth in the telecom industry. "Pakistan's telecom industry is the one success story which is the second fastest growing industry in the world after China," he said.

As a result of privatisation and liberalization, the Prime Minister said, there were now six cellular companies operating in Pakistan with licences granted to the last two companies through an open auction that fetched nearly 600 million dollars. The number of mobile phone users has crossed 13 million mark with another half a million adding to it every month, he added, while noting a phenomenal change in the telecom industry where tele-density has increased from 4 to 11 percent.

He highlighted the government's policy of privatisation, deregulation and liberalization, which had created a competitive atmosphere benefiting the consumers by lowering prices. The prime minister pointed out that the overseas call rates have come down drastically as a result of growing competition among the operators. He referred to the worldwide trend of privatisation and said Pakistan has to change accordingly to keep pace with the global development.

Prime Minister Aziz said when completed the Telecom Tower would provide quality and world-class office space to high tech telecom and IT industry. The plot was allocated to the Pakistan Telecom Employees Trust (PTET) 10 years ago but was lying vacant since then. The decision to construct the tower followed after instruction by the Prime Minister to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to approach the people or organizations allotted plots by the government.

Prime Minister inaugurated the 'freight express train' at Lahore Cantt. Railway station on Monday last. Speaking at a function held in this connection, the Prime Minister stressed the need for making transportation system efficient to keep pace with growing economic activities. "We have to reorganize and reform railways and the government would give the needed resources in this regard." He said the railways was already undergoing a reform process, which include dualisation of the track, induction of new trains and locomotives and improvement of signal system. "We have to bring down the accident rate and restore confidence of masses in the railways. The railway high ups should give attention to both freight and passengers, as the world over railways earns from freight and gives maximum facilities to passengers, he said, adding that the Pakistan Railways should also follow that pattern.

He maintained that the government had directed railways to sell its prime real estate not used by it and situated all over the country and utilize that money to transform the organization on modern lines. The railways officials had to change their mindset also and improve their working as well as attitude. Railways should do aggressive marketing and contrary to past no body should need to look for contacts to get wagons for transportation of goods, he added.

He said some three weeks ago during a meeting with railways minister and his team, he had directed to introduce some special freight trains, which could cover the distance between Karachi and Lahore in one day. He was of the view that there should be partnership between railways, road and sea transporters to introduce a door-to-door delivery system with guaranteed time and efficiency. He also called for improving the efficiency and competitiveness. He said railway freight service should be helpful in cheaper transportation, as prices of oil were skyrocketing.

Speaking as the chief guest at Honda Factory, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said the government is fully committed to move the country forward by pursuing consistent and prudent economic policies without any "U" turns in its ongoing development-oriented policies. He said the government will continue to advance its present policies and programmes for attracting more foreign investments in Pakistan for which a suitable and attractive climate has already been created with the full support of the private sector. Shaukat Aziz said, "we will keep on following single direction in our sustained monetary policies to achieve the goal of rapid economic growth and rapid industrialization mainly aimed at quick development".

In his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Laryani, Prime Minister reiterated that Pakistan would oppose use of force against Tehran on the nuclear issue since such moves would push the entire region to further instability. This was the first high-level contact between the two countries after the formation of the new government in Iran under President Mehmood Ahmadinejad.

The Prime Minister expressed the confidence that Pak-Iran fraternal ties would be further improved in all fields particularly in economy and trade. During the meeting, the prime minister said both the countries enjoy deep rooted relations and hoped these ties would be further cemented in the time of come. He appreciated Iran's consistent support for the Kashmir cause saying it is a source of strength to the people of Kashmir and Pakistan.

Mr. Shaukat Aziz said that Pakistan is committed to implementing Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project to meet its growing economic needs. He said he had held in depth talks with Iranian Rahber and the former president during his last visit to Tehran regarding the pipeline project in which a win-win position has been assured to all parties.

Answering a question at a press conference at Lahore, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz made an impassioned appeal to the opposition to keep national interest supreme and do away with petty politicking as such things bring miseries to the poor.

Talking to a delegation of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry at the Prime Minister House, he said, the strike call by the opposition is a negative way to protest and would cause loss to the poor people. The Prime Minister urged the business community to continue their business activities on September 9 and assured them that the government had taken adequate measures to provide them security and protection to continue their businesses. Shaukat Aziz said if the opposition had any problem or wanted to raise any issue, the best and appropriate forum is the parliament and the press, where they could raise their voice and present their point of view.

Talking to the delegates of the G-20 ministerial meeting held at Bhurban (Murree), Prime Minister urged the developing world to cut on its tariffs and stop subsides, while giving a clear timetable to make the gains of globalization more equitable. "We cannot have a selective global trade agenda which is titled".

The Prime Minister said the developing world was not providing a level playing field despite its pledges by continuing to give subsides to its farmers while imposing higher tariffs on items from the under developed countries. "We are committed to free trade in its truest sense (and) the developing countries can only meet the Millennium Development Goals if they can gain greater market access from the developing countries," he added.

The Prime Minister said globalization has added new characteristics to these challenges through new markets, new tools, new rules and innovative and dynamic framework. However, he said, globalization was a challenge and an opportunity. "It is creating interdependencies and linkages between countries of the world, their markets, and their people manifested in flows, and concentration of corporate power," he said. The subsidies by the industrialized world were providing competitive advantage to their producers irrespective of their efficiency to compete because of mechanization. If globalization had to stay, the opportunities and benefits it offers needed to be shared much more widely, he said.