Govt to install three olive extraction mills, 6 mobile...

March 20, 2019: The government is set to install three olive oil extraction mills and six mobile oil extraction units across the olive producing areas in the county to facilitate the olive farmers as well as getting maximum benefits by the value addition of the local produces.

These extraction mills and mobile units would be installed during next crop season with public private partnership, which aims to promote olive cultivation and oil production on large scale commercial basis, said Project Direct of Olive Development Programme in the National Agriculture Centre Dr. Muhammad Tariq.

The promotion and development of olive on large scale commercial basis would not only help in reducing the country's reliance on imported oil to fulfill its domestic requirements like palm and soya bean, but also provide super hygienic edible oil to local consumers, he said.

Besides, he said that development of olive on large scale commercial basis would also help in saving the precious national foreign exchange reserves of over $3.7 billion used on the import of edible oil.

Dr. Tariq said that about 600,000 acres of land were identified in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Wana and Pothar Region for olive cultivation during next season, adding that olive plantation have so far been completed over 100,000 acres and planted over 5 million live plants.

He said that olive plantation had witnessed encouraging trend in the country as average 500,000 to 600,000 olive plants were planted every year, adding that the olive was cultivated over 50,000 acres during last year.

Out of the total cultivated crop, about 50 percent plants had reached to the fruiting stage and every year output was witnessing encouraging increase, adding that if the ratio continued in same spirit economic benefits of Rs 25 billion would be injected in the national economy, he added.

He said that in order to ensure the maximum survival of the plants, drip irrigation system was also installed over 450 acres, besides work on developing the local nurseries of certified plants were also in progress to produce high yielding plants as according to the local ecological requirements.

The project director said that about 18 training programmes were organized and average 30-35 farmers were trained in each secession, besides organizing international olive conference to share the international best practices and expertise with local stakeholders.


ECC approves release of funds for rehabilitation of TDPs

March 20, 2019: Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has approved release of funds for rehabilitation of temporary dislocated persons (TDPs) of North Waziristan.

The meeting also approved technical support grant of 202.637 million for CADD and 12.409 million for Pakistan Chairs abroad in favor of ministry of federal education and professional training. 

The meeting was held in Islamabad today with Finance Minister Asad Umar in the chair.

Visit of Malaysian PM to help Pakistan get a...

March 20, 2019: Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad will arrive in Islamabad on Thursday on a three-day visit to Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The Malaysian Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including several leading businessmen.

The two Prime Ministers will also speak at the Round Table meeting of the CEOs of Industries, who desire to invest in automobile and telecommunication sectors of Pakistan.

Foreign Office Spokesperson, Dr. Muhammad Faisal, in a statement today said the visit of Malaysian Prime Minister will further cement the existing friendly relations between the two countries.

He said the focus of the interest is on enhancing economic, trade, investment, and defence ties, for the mutual benefit of the peoples of the two countries.

The Businessmen Panel (BMP) for Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry hailing visit of Dr. Mahathir Muhammad to the country hopes it will also give a new push to its trade in the ASEAN region.

BMP Chairman, Mian Anjum Nisar here on Wednesday said although Malaysia and Pakistan enjoy very close and fraternal relations as both shared several commonalities yet these could never translate into strong trade ties.

"Although Pakistan and Malaysia have also signed FTA yet not much momentum in trade has been witnessed," he said.

Emphasizing need for special attention and efforts on part of both the countries, BMP Chairman said regular exchange of trade delegations and participation in trade promotional activities may help boost economic relations between the two.

Pakistan, he said fully recognizes the importance of regular discussions to strengthen the trade relationship in key sectors and addressing bilateral trade imbalance.

"This is needed to be taken up on urgent basis as Pakistani Businesses eagerly need Malaysian market and ASEAN region to diversify its exports, particularly in horticulture, sports surgical and textile sectors," said the senior exporter and representative of local business community.

It was mentioned that Pakistan is a big supplier of IRRI and Basmati rice while the Malaysian requirement is of 1,000,000 metric tons annually for domestic consumption.

"Unfortunately share of Pakistan is not more than 200,000 tons and the Malaysian government must be requested to enhance the quota of Pakistani rice export to Malaysia, at competitive prices," said BMP leader.  

Nisar said Pakistani authorities need to also approach their Malaysian counterparts with the proposal to review 5% to 7% duties imposed on mango and kinnows import from Pakistan.

BMP Secretary General and Former President FPCCI, Senator Ghulam Ali supplementing his senior colleague said Malaysia and Pakistan are enjoying warm and friendly relations since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1957.

"Both the countries being the members of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) and G77 also share a similar position on regional and international issues," he said mentioning Pakistan is also a dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

"The exchange of trade delegations is direly needed to boost the bilateral trade ties and volumes," he reiterated.

Ghulam Ali said his panel also looks forward to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) expected to be signed between the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) during the forthcoming visit of Malaysian Prime Minister.

The BMP officials were of unanimous opinion that Pakistan needed to manage its economy in a completely different way as presently the country's growth story is one of boom and bust, however, our history shows that a few years of strong growth are always followed by crisis.

To avoid such crises in the future, they said state's revenue collection and its private sector must be equally strengthened.

Efforts to broaden the tax net and bolster tax administration was said to help raise tax revenues on permanent basis, without increasing the burden on those already paying taxes.

The senior businessmen further suggested urgency to turn the country's private more competitive through an improved business environment, increased openness to trade and investment besides reforms in the energy sector.


Multi-country involvement in CPEC to strengthen regional integration: World...

March 20, 2019: A new World Bank report has said that the multi-country involvement including India in China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can help achieve greater regional integration.

Suggesting various steps to be taken towards greater integration with the region to liberalize trade and improve logistics, the report titled "Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future" said CPEC can be used to improve relations with other countries that could benefit from it, including Iran, Afghanistan and those in Central Asia.

Other efforts to increase regional integration as relations with neighbors strengthen might include offering India an overland route to Afghanistan in return for gaining access to Central Asia for itself; offer both Karachi and Gwadar ports for use to all neighbors; and work with Iran to develop synergies and complementarities between the Gwadar and Chabahar ports," the report added.

Pakistan should push for the timely completion of connectivity projects already committed to by all countries in the region.

The process of unlocking Pakistan's regional promise must start with a consensus across Pakistan's leadership, and between civilian and military leaders, to use constructive regional relations to support economic competitiveness and growth.

To improve relations with India, the two countries could revitalize the Pakistan-India Joint Chamber of Commerce, normalize visa processing, including for business people, and enter into a dialogue on trade liberalization measures.

In the medium term, the report added that Pakistan could deepen some of the reforms undertaken in the short term, including opening up other border points with India, such as Khokhrapar-Munabao in Sindh and Sialkot in Punjab.

Border infrastructure such as warehouses and improved cold-storage facilities would be necessary to facilitate increased trade between the two countries.

Railway links to carry both passengers and freight from borders and ports to Pakistan's major cities are needed to reduce transportation costs.

On the western border with Afghanistan, similar investments in improved border infrastructure, customs procedures, and road and rail connectivity would expand trade capacity and foster domestic manufacturing growth in Pakistan.

The report also suggested to establish a simple, transparent tariff structure with reduced tariffs, and with clear and transparent rules governing the use of discretionary provisions, including a uniform, less discretionary duty exemption scheme for exporters.

Identifying and implementing key regulatory reforms in the services sector could improve Pakistan's international competitiveness in the tradeable services and manufacturing sectors that are increasingly reliant on professional services inputs, such as logistical and financial services.

Improving trade logistics through procedural facilitation and infrastructural improvement will also be critical. An automated internet-based processing system for border management has already been rolled out.

This roll-out should be completed and extended to all relevant regulatory agencies.

Assessing and subsequently upgrading the biggest infrastructural bottlenecks at borders, such as inadequate weighbridges and scanners, sheds and warehouses, customs facilitation centers, and quarantine and phytosanitary facilities, should be undertaken, the report added. 

Adopting a more modern risk-based compliance management strategy for border controls will help focus attention on the most high-risk consignments, while expediting those that do not pose serious issues.


“Central Bank sees inflation behaving well in the next...

March 20, 2019 (MLN): Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Mr. Tariq Bajwa has said that the Central Bank sees inflation behaving well in the next financial year. But in spite of that, the Central Bank stands ready to use monetary policy tools in the future after witnessing the “most aggressive interest rate tightening” in Asia last year.

Speaking at the Bloomberg Economic Forum, the governor said that while inflation accelerated to 8.2 percent in February, the highest since 2014, the central bank doesn’t see average inflation breaching the double-digit mark in the next fiscal year.

He also that it will be no surprise if the inflation rate continues to be more or less the same for the next year, and starts declining by the end of next fiscal year.

Citing taming of inflation rate as one of the priorities, the Governor said that the Central Bank would continue to strive as far as policy rate is concerned. 

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Finance Minister chairs ECC meeting in Islamabad

March 20, 2019: A meeting of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) chaired by Finance Minister Asad Umar is in progress in Islamabad.

The Committee is taking stock of eight point agenda including release of funds for the return and rehabilitation of temporarily displaced persons of North Waziristan and the budget proposals of Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution.

ADB supports Pakistan in accelerating urban projects with new...

March 20, 2019: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Wednesday that it has approved 9 million U.S. dollars in project readiness financing (PRF) to support the preparation and design of urban sector projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), which will support the government of Pakistan in accelerating the delivery of critical infrastructure in the rapidly urbanizing province.

The Manila-based bank said that this is the first project approved under the PRF in Central and West Asia, which is part of a set of new financing instruments approved by ADB's Board of Directors to help deliver projects in a faster and more responsive manner.

The PRF features simplified documentation and supports project preparation and engineering design activities that help ensure that projects are "shovel ready", reducing both overall time and cost to borrowers, the ADB said.

It said the PRF will support the preparation for the first two phases of the proposed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cities Improvement Project (KPCIP).

It added that the proposed projects will help the cities of Abbottabad, Kohat, Mardan, Peshawar, and others in KPK improve their access to quality urban services and civic amenities through enhanced municipal infrastructure, public urban spaces, and transport facilities.

Up to 3.5 million people are expected to benefit from the projects, which are expected to be co-financed with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the ADB said.

"The proposed urban infrastructure projects will spur economic growth and improve people's living standards in KPK. Better infrastructure will lower the cost of doing business, shorten travel times, and usher in more economic opportunities in remote areas," Atif Rehman, the secretary of Planning and Development Department of the government of KPK Province, said.

"We are excited that the government and people of Pakistan will benefit from ADB's new financing instrument, which will improve portfolio performance, lower project costs, and increase the speed of implementation," Yong Ye, ADB's director for the Central and West Asia Department's Urban Division, said.

ADB's financing includes a 7 million U.S. dollars loan and a 2 million U.S. dollars grant from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF), which was established in December 2013 by ADB with financial support from the governments of Switzerland, Britain, and the United States, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation.

The UCCRTF helps medium-sized cities in Asia build resilience to the effects of climate variability and climate change, particularly to reduce the vulnerability of the urban poor, the ADB said.


Govt proposes further changes to the Finance Supplementary Bill,...

March 20, 2019 (MLN): Certain amendments have been made in the Finance supplementary Bill, 2019, thereby which non-filers will have to pay taxes of 0.6 percent on cash withdrawal, if the amount withdrawn exceeds Rs. 50,000 from all bank accounts in single day. The same tax rate shall also apply for banking transactions (against cash), if the amount exceeds Rs. 25,000 per day.

Moreover, amendments have also been made with regards to restrictions imposed on non-filers for the purchase of certain assets. As per these amendments, these restrictions shall not apply in respect of;

  • A locally manufactured car
  • A person holding a Pakistan origin card or a National Identity Card for overseas Pakistanis or a non-resident Pakistani citizen holding international passport who produces a certificate from a scheduled bank of receipt of foreign exchange remitted from outside Pakistan through normal banking channel during a period of sixty days prior to the date of booking, registration or purchase of motor vehicle
  • A legal heir acquiring property in inheritance
  • A person holding a Pakistan origin card or a National Identity Card for overseas Pakistanis or a non-resident Pakistani citizen holding international passport who produces a certificate from a scheduled bank of receipt of foreign exchange remitted from outside Pakistan through normal banking channel during a period of sixty days prior to the date of registering, recording or attesting transfer of immovable property.

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Most Asia markets down as dealers spooked by trade,...

Hong Kong, March 20: Asian markets mostly fell Wednesday with nervous investors keeping tabs on developments in the China-US trade talks and the Brexit saga, while awaiting the conclusion of a key Federal Reserve meeting.

A general optimism about the outlook for the tariffs negotiations has helped propel equities higher across the world this year -- offsetting concerns about the outlook for the global economy -- with both sides sounding broadly positive.

But dealers have been spooked by a report that some US officials are feeling some pushback from Beijing on a number of demands, including on the crucial issue of intellectual property.

The unnamed negotiators said the Chinese side was growing concerned at the lack of assurances that US duties would be removed, according to the Bloomberg story.

While the report also said the resistance was regarded by some as a normal part of talks, it highlighted their fragile nature, with fears already raised earlier this month by the delay of a flagged signing summit between Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will return to Beijing next week to resume talks.

In early trade Hong Kong dipped 0.6 percent after a four-day rally, while Shanghai slipped 0.2 percent though Tokyo recovered in the late morning to head into the break slightly higher.

Sydney fell 0.4 percent, Seoul tumbled 1.1 percent and Singapore was off 0.7 percent, while Wellington and Manila were also in the red.



Dow, S&P 500 dip as markets eye Fed, trade...

New York, March 19: Wall Street stocks finished mostly lower on Tuesday following conflicting reports on US-China trade talks and as the Federal Reserve began a two-day monetary policy meeting.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 0.1 percent at 25,887.38.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 0.3 percent to 2,832.57, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.1 percent to 7,723.95.

Stocks spent much of the day in positive territory but weakened following a Bloomberg report that described tensions between the United States and China on trade terms that could pose problems for a broad agreement.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will return to Beijing next week to resume talks, a senior administration official told AFP on Tuesday.

Nate Thooft, senior managing director at Manulife Investments, said equities were also primed for a pullback after rallying last week ahead of Wednesday's Fed decision.

"People are starting to realize the Fed can't be more dovish than how it has already been," Thooft said.

The US central bank is expected to keep interest rates unchanged and could signal it anticipates fewer interest rate hikes in 2019.

Among individual companies, chip company Advanced Micro Devices surged 11.8 percent after Alphabet's Google said its new streaming videogame service would employ the company's technology.