July 06, 2022: In order to promote digitalization and encourage eco-friendly practices, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has developed an online portal called SBP Regulatory Approval System (RAS) to enable regulated entities (i.e. banks, Electronic Money Institutions, Payment System Operators, Payment Service Providers, etc.) to submit cases/proposals and receive regulatory decisions digitally.
Previously, SBP implemented RAS for its various functions aimed at end-to-end digitalization, whereby banks were enabled to electronically submit cases related to Banking Policy & Regulations and Exchange Policy. With the launch of RAS banks, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Microfinance Banks (MFBs) started submitting their request letters/ proposals on a dedicated online portal to SBP’s Banking Policy & Regulations Department.
Earlier in October 2020, SBP launched the SBP FX RAS for end-to-end digitization of the Foreign Exchange (FX) related case submission process. The objective of this initiative was to provide a fully digitalized platform to the business community and individuals in approaching banks for their foreign exchange-related requests. The system turned out to be a huge success as it enabled the customers to lodge their FX-related requests from the location of their convenience and also enabled banks to submit FX-related cases electronically for regulatory approval of SBP and SBP-Banking Services Corporation (BSC).
In a similar vein, RAS for Payment Systems Policy & Oversight is being rolled out for industry-wide implementation. RAS will make submission of requests and proposals by regulated entities efficient, easy to track, and paperless. Moreover, it will also allow the dissemination of regulatory decisions to regulated entities electronically through the RAS portal.
RAS will run in parallel with a manual (conventional) mode of case submission for a period of one and a half months (1.5 months) whereby regulated entities will continue to submit cases manually (as well as digitally through RAS). To facilitate users of RAS, a Service Help Desk has also been set up where complaints regarding business and technical aspects of RAS may be lodged.
Service Help Desk User Manual is prepared to help users navigate through the Service Desk. This will allow SBP to identify and address potential issues that may arise during live operations. The move is expected to create trust and allow regulated entities to get used to the new system.
July 06, 2022: Federal Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Professor Ahsan Iqbal has directed the Secretary Board of Investment BOI and Chairman Special Technology Zone Authority (STZA) to remove all bottlenecks and development synergy amongst themselves to ensure that SEZs and STZAs are attractive propositions for Foreign Direct Investments, said a press release issued today.
The Minister made these directions while chairing a meeting to develop synergy between BOI and STAZ to attract more investors to the country. The meeting was attended by the Chairman STZA Amer Hashmi, Additional Secretary BOI Khashih Ur Rehman, Executive Director, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Qammar Abbasi, and others.
The STZA came into existence in October 2021 under an Act of Parliament and was being operated under the Cabinet Division. The key objective of STZA is to boost Pakistan’s Knowledge Economy through the development of a technology ecosystem by leveraging the Triple Helix Model of Innovation. “There should be clarity on existing laws between STZA and Special Industrial Economic Zones SIEZs, '' said the Minister while directing the officials to hold meetings and solve the issues immediately.
It is noted that SIEZs fall under the BOI which was established with broad-based responsibilities of promotion of investment in all sectors of the economy, and facilitation of local and foreign investors for the speedy materialization of their projects. During the meeting, The Minister further added that there should be clarity over the domain as to what kind of qualifying criteria for STAZ and SIEZs is set adding that technology and innovation are the future and we must attract foreign investors by removing all bottlenecks.
Professor Iqbal said that in 2017 Google and Hawaii agreed to make huge investments in Pakistan but unfortunately, due to a lack of authorities like SIZEs and STZA tape they could not set up their Zones and as a result, Pakistan lost the foreign investment. “We have to create an enabling environment to attract foreign investors at a time when the country is facing severe economic crisis," he added.
July 06, 2022: Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Mr. Abdul Rahim Nasir has urged the Federal government to restore gas supply to the textile industry on an urgent basis, stressing that a loss of almost $1 billion in exports has already taken place due to nonavailability of gas and closure of more than 300 textile mills.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday at APTMA House, Lahore along with Chairman APTMA North Mr. Hamid Zaman, Senior Vice Chairman Kamran Arshad, and Secretary-General Mr. Raza Baqir, Rahim Nasir said that a 26% upsurge in the export of textiles during the fiscal year 2021-22 was made possible only due to supply of energy at regionally competitive tariff. He added that the textile industry showed exemplary performance in uplifting textile exports from $ 12.5 Billion in 2020 to almost $ 20 Billion in 2022 registering a 60% hike in exports.
Rahim said exponential growth in the textile sector has promoted investment of over $5 billion and the establishment of 100 new textile units which when become operational would result in fetching additional export of more than $500 million per month or $6 billion per annum.
He pointed out that gas supply to the industry has been suspended since June 30, 2022, which has almost halted production in the whole value-added textile industry causing colossal loss to the economy. He added large-scale closure of mills has resulted in massive layoffs and unemployment spreading economic chaos.
Mr. Rahim Nasir further said that it is inexplicable that the exporting sector, which was committed to uplift textile exports to $ 25 billion during 2022-23 and over $2 billion per month, is being denied energy/gas. He said that the incessant supply of gas was imperative for the textile industry to maintain the momentum of export.
Speaking on the occasion, Chairman APTMA North Mr. Hamid Zaman said that the textile sector has repeatedly delivered its commitment to enhancing exports and proven that they are a viable and long-term solution provider for the economic stability of the country.
He observed that more than 50% of output will be lost this month with the very high risk of losing orders on a permanent basis and diversion of buyers from Pakistan to its competitors.
Hamid Zaman continued that currently textile industry was providing goods for the forthcoming Christmas and any delay in delivery schedule is fraught with risks of losing export markets for an indefinite period with little chances for revival.
“If this momentum is lost due to energy supply and cost constraints, Pakistan will be forced to seek an additional $6 billion in loans from abroad, which under the circumstances may not even be possible,” he stated.
Kamran Arshad, Senior Vice Chairman stated that if the present opportunity of exports is lost due to the non-supply of gas, Pakistan would be forced to adopt heavy borrowing which is not at all feasible due to the current scenario.
July 06, 2022 (MLN): The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Wednesday approved numerous development projects worth Rs4.12 trillion.
According to the details issued, ECNEC considered and approved the project on Construction of Hyderabad –Sukkur Motorway on a Built Operate Transfer (BOT) basis with a revised cost of Rs308,194.00 million, with GoP share of Rs10.3 billion (Rs9,500 million as Capital VGF, Rs300 million as NHA establishment charges and Rs500 million as contingencies).
The project is to be executed by the National Highway Authority (NHA) and envisages construction of 306 Km long, 06 –lanes wide divided fenced between Hyderabad and Sukkur.
The approval of the project is subject to fulfillment of all codal formalities and approval of legislation from the National Assembly.
ECNEC also considered and approved the construction of the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway (LSM) link Highway (04-Lane) connecting LSM to Narang Mandi and Kartarpur Narowal including Narowal Eastern Bypass at a revised rationalized cost of Rs17,379.949 million.
The revised project envisages rehabilitation, dualization, and construction of a 73- Kms long 04-lane dual carriageway, connecting Kartarpur with Lahore- Sialkot Motorway and Nankana. The project is to be completed in three years.
ECNEC also discussed and approved Punjab Urban Lane Systems Enhancement Project (PULSE) at a cost of Rs25,500 million with FEC of Rs1,378.756 million. The project is to be executed by the Board of Revenue (BoR) through Punjab Land Records Authority (PLRA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to develop cadastral mapping including digital land records of urban, peri-urban, and rural areas of the entire Punjab.
The project will be carried out through a 100% loan by the World Bank in 60 months period.
ECNEC also approved a project on the construction of the Northern section of the ring road (Missing Link), from Warsak road to Nasir Bagh road with a cost of Rs16,489.198 million and fully funded and executed by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project envisages the construction of 6 lane with a total length of 8.7 km to be completed in three years.
The ECNEC further observed that projects fully funded by provinces with no foreign funding may be exempted from consideration by CDWP and ECNEC.
ECNEC discussed and approved a revised project for the construction of Mangi Dam in Baluchistan at a cost of Rs13,247.893 million located about 60 kms east of Quetta city on the Khost river. The Federal Government will bear only 50 % cost of the original approved PC-I and an increase in cost due to the up-gradation of the power supply grid station & transmission line.
Any other increase in cost will be borne by the province from its resources. The 61 m high concrete gravity dam has a gross reservoir capacity of 36.4 MCM and an annual release of 13.4 MCM. The main objective of the project is to reduce the existing shortfall in the water demand that is being faced by Quetta city. The proposed Mangi dam will enable a supply of 8.1 mgd to Quetta city.
ECNEC also gave approval to two projects in Karachi city, one “Restoration and revamping of Orangi Nullah” at a revised cost of Rs15,007.25 million in Orangi Town, Karachi West district, and other “Restoration and revamping of Gujjar Nullah” at a revised cost of Rs14,854.40 million in Karachi Central district respectively.
Projects are being sponsored by NDMA and are to be completed in 21 months.
The meeting was chaired by Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Mr. Miftah Ismail.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Commerce Syed Naveed Qamar, Planning & Development Minister of Baluchistan Mr. Noor Muhammad Dummar, Finance Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra, Federal Secretaries and other senior officers from Federal as well as provincial participated in the meeting.
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July 06, 2022: Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Mr. Miftah Ismail and Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Pakistan H.E. Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Wednesday expressed their satisfaction on mutual bilateral relations and showed keen intention for enhancing collaboration in various areas of common interest, said a press release issued today.
Ambassador of the Iran to Pakistan called on Miftah Ismail at Finance Division today wherein Miftah Ismail highlighted deep-rooted cordial and fraternal relations between Pakistan and Iran based on centuries old religious and cultural affinities.
He emphasized that Pakistan always highly values its brotherly relations with its neighbouring country.
Finance Minister further said that the current trade volume between the two countries is not at the optimal level. However, Pakistan is committed to take all possible measures for resolving the bottlenecks for significantly augmenting the bilateral trade volume.
The Iranian Ambassador appreciated present government’s economic policies and said that the two countries have great potential for extensive collaboration in the fields of energy, trade and other areas.