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Pakistan has promising digital future: VC-CAFIEC

Sep 17, 2021: Pakistan has promising digital future and as an emerging economy, Pakistan is facing both opportunities and challenges, said Dai Xulong, vice-chairman of China Association for International Economic Cooperation (CAFIEC), Ministry of Commerce of China and president of Council for International Economic and Technology Administration, Beijing (CIETA).

"As an emerging economy, Pakistan is facing both opportunities and challenges. It is considered to be the fifth-largest young country in the world. Around 63 percent population of the country comprises youth aged between 15 and 33. The large proportion of young people means they are adaptable but they have weak spending power," Dai said in an interview.

To solve this, market segmentation would be a feasible way for Pakistan on its path to digitalization. "Some Chinese phone brands' performance in Pakistan has been impressive in recent years. "So to divide a target market into smaller, more defined categories would definitely help win more market share; that's what we could share with our Pakistani brothers" Dai added.

Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic stroked a blow to Pakistan's economy. The only way to deal with the crisis is to strengthen cooperation in digitalization at a deeper level and in broader areas, Dai Xulong pinpointed, since "no country can stay immune from COVID-19's impact."

As per Dai, digital technology has special edges during the unprecedented pandemic era. "Digital is going to transform you whether you like it or not," Dai told China Economic Net, adding that the pandemic was a knockout punch to the global real economy but the digital economy still has room to grow as it's pushing everyone to adjust themselves to the digital age faster than ever.

Take telecommunication as an example. Even 4G has not penetrated countrywide in Pakistan now, and there are still some areas that are yet to get 3G/4G service. Worst of all, the users who have not yet switched to smartphones will keep on using 2G-based phones.

However, it is worth mentioning that the pandemic has provided the telecom sector of Pakistan an opportunity to expand further and to strive to reduce existing digital inequality.

Pakistan's 3G and 4G user base have reached 101.59 million by the end of July 2021, up from 99.85 million at the end of June 2021, marking a 1.74 million increase, according to figures from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). By the end of July 2021, Pakistan's cellular subscriber base has expanded by 0.65 million to 184.9 million, up from 184.25 million in June.

"We would like to share our experience in developing digital technology and scientific and technological innovation with Pakistan, but it takes a process," Dai explained, pointing out that the development of digital economy cannot be achieved without the development of digital infrastructure.

"China needs to take note of the importance of digital infrastructure when working with countries with weak digital infrastructure like Pakistan to promote its development of digital economy," he further mentioned.

Established in 1983, CAFIEC of the Ministry of Commerce of China is a national organization focusing on conducting activities, engaging in research and organizing exchanges in international economic cooperation and on China companies' outbound strategies.

APP

Activation of Terminal III to ease off gas crisis:...

September 17, 2021: Managing Director of Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) Imran Maniar has said that gas crises being faced during the winter season were likely to continue for one to two more years until the new terminals for RLNG get installed at the Port.

There were difficulties and challenges but the picture is rosy as upon completion and activation of Terminal III at the Port and if the SSGC decides to make a commitment with terminal owner only if consumers of SSGC pledge to buy the additional 500 mmcf, it would certainly help in resolving gas shortage issue being suffered by all types of consumers in Karachi, he added while exchanging views at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI).

Chairman Businessmen Group (BMG) & Former President KCCI Zubair Motiwala, Vice Chairman BMG Jawed Bilwani, President KCCI Shariq Vohra, Senior Vice President Saqib Goodluck, Vice President Shamsul Islam Khan, Former Presidents KCCI Majyd Aziz and Younus Bashir, Former Vice President Muhammad Idrees, Chairman Public Sector Utilities Subcommittee Atif Jamil ur Rehman and Managing Committee Members along with representatives of industrial town associations also attended the meeting.

While highlighting the overall gas demand-supply situation, MD SSGC informed that a total of 4,000 mmcf gas including indigenous gas and RLNG was being used all over the country, of which around 950 mmcf was being provided to SSGC from indigenous resources in Sindh and Baluchistan while 150 mmcf of RLNG was also being given to them and the rest of gas was being used by SNGPL. SSGC takes 110 mmcf from natural resources in Baluchistan while the rest of 75 percent gas comes into the system from resources in Sindh but these gas reserves were depleting fast at a rate of 10 percent per annum.

He said that SSGC takes around 150 to 180 mmcf RLNG from two terminals at Port Qasim but the supply shrinks to 70 or 80 mmcf from these terminals during winter and the demand for gas in Baluchistan rises to 120 mmcf which creates an overall gas shortage of around 195 mmcf. To deal with gas shortages, the Ministry has designed a mechanism in which all the consumers from domestic to industrial have been ranked from top to bottom in which domestic consumers were at the top of the list, followed by export-oriented industry while CNG stations were at the bottom of the list and non-export industry was above CNG stations.

Therefore, SSGC carries out load management during winter season exactly as per list provided by the Ministry whereas RLNG supplies to KE are completely cut to zero that helps in covering the gas shortage by 75 to 80 mmcf whereas suspension of gas to CNG stations further saves 20 mmcf that leads to reducing the gas shortfall by 95 mmcf, out of a total shortfall of 195 mmcf, he added.

He further pointed out that there was a tremendous push to get villages gasified which requires significant investment of billions of rupees and huge resources including workforce and equipment who have to be sent to remote areas and villages.

He further said that the industry was paying 70 to 80 percent of gas being consumed by the domestic consumers as the gas tariff for domestic users was very low and less than any other consumers all around the world including Qatar and Iran as it was being subsidized by the industry.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairman BMG Zubair Motiwala pointed out that the first and foremost problems being faced by gas consumers was the low gas pressure in the industrial zones of Karachi which has created a serious havoc and the entire industry was unable to meet its requirements including the efficiency benchmarks and delivery time that intensifies the sufferings for the exporters. “As winter season is just ahead, what will happen to gas pressure during winter and what is the current condition of gas supply”, he asked.

Zubair Motiwala said that the data of last one decade indicates that 1200 mmcf of gas was available from indigenous resources ten years ago when the industries were utilizing around 385 mmcf gas and then around 7 years ago, a decline to 335 mmcf was witnessed in the industrial consumption which later on picked up but to date, the maximum industrial consumption was not more than 400 mmcf.

“We are concerned about the future as the demand for gas continues to rise because the industries have imported huge number of machines to enhance their production thanks to government policies but all these machines are going to require energy including gas and electricity so what is going to happen and what is the energy scenario for these machines which have been imported”, he said, adding that machineries worth US$1.5 billion dollars has already arrived, of which machineries valuing around US$400 to US$500 million have already been installed and started production whereas more machines worth US$1.5 billion were also in pipeline which would require more gas.

He was of the view that demand from industries during winter remains intact yet the industries suffer the most which was not a correct approach. The demand for gas rises in Baluchistan to 200 mmcf from around 40 to 50 mmcf and it also increases in Sindh during winter season. Hence, the gas shortage was not because of rise in demand by the industry but purely due to enhanced consumption by domestic users. “Despite staying stagnant in terms of gas demand, supply to industry is curtailed and we are compelled to suffer. We don’t want more gas in winter, we want the same quantum of gas in winter at adequate pressure”, he added.

Zubair Motiwala further stated that the five zero rated sectors agreed on a tariff of 6.5 dollars for RLNG gas which was available to entire Pakistan but SSGC has denied this tariff and the export-oriented industries falling under SSGC's franchise have been compelled to use RLNG at exorbitant rate which was not affordable. “In this situation, when we are deprived of receiving RLNG, we might have to shift to SNGPL network.”

He further expressed apprehensions over gas connections being given to new buildings which was going to intensify the hardships for industries because as per policy, supplying gas to domestic consumers was the top priority which means that the industries were going to suffer further curtailment due to more supply of gas to new domestic consumers. “All the new buildings should be provided gas via alternate means like bousers and the storage facility can be established at the basements of new buildings whereas the domestic consumers must be advised to switch over from gas-run geezers to solar-run geezers as successfully done in many countries all around the world”, he added.

President KCCI Shariq Vohra, while welcoming the MD SSGC, said that gas has become a serious issue as Pakistan’s natural gas reserves were rapidly depleting while the gas distribution system of SSGC was in a pathetic state, causing severe line losses which was due to the fact that SSGC, which was once known as the best utility service provider company, has been through terrible circumstances during the last 10 years. SSGC has to define effective strategies to control waste of natural gas resources and theft in order to save the economy and the industry from severe losses, he added.

Press Release

EU plans to spend €50mn in Pakistan for vocational...

September 17, 2021: Mr. Ovidiu Mic, Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Pakistan, has visited FPCCI Head Office in Karachi.

The delegation expressed his satisfaction over the successful completion of more than three years of Sectoral Support Program (SSP) under Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) initiatives in collaboration with FPCCI.

These programs are being implemented by National Vocational & Technical Training Commission (NAVTCC) Pakistan & GIZ (Germany); and, also supported by the Norwegian Government.

Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo, President FPCCI, said that he is proud of FPCCI and NAVTCC for playing an instrumental role in TVET-SSP and efficiently facilitating the training programs to educate and train the youth of Pakistan.

Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo added that he wants to see TVET-SSP to expand to additional sectors and other cities of Pakistan to benefit more SMEs and Women Entrepreneurs across Pakistan. He also expressed his desire to see TVET-SSP continuing beyond 2021 and reach out to 90 million smartphone users of Pakistan to maximize the gains it can offer.

Mr. Ovidiu Mic informed the audience that starting from January 2022, EU plans to spend up to 50 million Euros in Pakistan for vocational education & training programs across Pakistan in various cities and sectors. He apprised the audience that agriculture, textiles, SMEs and ICT will get more programs as these sectors can potentially create millions of jobs in Pakistan. He added that EU is keen to help the unskilled workforce of Pakistan attain new skills and become productive employees for Pakistani businesses and beyond.

Mr. Sultan Rehman, Coordinator FPCCI Head Office, in his message, said reactivation of FPCCI-GIZ Joint Secretariat is the highlight of FPCCI’s performance in 2021.

Mr. Salman Haroon, Convener FPCCI’s Central Standing Committee on TVET, handed over books – based on TVET-SSP training programs – to the dignitaries.

Top leadership of the organizations and companies that have benefited and participated in TVET-SSP programs of EU also attended the meeting and shared their experiences with the programs and how those skill development programs have helped them acquire the required skilled human resources for their organizations.

Press Release

Govt to increase ratio of hydel electricity in National...

September 17, 2021: Water Resources Federal Minister Moonis Elahi visited WAPDA House yesterday, therein he was briefed about the development portfolio of WAPDA and the progress achieved so far on water and hydropower projects.

Speaking on the occasion, the Federal Minister said that harnessing the water resources is a key to national development. That is why, the Federal Government is constructing water and hydropower projects in the country to improve water situation and increase the ratio of hydel electricity in the National Grid for providing low-cost energy to stabilize the economy and provide relief to the people, he added.

The Federal Minister, appreciated WAPDA for implementing a mammoth development portfolio and expressed the hope that WAPDA would be able to complete these projects according to their timelines. He further said that Water Resources Ministry would play its due role in completion of WAPDA Projects on time.

Earlier WAPDA Chairman Lt Gen Muzammil Hussain (Retd), giving a run-down of the development activities, said that WAPDA is constructing more than 10 Projects in water and hydropower sectors under ‘Decade of Dams’. These projects, including Diamer Basha Dam, Mohmand Dam, Dasu Hydropower Project, Nai Gaj Dam, Sindh Barrage and K-IV Project are scheduled to be completed one by one by 2028-29.

On completion of these projects, gross water storage capacity will increase from 13 MAF to more than 24 MAF with an addition of 11.7 MAF, sufficient to irrigate another 1.6 Million Acres of land and provide 950 million gallons per day for drinking purpose to Karachi and Peshawar. The installed hydel generation capacity will be doubled to cross 18000 MW with an addition of 9000 MW. These projects will also provide about 35,000 job opportunities during the construction, the Chairman said

WAPDA Member (Finance) Naveed Asghar briefed the Minister of WAPDA’s financial strategy to arrange funds for construction of its projects. Member (Water) Abdul Zahir Khan Durrani apprised the Minister about the water sector projects, while Member (Power) Jamil Akhtar informed about WAPDA hydel power situation. General Manager (HRD) Brig (Rtd) Shoaib Taqi highlighted the measures being taken by WAPDA to make its human resource more efficient in line with modern human resource techniques.

Water Resources Joint Secretary Syed Mehar Ali Shah, WAPDA MD (Admin) Khalid Saleem, WAPDA Secretary Fakharuzzaman Ali Cheema and PSO to Chairman WAPDA Brig (Retd) Mateen Ahmed Mirza also attended the briefing.

Press Release

Fitch revises down World GDP 2021 to 6%

September 17, 2021 (MLN): World GDP is expected to grow by 6% in 2021, slower than the 6.3% growth forecast in the June Global Economic Outlook (GEO), says Fitch Ratings in its latest Global Economic Outlook (GEO).

Fitch noted that the supply constraints are limiting the pace of recovery.  

A credit rating agency has revised down the US 2021 GDP forecast to 6.2% from 6.8% in June. A greater share of demand growth is being reflected in price increases and US inflation forecasts have been revised up again.

The global economic recovery is still proceeding rapidly but it is hitting speed limits, it said.

Fitch has also lowered China’s forecast, to 8.1% from 8.4%, as the property slowdown weighs on domestic demand. Forecasts for some other Asian economies have also been revised down following a pick-up in coronavirus cases and renewed restrictions. However, Fitch has revised up eurozone 2021 growth to 5.2% from 5.0%. Poland, Turkey, Mexico, Russia and South Africa have also seen forecast upgrades.

An unprecedented boom in consumer demand for durable goods has stretched the capacity of global suppliers. Supply bottlenecks are curbing the rate of output expansion and creating near-term inflationary pressures.

“These pressures should ease significantly in 2022 as demand growth moderates and supply responds. But price pressures are shifting the tone of the policy debate. Fiscal and monetary policy support for growth will start to wane next year,” said Brian Coulton, Fitch Ratings’ Chief Economist.

The boom in demand for consumer durable goods has been so strong that supply was unable to keep pace. The global semiconductor market has proved to be a key bottleneck given the heavy electronics component of durables demand. Supplier delays for US manufacturers have reached levels last seen in the 1970s. Car production has been affected by component shortages. Goods scarcities look likely to persist well into 2022.

With regards to labour shortages, the reports have also become much more widespread since the spring and have been reflected, for instance, in business survey responses and surging unfilled vacancies.

The report noted that the progress with vaccine rollout is limiting the impact of renewed increases in Covid-19 cases on economic activity in Europe and the US. But virus dynamics are influencing growth more heavily where vaccination rates remain lower. The pandemic is still constraining labour supply.

The above-mentioned supply constraints have generated inflation pressures that are proving more intense and durable than anticipated in the June GEO. These go well beyond rising commodity prices and are most evident in global and, in particular, US goods price inflation.

The cost of processed inputs for US firms is rising at its fastest rate for 40 years. Higher costs have been passed onto consumers, with US core CPI inflation at its highest rate since the early 1990s. Goods price inflation should recede next year, but gradually rising US services inflation will prevent US core inflation falling below 3% by the end-2022. Inflation pressures are less intense in other advanced economies, but end-2021 CPI forecasts have been revised up widely, the report highlighted.

Inflation pressures are influencing the policy debate. Central banks have emphasized the likelihood that the current rise in the rate of inflation will be temporary, but recent surprises on inflation have changed the tone of the macro policy debate. The Fed is now expected to start tapering asset purchases this November. This is a few months earlier than Fitch expected in the June GEO. It is likely that the Fed will see its threshold of “substantial progress” towards restoring full employment achieved by October. The tapering is expected to last just under a year.

Fitch now anticipates two Fed hikes in 2023.

The Bank of England is also now expected to hike rates in 2023 and emerging-market (EM) monetary policy has seen a rapid about-turn. Peak global fiscal stimulus is behind us. Furlough schemes in Europe are being unwound.

The report said that deleveraging dynamics in the property sector are weighing on China’s recovery. The macro policy is starting to be recalibrated but slower housing activity will take a toll on domestic demand and global commodity markets. Challenges to the EM growth outlook for 2022 are starting to build.

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