Taxing the low-paid

The proposal to raise income tax rates by almost six times in the next budget is bureaucratic move to raise revenue, something to be done to fulfil payments to the IMF, without regard to the paying ability of those who will suffer the impact. As those who will have the taxes raised for them will mostly be salaried persons, the tax machinery has once again tried to get away with the expedient of raising revenue by imposing further taxes on those already paying, rather than widening the tax net and bringing within it powerful interests who have so far successfully avoided taxes, and which the government intends to allow to continue doing so. The assumption that people can pay multiples of existing tax burdens is just no longer valid, but is contemptuous. The tax authorities go for salaried persons, because collection is easy, by deduction at source. One reason why the proposal might find favour is because the coming Budget may include a major increase for government employees, whose salaries are also subjected to income tax. It is almost as if the government intends to take away with one hand what it gives with the other.

However, if this is the path chosen by the government to cut its deficit, there will be inevitable questions, particularly about vast agricultural incomes, which remain tax-free, with those earning those incomes enjoying the commanding heights of the polity, including in the legislatures. There will also be queries about how the government spends money, with taxpayers’ money being wasted on luxurious lifestyles for the ruling classes whose number has grown with the expansion of the cabinet.

Instead of burdening those who already pay taxes, and who have had a very rocky time of it because of recent inflation, the government should look to bringing in the tax net all those who do not pay because they enjoy tax-free incomes as well as positions of power, and to reduce its own expenditures by proper austerity measures. This has become particularly important as the government is to face a general election in the coming year. The government cannot afford to go into it having raised tax rates. The increase will combine with other government failures, such as over energy loadshedding, inflation, crime increases and foreign policy, to make the government’s task at the hustings very difficult. It is essential for the government to avoid alienating the salaried class at this point.

Energy Conference

Sporadic demonstration in Lahore and other parts of Punjab against loadshedding could prove to be the catalyst for the much dreaded revolution that some of our political quarters claim is only a matter of time. In the meanwhile, the provincial government led by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has held an energy conference with members from the traders’ and farmers’ community in Lahore. The provincial government assured the traders of certain energy projects of up to 50MW to help them partially meet the energy needs as a short-term measure. However, the traders themselves seemed proactive and urged the government to find permanent solution, including construction of Kalabagh Dam. They rightly pressed the Chief Minister that since the federal setup was not so forthcoming, Punjab must built a dam separately on the canal waters that flow down its territory preferably with some other name. Such was their earnestness that they even offered to arrange funding for the project, which shows firstly, their state of misery and secondly, the singular importance of this lifeline project.

That was not all. The Chief Minister was also told in no uncertain terms that since it was in public welfare, a long march in favour of Kalabagh Dam was overdue. As the current shortfall shows it is sink or swim for us. We not only have to prepare to bridge the existing shortfall but also gird up our loins for future as well. Since thermal energy is costly, our salvation lies in turning to hydel energy. It is hoped the exhortations will not be lost on the both federal and provincial governments.

Power tariff up by Rs 2.38 per unit

ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday announced a massive hike of up to Rs 2.38 per unit in power tariff against fuel adjustment charges for the months of February and March.
Increase in power prices will not be applicable to Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) consumers.
A notification from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) said that the Central Power Purchase Agency (CPPA) had requested the authority to increase power tariff by 69 paisas per unit for the month of February and Rs 1.88 per unit for the month of March against fuel consumption for power generation.
The hearing of CCPA’s petition was held with NEPRA Vice Chairman Ghayasuddin in the chair. However, member Sindh Habibullah Khilji and member Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shaukat Ali Kundi expressed their concern over the fuel cost derived by power generation companies (GENCOs) and small power producers.
The sources said Khilji and Kundi and smaall power producers expressed their concern over approval of revenue collection of amounting Rs 1.09 billion in state of fuel adjustment against power generation.
NEPRA also rejected the CCPA’s request to shift the burden of fuel cost of Rs 697 million to electricity consumers against fuel the consumption on power generation by Rental Power Plants (RPPs).
CPPA told NEPRA that because of the hike in price of furnace oil in international as well as local market, the power generation cost had also been increased, causing increase in electricity price in state of fuel adjustment charges. Hydel power generation also remained low during the certain period, it said.
CPPA added that the power purchasing agency sold out more than 5.91 billion electricity units to power distribution companies during the month of February and accumulated fuel cost against certain number of units for the said period was recorded Rs. 42.48 billion.
Similarly, CPPA sold out more than 6.22 billion electricity units to power distribution companies during the month of March and accumulated fuel cost against certain number of units for the said period was recorded Rs. 69.97 billion.
Both members expressed dismay at shifting the burden of Rs. 1.09 billion to electricity consumers against power generation by small power producers.
Shaukat Ali Kundi said that news items regarding waste and theft of furnace oil in GENCOs were of serious concern, adding that the entire burden of fuel cost had been shifted towards electricity consumers without any justification.

Low pressure gas policy on the cards

ISLAMABAD: As powerful groups vie for low-pressure gas supply – because of an overall shortage – from different fields, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has proposed competitive bidding for allocating the gas at a higher price of $8 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) in the draft of a new policy for 2012.

However, before the announcement of the policy, the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) has signed a contract with a domestic firm – Mehr Gas – at $4 per mmbtu for low-pressure gas supply from Kunner-Pasakhi field and the director general of petroleum concession – the regulator of the upstream industry – has kept mum over the issue, say sources.

According to sources, OGDC has caved in to political pressure and has awarded the concession to the company whose contract was earlier cancelled with Ocean Pakistan Limited (OPL) for flare gas from Dhurnal field following objection from the regulator on the ground that the petroleum ministry was not taken on board. OGDC is also a partner of OPL in this field.

Earlier, Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain had directed that no agreements should be signed by the time new low-pressure gas policy was notified to ensure transparency in the process. However, OGDC has signed the agreement with Mehr Gas.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Petroleum Secretary Ejaz Chaudhry said draft of low-pressure gas policy had been finalised, but denied having any knowledge of signing of an agreement between OGDC and Mehr Gas. “If it is true, OGDC should have waited for the new policy,” he said, adding some other firms had entered into agreements with OGDC for low-pressure gas supply.

A senior OGDC official said the company had finalised the deal with Mehr Gas in January this year and was waiting for the response of director general gas and director general petroleum concession.

According to the draft of low-pressure gas policy, the price of additional gas made available from lower pressure sources through recompression for national utilities will be $8 per mmbtu.

It will be subject to economic feasibility and fulfillment of applicable requirements and all oil and gas producers will be allowed to sell low-pressure gas to third parties and negotiate seller’s price through competitive bidding.

The draft says that exploration companies will endeavour that all future facilities are designed for maximum recovery of hydrocarbons. The custody transfer of low-pressure gas will be at field gate under a separate dedicated regime of gas sale agreement and metering protocols. The policy will be reviewed after every three years.

The exploration companies will make necessary metering arrangements for accurate measurement of low-pressure gas at production facilities within 12 months from the implementation of the policy. Field-wise plans subject to economic feasibility will be submitted to the regulatory authority within 16 months.

All gas pressure below 100 per square inch (psi) under routine operating conditions will qualify for low-pressure gas policy.

Fund allocation for water sector falls in four years

ISLAMABAD: The budgetary allocation for the water sector has declined considerably in the last four-year rule of the current PPP-led regime which is resulting inordinate delays in completion of some key projects, it has been learnt.
The priorities committee had finalised its recommendations and now the Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) would meet on May 2nd, 2012 to recommend proposed outlay for the development budget in the next budget 2012-13. The final authority of approving the outlay of the development budget is the National Economic Council which will meet under chairmanship of the prime minister by May 16, 2012.
Officials said against the demand of over Rs60 billion, an indicative ceiling of up to Rs45 billion is being proposed to the APCC for water sector in the next budget out of the total proposed federal share of Rs350-400 billion in 2012-13.
However, when contacted Secretary Planning Division Asif Bajwa said that the priorities committee had just proposed allocation against the demands of concerned ministries and attached departments so the amount for the next Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) could not be yet termed finalised.
He said allocations for various sectors of the economy would be finalised by National Economic Council which is headed by the prime minister.
Budgetary allocation for the water sector out of the total development budget has declined from 20 percent when this government came to power to around 10 to 12 percent on the basis on current proposed ceiling for the sector. This has caused delay in completion of several key projects, officials said.
They said President’s directive for constructing of 32 small and medium dams across the country is not fulfilled.
When contacted a senior official of the Planning Commission said that they requested the Finance Division to increase share of federal PSDP to up to Rs400 billion instead of Rs350 billion excluding funds for ERRA that would enable planning managers to adjust priority areas such as energy and water sector requirements.

Ministry pressurises Ogra to pass on Rs25b under UfG

ISLAMABAD – Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources ostensibly in connivance with two state-owned gas utilities and their private shareholders is pressurising OGRA to pass on another Rs 25 billion under the Unaccounted for Gas (UfG) head to the already hard-pressed consumers.

“Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources hands in glove with two state-owned gas utilities and also with their private shareholders is pressurising the OGRA to put 7.58 per cent Unaccounted for Gas (UfG) worth around Rs 25 billion on the over burdened consumers, sources privy to the development told TheNation, adding that however, the regulatory authority has so far proposed 5.46 per cent UfG worth around Rs 10 billion.

They further informed that a special meeting, on Wednesday, headed by Dr Asim Hussain Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources convened in the premises of Petroleum Ministry. During the course of meeting, the ministry ostensibly in connivance with Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Ltd (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd (SSGCL) has forced the regulatory authority to add insult to the injuries of consumers already bearing the brunt of sky-high rates of gas by putting 7.58 per cent UfG on the gas consumers of the country. Further, Managing Directors (MDs) of both gas-distributing companies has sought 9 per cent UfG to be passed on to the emptied pockets of consumers. Further, sources were of the view that as the hearing date of the applications seeking whopping hike in tariff up to Rs 13.16/mmbtu with effect from July for the financial year 2012-13 of both SNGPL and SSGCL in the regulatory authority is in near future so the high ups of the ministry, gas utilities along with their shareholders are in full swing to utilize the pressure tactics to influence the regulator.

However, Ogra in its letter sent to the Petroleum Ministry and Secretary Planning Division has said that the UfG of a Bangladeshi Company Titas Gas was 7.06 per cent during 2004-05. However, the company by controlling the gas theft during 2008-09 set 0.81 per cent UfG. Similarly, the UfG of a Canadian company is 0.86 per cent.

Available documents have, however, disclosed nervous breaking information that during last two fiscal years (FY 2010-11& FY 2011-12) a heavy amount worth in around 38billions has been additionally collected from the consumers owing to the statement of farmer Petroleum Secretary Petroleum Imtiaz Qazi in Lahore High Court (LHC) on 02 December, 2010 resultantly additional burden of expansive gas was passed on the consumer’s that had added to the miseries of general public and created hue and cry in the society.

Furthermore, in accordance with an Ogra’s letter, Imtiaz Qazi, incumbent Secretary for Water and Power, in his statement to the LHC said that by declaring different sources of earnings of gas companies including putting 2.5 percent UFG on consumers and earning of gas companies (SSGCL & SNGPL) including late payment surcharge, meter-manufacturing plants, sale of gas condensate and royalty from Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) as non operating income instead of operating income there would be no extra burden on the consumers. However, contrary to the position of then Secretary Petroleum, Ogra had already declared the earning of gas companies generated through late payment surcharge, meter-manufacturing plants, sale of gas condensate and royalty from Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) as operating income.

Through its letter, Ogra also pleaded to the government to review its decision in the larger interest of general public and necessary initiatives to give an end to the series of exploitations being done with the over burdened gas consumers.

“In view of above, federal government is requested to revisit its stance in the larger public interest and take necessary actions to vacate the high court’s Stay Order granted against Ogra’s above referred decision”, Ogra’s letter reads.

Similarly, according to sources in Ogra, with accordance to international business rules, earning from above said sources come under operating income and even if it is declared non-operating income then hefty amount worth in billions will go in the pockets of companies’ shareholders. So in a bid to satisfy the expenditures of gas companies prices of gas will have to be made more expansive.

Sources have further informed that due to declaring the income of gas companies from above said sources as non-operating income, shareholders have earned a heavy profit of Rs20 billion.

Likewise, in accordance with Ogra’s letter, SNGPL had faced a loss of Rs12 billion, thus had caused bad impact on gas infrastructure and development work. “ In case of SNGPL, Rs 12 billion of gas development surcharge has been eroded in FY 2011-12 alone”, Ogra letter reads.

It is worth mentioning that SNGPL and SSGCL had sought whopping hike in tariff up to Rs 13.16/mmbtu with effect from July for the financial year 2012-13 from Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority. Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd and Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd have sought whopping hike in tariff up to Rs 13.16/mmbtu with effect from July for the financial year 2012-13 from Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

New system to be introduced for wheat storage: CM

LAHORE – Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that a new system of wheat storage is being introduced through public-private partnership in the province. He said that most modern godowns are being constructed for wheat storage due to which there would be no chance of its wastage. The CM directed that godowns for storage of wheat should be constructed on priority basis in wheat producing districts and also for starting immediately the construction work of godowns in Bahawalpur, Multan, DG Khan and Muzaffargarh.

He was presiding over a high-level meeting with regard to construction of modern godowns and increasing wheat storage capacity in the province, here Wednesday.

Special Assistant on Food Mansha Ullah Butt, Chairman Planning & Development, Secretaries of Finance and Food Departments, Special Secretary Communication & Works and other officers attended the meeting.

The CM said the goal of self-sufficiency can be achieved by promoting agriculture, livestock and dairy farming.

He said that the Punjab government is implementing a comprehensive programme for development of these sectors. He said that red-tapism will not be allowed to create hurdles in the way of public welfare projects whose speedy completion will be ensured.

Mushahidullah Khan on non-serious attitude of the PPP Govt

وزیراعظم کے غیرذمہ دارانہ رویے اورسپریم کورٹ کے احکامات کی جان بوجھ کرحکم عدولی کی وجہ سے آج پوری قوم ایک بارپھرغیرےقینی صورتحال سے دوچارہے ۔مشاہداللہ خان
وزیراعظم اورپیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت نے سوچے سمجھے منصوبے کے تحت ہرایساکام کیاجس سے عدالتی احکامات کی نہ صرف تحقیرکی گئی بلکہ عوامی جلسوں کے دوران کھل کر اعلی عدلیہ کوشدیدترین تنقیدکا نشانہ بنایاگیا۔

اگرپاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت ،وزیراعظم اوران کی اتحادی جماعتیں ےہ سمجھ رہی ہیں کہ سیاسی شہیدبننے سے عوام ان کے بارے میں اپنی رائے مثبت کرلیں گے توےہ ان کی شدیدترین غلط فہمی ہے ، وزیراعظم اورپیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت خودفریبی سے باہرنکل آئیں توان کے حق میں یہی بہترہوگا۔مرکزی سیکرٹری اطلاعات پاکستان مسلم لیگ(ن)
(    )

پاکستان مسلم لیگ(ن) کے مرکزی سیکرٹری اطلاعات سینیٹرمشاہداللہ خان نے کہاہے کہ وزیراعظم کے غیرذمہ دارانہ رویے اورسپریم کورٹ کے احکامات کی جان بوجھ کرحکم عدولی کی وجہ سے آج پوری قوم ایک بارپھرغیرےقینی صورتحال سے دوچارہے ۔انہوں نے کہاکہ معاملے کو آئین اورقانون کے مطابق عدالت کے اندرحل کیاجاسکتاتھا۔مشاہداللہ خان نے کہاکہ حکومت محض سیاسی شہیدبننے اوراپنی خراب پرفارمنس کو عدالتی فیصلے کی آڑمیں چھپانے کے لئے اعلی عدلیہ کے ساتھ تناﺅ اورٹکراﺅ کی سی کیفیت پیداکردی ۔انہوں نے کہاکہ وزیراعظم اورپیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت نے سوچے سمجھے منصوبے کے تحت ہرایساکام کیاجس سے عدالتی احکامات کی نہ صرف تحقیرکی گئی بلکہ عوامی جلسوں کے دوران کھل کر اعلی عدلیہ کوشدیدترین تنقیدکا نشانہ بنایاگیا۔مشاہداللہ خان نے کہاکہ اب بھی وقت ہے کہ وزیراعظم عدالت کے سامنے پیش ہوکراس کے احکامات کونافذکرنے کااعلان کردیں اورخط لکھنے کے معاملے کوعدالت کے مشورے کے مطابق طے کرلیں ۔انہوں نے کہاکہ اگرپاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت ،وزیراعظم اوران کی اتحادی جماعتیں ےہ سمجھ رہی ہیں کہ سیاسی شہیدبننے سے عوام ان کے بارے میں اپنی رائے مثبت کرلیں گے توےہ ان کی شدیدترین غلط فہمی ہے ، وزیراعظم اورپیپلزپارٹی کی اعلی قیادت خودفریبی سے باہرنکل آئیں توان کے حق میں یہی بہترہوگا۔انہوں نے کہاکہ عوام کے سامنے حکومت کی نااہلی ثابت ہوچکی ،حکومت کے آج دن تک بھی ایسا کام نہیں کیاجس کے نتیجے میں عوام کوکسی بھی پہلو سے سکھ کاسانس لینا نصیب ہواہو۔مشاہداللہ خان نے کہاکہ جس حکومت سے نجات حاصل کرنے کےلئے عوام صبح شام دعائیں کرتے ہوں ،عوام تواس کی رخصتی پرشکریے کے نوافل اداکرینگے لہذابہتریہی ہے کہ پیپلزپارٹی اوراس کے اتحادی ہوش کے ناخن لیں اورعدالت کے آگے اپنے غلط کئے پراپنا سرتسلیم خم کرلیں ۔

Senator Ishaq Dar congratulated Nation on Missile test

Leader of the Opposition in Senate, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar congratulated the nation and scientists on successful launch of Shaeen Hataf-4. This missile technology on solid fuel was aggressively initiated by the PML-N government in its last tenure and has been successfully pursued later on. It gives a lot of satisfaction that this advance missile technology will prove as a better deterrent for the defence of our motherland.

Nawaz Sharif condemns bomb blast at Railway station

پاکستان مسلم لیگ(ن) کے صدرمحمدنوازشریف کی لاہور میں ریلوے سٹیشن پربم دھماکے کی مذمت
دھماکے میں جاں بحق ہونے والے افرادکے لواحقین سے گہرے دکھ اورافسوس کا اظہار، زخمیوں کے علاج میں کوئی دقیقیہ فروگزاشت نہ کیاجائے ،صدرمسلم لیگ(ن) کی صوبائی حکومت کوہدایت
(     )
پاکستان مسلم لیگ(ن) کے صدرمحمدنوازشریف نے لاہور میں ریلوے سٹیشن پربم دھماکے کی مذمت کی ہے ۔انہوں نے دھماکے میں جاں بحق ہونے والے افرادکے لواحقین سے گہرے دکھ اورافسوس کا اظہارکرتے ہوئے کہاکہ اللہ تعالی ان کو صبرجمیل عطا فرمائے اورصوبائی حکومت کو ہدایت کی کہ زخمیوں کے علاج میں کوئی دقیقیہ فروگزاشت نہ کیاجائے اورمسلم لیگ(ن) کے کارکنوں کوخون کے عطیات دینے کی بھی ہدایت کی ۔