Lion will roar again to safeguard country: Nawaz

PML-N President Nawaz Sharif Monday reiterated his promises to end loadshedding, unemployment and terrorism and put the country back to path of progress.
Addressing a public meeting here as part of his party’s election campaign, the former prime minister said it is the power of people’s vote that elected the government and he was confident that people will vote for the ‘Lions’.
Nawaz said he was there to ask for vote not for him or his party but for the cause of Pakistan. “What sort of a Pakistan do we have where hundreds are killed in Karachi and where people can’t feed their children? We are a respectable party; we keep our moral high ground. Sher will roar on May 11, everyone else will run away.”
He said that after coming to power they would solve the chronic problem of loadshedding for good, eliminate unemployment from the country and provide financial assistance to the youth, besides opening banks in each and every town of the country.
“Electricity is your basic right, once we are in power you will get this basic right… Educated people would be given micro loans so that the unemployed youth might be able to earn their living in a respectable way.” “There is lots of work to be done, we will end load shedding, we will end terrorism, we will progress… I have high expectations of young people; they will be part of the ‘army of the people’ that will bring a turnaround.”
The PML-N chief said he did not play only cricket but also made Pakistan a nuclear power. Nawaz highlighted the achievements of his previous two tenures as prime minister and said if the PML-N had been allowed to complete its tenures, Pakistan would have been put on the road to progress.
“People say Nawaz Sharif took two turns on power but let me explain that our first tenure lasted only for two years while the other for two and a half,” he said, adding, however short-lived his government’s were he performed great amount of work towards the country’s development.
“We made JF Thunder aircraft, carried out nuclear tests, established international airports in Karachi and Lahore, built motorway and other highways, and launched mega projects Gwadar port,” he recalled, adding ‘we will do more work for the country if elected to power on May 11’.
Thanking the people of Okara, Nawaz said he would never forget the love displayed by them. “You have shown so much love for Nawaz Sharif and for PMLN.” He promised that if PMNL-N came to power, the farmers of Okara military farms would be given ownership rights. In the end he urged the masses to vote for the candidates of his party.

(Courtesy: Nation)

‘PML-N to win polls due to its performance’

LAHORE – PML-N President Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has said that his party will win the election with overwhelming majority on the basis of its past performance.

Addressing the party ticket holders in Lahore on Monday, Nawaz Sharif said that the PML-N government did great work for the people and put the country on the road to progress. “People understand that it is the party capable of solving all problems.”
The masses will vote the PML-N to power on the basis of its track record and will reject the leaders who are chanting hollow slogans, he claimed.
Nawaz Sharif said the faces of those who practiced corruption during the last five years of rule in the centre are exposed to the masses and the people would reject them in elections.
He said that the mammoth turn out in the public meetings of the PML-N was a reflection of party’s victory in the next elections.
No one can stop change in the county as the masses have given verdict in favour of the PML-N, he said adding, after victory they would resume journey of progress and development from the point his government had left in 1999.
We are determined to give the nation a brighter and advancing Pakistan, he added. The meeting decided to conclude the election campaign with a big public meeting in Lahore.
Separately, addressing a delegation of party workers, Nawaz said that his party would raise the status of agriculture to industry by introducing agri-corporate culture for the betterment of small farmers.
He said that his government would ensure availability of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides at cheap rates and allocate 50 percent loans to small farmers wherein women would be given preference. He said that after coming into power, his government would build new water reservoirs and expand the availability of water for irrigation. He vowed to bring more land into cultivation and distribute it among peasants.
Meanwhile, the PML-N Young Lawyers Forum has worked out a strategy to counter pre-poll polling-day rigging.
Barrister Sharjeel Adnan Sheikh, chief organiser of the forum and Sardar Kaleem Ilyas, chairman of its organising committee, called on Maryam Nawaz on Monday and gave a briefing on their strategy to check the rigging.
They said that the forum has constituted teams of young lawyers for each constituency across Pakistan to prevent rigging and any foul play on the day of polling.
They will provide legal assistance to the candidates as well as their polling agents in case of any illegality by their rivals. They said that the forum has also devised training program for party polling agents.
They said that an election cell had also been established at the PML-N secretariat in Model Town.

(Courtesy: Nation)

Iranian envoy meets PML-N chief

Iranian Ambassador to Pakistan Ali Raza Haqeeqna called on PML-N Nawaz Sharif at Raiwind on Saturday and discussed regional matters with him. Nawaz Sharif expressed sorrow over the loss of lives due to earth quake that took place on the Iran-Afghanistan border. On Friday, the Saudi ambassador called on Nawaz while diplomats also held meetings with the PML-N president some days ago. (Courtesy- Nation)

50,852 smuggled vehicles legalised in one month

The amnesty scheme to legitimize smuggled vehicles through duties has in fact given a huge push to smuggling as total of 50,852 smuggled vehicles have been legalized in just one month. According to data, from March 5 to April 6, total 50,844 vehicles of more than 3 years old and total 8 vehicles of up to 3 years old have been legitimized by Federal Board of Revenue to earn Rs 16.03 billion.
Interestingly, more than 17,000 vehicles each from Quetta and Peshawar have been legitimized which shows that people there imported vehicles after the announcement of the amnesty scheme. 17,950 vehicles of more than 3 years old from Quetta while 17,330 vehicles of more than 3 years old from Peshawar have been legalized to collect Rs 10453.25 million in terms of duties/taxes.
In contrast, 1563 of more than 3 years old vehicles from Hyderabad, 2885 from Gwadar, 632 from Lahore, 1108 from Multan, 1154 from Sambrial, 1247 from Faisalabad, 1081 from Islamabad, and 5894 from Karachi have been legalized.
On the other hand, total seized vehicles cleared under amnesty scheme during the said period are 7324 including 4393 vehicles of up to 1800cc and 2931 vehicles of above 1800cc. This is another proof that more than 40 thousand vehicles have been imported after this scheme.
According to the break-up of these confiscated vehicles of both 1800cc power and above, 1854 vehicles from Quetta, 955 from Hyderabad, 883 from Peshawar, 830 from Islamabad, 766 from Karachi, 667 from Multan, 526 from Lahore, 460 from Gwadar, 237 from Sambrial, and 146 from Faisalabad were cleared under this scheme.
Manufacturers said that this whole amnesty thing has put the future prospects of local auto industry in jeopardy, as they cannot place effective long term policies fearing anti-industry schemes like this to harm their returns.
Sources in the aftermarket suggest that once these cars start landing in the market for resale the consumer who cannot differentiate will be made a fool easily as most of the cars will be sold with tempered mileages and snatched out gadgets. Since most of the cars have been rigorously used on off road tracks they are likely to give these customers a hard time.
The amnesty scheme is benefiting only few influential and tax evading citizens at the time when the country requires a level playing field where the ‘protected stakeholders’ are also taxed similar to a common man.

(Courtesy: Nation)

PPP-led govt granted one year extension to SNGPL MD

Out-going coalition government at the fag end of her constitutional tenure had granted extension in the contract appointment of Managing Director SNGPL Arif Hameed as a ‘political gimmick’ before the expiry of his tenure, it is reliably learnt. Interestingly, the ECP in a strong worded letter ordered Petroleum Ministry to immediately remove both MD SSGCL Haroon Zuhair Siddiqui and MD SNGPL Arif Hameed from their lucrative slots, as the commission feared that both would influence the upcoming general elections through gas schemes. Ahead of fast approaching general elections, the ECP wrote a letter to the petroleum ministry following an application submitted by a common citizen requesting to send both officials on packing. However, the ECP withdrawn its order after finding petroleum ministry’s response where it had made clear that since both top slots are tenure basis so it is unable to immediately remove them from their respective offices. Moreover, the Ministry of Petroleum in its reply also said that the allegations leveled against both of the MDs are baseless. After which, the ECP had withdrawn its notice.
However, available copy of notification issued from petroleum ministry pertaining grant of extension in the service contract of MD SNGPL disclosed that the outgoing Government on March 15, 2013 through a notification No.2 (7)/2011-Gas had given one year extension in the tenure of the contract appointment of Arif Hameed as Managing Director SNGPL.
“The competent authority has been pleased to extend the tenure of the contract appointment of Muhammad Arif Hameed, as Managing Director/CEO SNGPL for one year till 26th September, 2014,” notification reads.
It is to note here that Muhammad Shafi, a common citizen of Pakistan through a request submitted in the ECP had requested the Chief Election Commissioner to take appropriate action against the concerned ministry (petroleum & natural resources) for concealing the facts pertaining the extension in the tenure contract of MD SNGPL.  Shafi in its plea has also pointed out that ‘the mala fide on the part of previous government is apparent on the surface as the extension has been granted in March, 2013 whereas the contract of the officer is to expire in September, 2013 i.e. before six months of the expiry of contract period.
“The above facts are bring to your notice for taking appropriate action against the concerned ministry for concealing of facts before the Commission as well as to terminate the services of Arif Hameed, MD SNGPL having political affiliation with the previous government as is evident from the above facts which is a kind of political bribe.

(Courtesy: Nation)

No priority being given to end outages, says LHC CJ

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court chief justice on Monday sought a detailed report and replies on electricity loadshedding in Punjab from the Ministry of Water and Power, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Finance and other respondents.

“No priority is being given to end loadshedding,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed while deferring the hearing until May 3 on petitions against unsche-duled loadshedding in Pun-

jab.

During the course of hearing, the law officer of Lesco submitted a report on loadshedding.

Azhar Siddique advocate, the petitioner’s counsel, pointed out that loadshedding was not being conducted in some private housing societies and industrial areas of the province.

He said that besides the common man, the patients in government hospitals were also suffering from the unscheduled loadshedding.

Pepco’s counsel Khawaja Tariq Raheem appeared before the court and accused Lesco of load-shedding by saying that due supply of electricity was being provided to Lesco.

“Lesco is misguiding the public on the issue,” the counsel added.At this, the chief justice observed there should be difference between the consumers who paid bill and defaulters, adding that no priority was being given by the quarters concerned toend loadshedding.

The court adjourned hearing till May 03 and directed the respondents to submit detail report and reply on electricity load-shedding in Punjab.

(Courtesy: The News)

Rupee declines against dollar

The rupee slightly fell against the dollar at the local currency market on Monday in the wake of high demand for the greenback for import payments, dealers said on Monday.

In the interbank market, the rupee closed at 98.47 to the dollar, down by four paisas from its previous closing of 98.43. The market witnessed the high of 98.50 and the low of 98.47. The rupee also lost some of its value against the dollar as it was traded at 99.80 and 100 for buying and selling, respectively, the dealers said.

The open market was made volatile on the back of shortage of dollars in the market, they said.

“The rupee could suffer more losses against the dollar in the coming months due to external debt servicing obligations, especially debt repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” an analyst said.

As a result of such payments, the external account would see huge outflows, which dent the foreign exchange reserves position of the country and lead the rupee to further decline against the dollar, they said.Poor law and order situation is also hurting investors’ confidence on the economy, they added. (Courtesy – The News)

For new govt, economy should come first

KARACHI: The new government should give first priority to issuing a policy statement on the economy just after taking over reins of the country. And if the statement is powerful enough, it will instil fresh confidence into the business community, encouraging more investment in the economy, suggests Dr Ishrat Husain, Dean and Director of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).

Husain was speaking at a pre-budget seminar jointly organised by the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Pakistan here on Monday.

“Today, one of the biggest problems of Pakistan is circular debt because of which power crisis has become uncontrollable,” he said. “So the new government has to handle it immediately after coming to power and for that it should stop subsidising electricity who can afford it.”

Elaborating, he said out of 20 million electricity consumers in Pakistan, only 1 million deserve subsidy. “For instance, if you produce electricity at a cost of Rs13 per unit and recover Rs8 or 9, it just does not make economic sense. If you continue subsidising those who can afford, you will not be able to sustain this system,” he added.

After the 18th Constitution Amendment, Husain stressed that provinces should take responsibility and generate significant revenues as it would bring down fiscal deficit of the country. “Provinces, especially Sindh and Punjab, need to improve their revenue base,” he suggested.

Discussing the role of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), he asked the FBR to stop issuing Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs), which is the mandate of parliament and not of the FBR. “Unless the FBR stops issuing SROs, Pakistan cannot fully systemise its tax system,” he added.

Husain was of the view that the new government should give priority in fund allocation to two sectors – power and education – and complete projects associated with these areas within a year or two.

Earlier, he said, the governments had been misusing the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), leading to years of delay in executing projects.

About government borrowing from the central bank and commercial banks, he said, “I am very much against government’s excessive borrowing from the central bank as it inflates inflation. On the other hand, commercial banks make easy money by lending to the government that creates shortage of liquidity for the private sector.”

In an apparent reference to rampant smuggling, he stressed that the country could collect much more revenues if it went for reducing tax rates for different sectors. (Courtesy: Tribune)

Jump in Pakistan’s poverty level

THE previous government had been claiming economic success, saying that poverty had been contained through improved economic management. However, the difference between the claims and facts underlines the importance of adopting a consistent method to measure poverty and avoid political considerations in compiling data.

Giving autonomy to the Federal Bureau of Statistics and other relevant statistical agencies is crucial in this respect, otherwise the statistics released by the government would remain a suspect.

According to latest World Bank estimates, Pakistan ranked most exposed to poverty risks among 43 countries. Its poverty rate jumped from 23.9 per cent to 37.5 per cent in three years. This can be described as devastating.

According to a presentation made by the Planning Commission to the prime minister, the latest estimates indicate that 64 million people were living below the poverty line in 2008 as against 35.5 million people in 2005. The main factors for the plunge were slow economic growth, sudden external shocks, high inflation and shortages in certain cases.

Pakistan’s position in human development index was 136 out of 177 countries, and 40 per cent of the urban population was living in slum areas. The Planning Commission was also not optimistic about future trends in this regard.

The condition for reducing the fiscal deficit to 4.2 per cent of the GDP during the current year had forced the government to slash the development programme, which could further lead to unemployment and accentuate poverty.

The PSDP has already been slashed by Rs100 billion and the government could spend only 19 per cent during the first six months of the current fiscal year out of a total allocation of Rs371bn for the public sector development programme.

It was feared that achieving IMF conditions would ultimately force the authorities to ignore social sector spending and make it impossible for Pakistan to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Although a rise in poverty level was expected between 2005 and 2008, the scale of increase as reported by the Planning Commission is simply baffling.

It is, therefore, critical to finance job creation, delivery of essential services and infrastructure and safety net programmes for the most vulnerable groups of society. To achieve these objectives, it is essential to redesign the fiscal strategy.

Although it looks difficult, a way must be found to reduce poverty and ensure that people on the fringes continue to get at least basic necessities of life like food and medical care at affordable rates during the difficult period.

It is, thus, suggested that the restoration of investor confidence is another area which needs to be given high priority in this context. A higher level of investment would automatically create more jobs, reduce poverty level and promote economic growth.

For this a meticulous planning and commited leadership is needed to get out of the crisis without indulging in statistical trickery.

The following suggestions must be given priority consideration: (a) warlike conditions may be stopped, (b) more attention may be paid to developing rural areas, (c) concentration of development may not be assigned to one place only, (d) all the budget for five years may be reserved for development of industrial units in rural areas, (e) no concentration of industrial areas may be allowed in one place and (f) all funds deposited in foreign countries may be recalled and invested for the betterment of the people. (Courtesy: Dr Ali Akbar Dhakan – Dawn)

Challenge of GDP growth

LACKLUSTRE economic growth and large fiscal and external imbalances (with declining rates of growth also contributing to poor growth in revenues) have made macro-economic management a challenging task.

Still-high inflation — even if it has declined, partly because of controversial methods of its estimation and partly owing to the deferment in administered price increases of electricity, gas and petrol — continued postponement of fundamental structural reforms and an uncertain international environment have also contributed to the macro-
economic management challenge.

These outcomes have been discussed in the media by a host of analysts and donors. This article attempts to review the composition of the low 3pc average annual growth in the last four years.

It is revealing that the two principal production sectors of the economy, agriculture and manufacturing, have performed rather poorly, with much of the growth driven by the services sector.

Despite the attractive incentives offered by government in the form of higher support prices (for wheat) and subsidies to inputs (fertiliser) and increased global commodity prices the average annual growth in agriculture was just over 2pc.

Resultantly, its contribution to growth was less than 12pc; and even within this, 83pc of the sector’s contribution came from the sub-sector of livestock, whose growth rate of 4pc per annum in real terms is not based on actual but assumed projections which simply overstate its contribution. The contribution of crops was rather limited.

In the same period the contribution of the manufacturing sector was 20pc, with almost the entire increase coming from the small-scale manufacturing sector. Again, as in the case of the livestock sector, the contribution of small and medium enterprises is not actual but assumed at an annual average of 7.5pc in real terms. This is difficult to defend given:

a) the extent of loadshedding, which affects this sector more because it does not have the financial wherewithal to purchase and maintain its own power supply and remain competitive;

b) this sector does not function in isolation — it buys and sells goods to the formal sector and ought to be affected by the ‘fate’ of the formal sector; and;

c) the extension of the road network which has improved access of the formal sector to local markets which were previously sheltered for local enterprises. The contribution of the large-scale manufacturing sector was more or less flat during this period.

On the other hand, the services sector contributed almost 60pc of this growth — although its contribution is likely to be even higher because a major portion of the sector is undocumented — with almost half of it from expenditure on public administration and defence/security. This includes the increase in the share of ‘community services’ as a result of the deteriorating law and order conditions.

In fact, given the manner in which national accounts are produced, economic growth can be enhanced by simply increasing the budget deficit through overstaffing and salary revisions at a rate higher than inflation, which happened in our case, with more than a doubling of salaries of civil and military personnel over the period.

Moreover, much of this GDP growth has been enabled by consumption, with a rapid fall in the level of investment from 22pc to 12.5pc, with the share in investment of the key job-creating sectors of large-scale manufacturing and transport and communication declining sharply from 45pc to a mere 14pc.

The fact that the government tried to keep fiscal deficit in check, albeit with limited success, through cuts in development spending on infrastructure (especially energy) and much-needed social sector spending is likely to have contributed to the dampening effect on growth.

Owing to energy shortages, there is a fair degree of under-utilised capacity that can stimulate a higher growth rate from the existing stock of machines. However, for pushing up the growth to higher rates, investment in equipment, infrastructure and skills will be required. But easing these key constraints to growth and productivity will take time and such investments also have long gestation periods.

Furthermore, enhancing the growth rate will require resources for investments which in turn require a higher rate of domestic savings to generate these investible resources, because of the continued uncertainty — for a variety of reasons — of non-debt-creating external funds in adequate amounts. In other words, the savings required to maintain high rates of investment will have to come from domestic agents, the government, the corporate sector and households.

Pakistan’s experience suggests that the government will continue to be a ‘dis-saver’ in the foreseeable future, its revenues not enough to meet its annual operational expenditures. Given the nature of our tax base and our taxation systems it would be too much to expect a major breakthrough on the revenue front, while there will be continued heavy demands for defence, loss-making public-sector corporations like PIA, Railways, Steel Mills, etc. and debt-servicing obligations.

It is also difficult to see how household savings can rise astronomically to make up for this shortfall, especially since such savings are in themselves a function of growth and only sustained growth can push up the propensity to save appreciably.

To summarise, domestic savings must increase to finance the investment required for propping up the growth rate since inflows from abroad are not likely to be forthcoming easily, and in any case there are implications of using externally borrowed money.

In view of the constraints described above to raising savings dramatically in the foreseeable future, the average annual rate of growth for the next three to four years, even with a business-friendly government in power, will at best be between 4.5pc and 5pc.

This will be largely through improved capacity utilisation and that too provided some of the electricity/power sector issues are resolved, and notwithstanding the contribution to savings and investments by the informal/black sector not picked up by official statistics. (Courtesy: Shahid Kardar – Dawn)