Meeting chaired by PM to finalize energy policy: Pervaiz

ISLAMABAD, June 27 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid Thursday said that the government was making sincere efforts to overcome power load-shedding and Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif would chair a high level meeting Friday (tomorrow) to finalise national energy policy. Talking to newsmen after attending an All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) executive committee meeting here, he said the government was fully committed to overcome the energy crisis and for the purpose would take short, medium and long term measures.

Replying to a question, the minister said the government had not initiated any action against former president Pervaiz Musharraf but only submitted its reply in the Supreme Court under the Constitution.
He said the government would fulfill its obligations according to the Constitution. It intends to pursue the court proceedings in high treason case against Musharraf in the light of Supreme Court’s directives, he added.
Answering another question, Pervaiz Rashid said the law of the land would take its own course and the government would fully cooperate with the courts.
He said a committee had been formed on the issue of Swiss letter, which would present its report.
Earlier speaking at the meeting with senior APNS officials, the Information Minister said the government and media would make joint efforts for the betterment of the country.
He announced formation of a committee to settle issues like newspapers media list and regional papers quota. He assured the APNS to personally take up the matter of 10 pc raise in government sector advertisements.
He said the country’s political sysytem and media had made great progress.
Media has played a key role in strengthening democracy, he said and added that all steps would be taken to resolve the problems being faced by print media.
Pervaiz Rashid said that the country was created by politicians and journalists, who he hoped, would again play their role for reviving a peaceful Pakistan.

(Courtesy: Associated Press of Pakistan)

Iqbal pins hopes on PM’s Beijing visit for better bilateral cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal Thursday said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming visit to China has great significance and both countries would sign several MoUs to increase cooperation in various fields.

Speaking to media representatives outside the Parliament House, he said this would be the first foreign trip of the prime minister since formation of the new government.

Earlier this week, an advance team led by the planning and development minister visited Beijing to discuss details of the prime minister’s scheduled visit of July 4.

Sharif was invited by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang when he visited Islamabad last month.

Iqbal told reporters the prime minister will reciprocate ways to further improve relations of the two countries as was done by the Chinese premier during his visit to Islamabad.

The minister said presently China is working on various energy projects in Pakistan while during the upcoming visit, PM Sharif would further urge the Chinese investors to invest in power sector of the country.

He recalled that JF-17 Thunder, and Chashma power plant agreements were singed during the past tenures of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

To a question, he said doubts are being created on Article 6 of the Constitution and that the Parliament had endorsed October 12 action of former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf while his November 3 emergency was not approved by the Parliament.

The minister said the government would implement the directives of the Supreme Court in the high treason case against Musharraf. The government would deal with the case as per the Constitution and law of the land, he added.

To another question, the PML-N leader said it was never agreed in Charter of Democracy (CoD) that cases would not be opened against each other.

(Courtesy: Dawn)

Conditions will have to be accepted: Ahsan Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said that there would be no free lunch and conditions would have to be accepted to get foreign loans in the wake of severe resource constraints.

Without naming any international financial institutions (IFIs), including the IMF, the minister said due to severe resource constraints as a result of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio in the region, there would be no option but to accept the conditions because there would be no free lunch.

“There will be a balanced walk between tough decision and political stability as the government has been taking tough decisions knowingly to steer the economy out of the crisis mode and move towards growth and prosperity,” Ahsan Iqbal said while talking to reporters after the eighth Citi-PPAF Micro-entrepreneurship Awards ceremony here.

To a query about the controversy over the poverty figures, the minister said the figures calculated by the previous regimes were controversial because the role of the Planning Commission was completely undermined and ignored. “Now the PML-N-led government will convert it into a think tank,” he added.

The government, he said, would have to take ‘tough decisions’ in the first two years of its tenure as it did in this budget 2013-14 but then the stage would be set to share dividends with the masses in the preceding three years.

The minister said the first priority of the government was to resolve the energy crisis and reminded that no work was done in the last 14 years in this regard and now the government wanted to shift its power generation from expensive oil-based production to coal and gas in order to reduce its cost. He said that 14 years ago, the prices of oil stood at $20 per barrel which had now crossed $120 per barrel, so the people of Pakistan could not afford expensive energy.

Dwelling upon the issue of poverty, he said the economic crisis had forced two-thirds of the population into poverty. “In accordance with the definition of $2 per day, almost two-thirds population is living below the poverty line,” he said.

“We are taking tough decisions to revive the economic growth,” the minister said, and cited an example that any patient has to swallow bitter pills in order to improve his health. “The government did not increase the salaries of public sector employees by 50 percent in the budget because we did not want to use the official printing press to print money which could result in price hike.”

He said that when they had left power 14 years ago, the tax-to-GDP ratio stood at 13.5 percent but now it had gone down to below nine percent of the GDP. In the developing countries, this ratio stood in the range of 15-20 percent.

(Courtesy: The News)

Microfinance for women can reduce poverty: Ahsan Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Thursday said Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and Citibank are playing an important role in helping the poor and marginalised communities in becoming masters of their destiny through provision of inclusive microfinance services at their doorstep.
Addressing the 8th Citi-PPAF Micro entrepreneurship Awards ceremony, he said the efforts of PPAF and Citibank for encouraging and recognising the efforts of micro entrepreneurs in overcoming adversity. He said that the micro entrepreneurs are the role models and future of Pakistan. “Micro entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty,” he said, adding that the sector development role of PPAF and Citi in connection with microcredit and financial inclusion by reaching out marginalised communities in far-flung rural areas is highly commendable.
The minister said that he was extremely happy to see that Citibank and PPAF are working together for the economic growth and prosperity of the poor and disadvantaged households, who are generally excluded from the mainstream microfinance services. “The economic indicators at present may seem disappointing but we have the capability to turn around things for the betterment of our people. We need to take difficult steps now to secure the long term future of Pakistan,” he added.
Iqbal appreciated efforts of the qualifying and successful micro entrepreneurs for taking charge of their lives and benefiting from the microcredit facilities, not only for themselves but also for their families and communities. He said that the government programmes were aimed at helping the poor and marginalised people across the country through a comprehensive framework of development.
Citibank Managing Director and Citi Country Officer Nadeem Lodhi said that the microfinance is the pillar of Citi’s corporate social responsibility. He said Citi Foundation-funded initiative enabled them to create a highly effective platform to showcase successful talent in the country and recognise their innovative business models. He said that during the last seven years, awards worth over $635,000 have been given to 160 exceptional entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
Qazi Azmat Isa said that PPAF is fully focused on empowerment of women, good governance, transparency and accountability. He said that PPAF ensures investment in institutions of the poor and those (institutions) supporting the poor. He said that PPAF always stresses inclusive development in every sphere of life. He said that this year’s winners and runners-up included an overwhelming number of women and disabled who belonged to different religious communities like Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and Muslim.
In his address of welcome, PPAF Sr Group Head Ahmad Jamal said that these awards are held to recognise the resilience of and dynamism of poor households in the face of extreme adversity. He said that these microentrepreneurs are our heroes who are determining their own destiny despite challenges they face.
PPAF Financial Services Group Head Yasir Ashfaq presented an overview of the microfinance sector and the catalytic role of PPAF, which focuses strengthening of inclusive institutions of the poor.
Shahid Hanif won the ‘Best National Micro Entrepreneur Male’ award while Bache Singh was runner-up. Qurban Bibi won the ‘Best National Micro Entrepreneur Female’ award while Rasheeda Bibi was the runner-up. Awards were also given to ‘Best Regional Micro Entrepreneurs’ from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Sindh, AJK, Punjab and one for federal and Gilgit-Baltistan, with one runner-up in each category. Special awards in four categories for innovative business, young entrepreneur, overcoming adversity and for having a positive impact on community were also given. Recognition awards were given to the respective loan officers in each category.
Specific goals of Citi-PPAF Micro Entrepreneurship Awards programme are to raise awareness about microfinance, particularly among micro entrepreneurs who could benefit from it, to recognise and celebrate the contributions that micro entrepreneurs bring to the world economy and to highlight best practices in micro entrepreneurship.
Since 2005, awards are being organised with the collaboration of PPAF in Pakistan. The CMA programmes are being held in 18 countries around the world. Citi, the leading global financial services company, has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services.
Over a decade as a unique institution of its kind globally, PPAF has worked with a range of institutions for the poor like partner organisations, with a diversity of experience and sets of expertise. This provides a sound and appropriate ground for mutual learning, drawing on success and best practices. As the lead institution for grassroots development in the country, PPAF works through civil society partner organisations to focus on disadvantaged and marginalised across Pakistan. Besides, microfinance, PPAF is performing unparalleled services for provision of health, education, water, energy, infrastructure, skill development, environment and livelihood facilities in the nook and corner of the country.

(Courtesy: Daily Times)

Govt to provide a decent travel facility: Khawaja Saad

ISLAMABAD, Jun 27 (APP): Federal Minister for Pakistan Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique on Thursday said it was the goverment’s responsibility to provide lower-income people a decent travel facility at affordable price. The Minister said this while chairing a high level meeting here on Thursday, says a press release issued here. “The role of Pakistan Railways in this regard is of pivotal importance,” he said adding that our government’s resolve is evident from the PSDP Allocation for the coming fiscal year.

During the meeting, the Minister directed the concerned officers to ensure the optimal consumption of funds, allocated under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
He was of the opinion that prioritization of the projects should be done in order to determine the equitable utilization of funds. He said that since public money was a sacred trust so the top notch was responsible for each rupee spent out of that provision.
Taking strict cognizance of the four defective Traction Motors, the minister instructed to call the supplier on one day’s notice so that the issue may be resolved and in future any such discrepancy in the good supplied in lieu of procurement may be avoided.
The minister said that it was the prime duty of the top management to make sure that a reliable, competitive and economical service of recognized standards is provided to the organization’s customers. Arif Azeem, Chairman Pakistan Railways Corporation was also present on the occasion along with the other departmental heads.

(Courtesy: Associated Press of Pakistan)

PM directs rationalizing gas tariff, precedence to domestic consumers

ISLAMABAD, Jun 27 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday directed the Ministry of Petroleum to rationalize gas tariffs to safeguard common man’s interest and give domestic consumers precedence in gas distribution formula over other sectors. Chairing a high level meeting convened to discuss gas shortfall held here at the Prime Minister’s Office, the Prime Minister said that all resources be exploited and all avenues explored to overcome gas shortfall in the country. He said that different options to import gas from the neighboring countries be examined to overcome the shortage.The Prime Minister was told that work on Iran-Pak Gas Pipeline Project and Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project is in progress and that India was also interested in exporting LNG to Pakistan.
The meeting was informed that domestic consumption of gas constitutes 28% of the total national use of the natural resource.
The meeting was further informed that in order to bridge the gap between demand and supply of gas in the country, load management of gas was done and this was particularly so during the winter season when the demand for gas increased exponentially.
The meeting was attended by Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Minister Punjab Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minster Dr. Musadiq Malik, senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Petroleum.

(Courtesy: Associated Press of Pakistan)

Nawaz stops increase in gas price during Ramazan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has stopped the authorities concerned from hiking the gas tariff from July 1, 2013, fearing it could trigger a further rise in inflation in the month of Ramazan.

However, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources (MoP&NR) can rationalise the gas prices after Ramazan in the light of the national energy policy formed by the CCI (Council of Common Interests) sometime in the first 10 days of July.

Meanwhile, sources told The News that in an interaction with officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, the visiting IMF mission pressed the government to increase gas prices.

The gas tariff is twice adjusted in a financial year and this needs to be raised from July 1, 2013. However, the premier in a meeting held on Thursday with Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and top officials of the MoP&NR, Minister of Water and Power Khwaja Asif and Adviser to the PM on Energy Dr Mussadiq asked the authorities not to increase the gas tariff from July 1, 2013.

The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) was earlier determined to raise the gas tariff by Rs8.72 per million cubic feet gas per day for the next financial year scheduled to be effective from July 1, 2013, and the top mandarins of MoP&NR had decided to raise the CNG price from the existing 49 percent parity with petrol to 85-95 percent.

Likewise, the government wanted to raise the gas tariff of captive power plants from the existing Rs488 per mmbtu to more than the cost of furnace oil, hovering at around Rs1,300-1,400 per mmbtu, and also planned to increase the gas tariff for fertiliser plants from the existing Rs123 per mmbtu to Rs550-600 per mmbtu. The prime minister, however, asked to delay the rationalisation of gas prices after the month of Ramadan.

The prime minister has been sensitised about the existing production of gas, which stands at 4 billion cubic feet per day and the contract demand stands at 8 bcfd. The proven reserves stand at 26 trillion cubic feet per day and if further indigenous exploration activities are not carried out and no gas is imported, then the existing gas reservoirs will deplete in 7-8 years.

In the last five to six years, no more gas was explored because of a non attractive petroleum policy and law and order situation. Now the alluring petroleum policy is very much there but the law and order situation is not allowing the E&P companies to carry out their activities.

The prime minister was also sensitised about the latest status on the import of gas from Iran and Turkmenistan. He was also told that India had offered to export LNG to Pakistan. When asked if the prime minister has given any direction to expedite the process to materialise the IP gas line, the official said that no directive was issued. However, the prime minister has said that all options need to be exercised to bridge the rising gas deficit in the country.

A press release issued by the PM Secretariat says that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has said that all resources be exploited and all avenues explored to overcome the gas shortfall in the country. Different options to import gas from the neighboring countries be examined to overcome the shortage, he added.

The PM was told that work on the Iran-Pak (IP) Gas Pipeline Project and Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline Project was in progress. The prime minister was also informed that India was interested in exporting LNG to Pakistan.

The meeting was informed that domestic consumption of gas constitutes 28% of the total national use of the resource. The PM gave clear directions to the Ministry of Petroleum that domestic consumers be given precedence in the gas distribution formula over other sectors of the economy so that their daily routine life remained undisturbed.

The meeting was further informed that in order to bridge the gap between demand and supply, load management of gas was done and this was particularly so during the winter season when the demand for gas increases exponentially. The prime minister directed to rationalise the gas tariff to safeguard the interests of the common man.

(Courtesy: The News)

PM Nawaz Sharif to visit China in July first week

ISLAMABAD, Jun 27 (APP): Prime Minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif will undertake official visit to China in first week of next month on his maiden foreign tour after assuming office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Foreign Office Spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry in his weekly briefing here on Thursday giving details of the visit of Prime Minister to China said, “Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif will undertake an official visit to China in the first week of the next month to hold bilateral talks and discuss the regional situation with Chinese leadership”. The spokesman said that this would be the first ever foreign trip of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the formation of new government following May 11 general elections. He said during the visit of Prime Minister to China, various Memorandum of Understandings to increase cooperation in different fields including energy would be signed.
Replying to a question, the spokesman said the US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Islamabad next week.
He said that the visit of British Prime Minister to Pakistan cannot be confirmed so far as dates are being finalised through diplomatic channels.
Answering a question about the killing of foreign tourists in Nanga Parbat, Gilgit Baltistan, the spokesman said the dead bodies of Chinese tourists have been sent to their country while those of the other countries will be sent today.
The spokesman said Pakistan will continue to extend cooperation in Afghan reconciliation process. However, he said, Pakistan is not part of Doha talks.
“Pakistan is prepared to talk to any group, including outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, for establishing peace in the country,” he said.
The spokesman said Pakistan will continue to extend its full cooperation and support to Afghan reconciliation process.

(Courtesy: Associated Press of Pakistan)

PM condoles death of Khawaja Ahmad Tariq Rahim’s son

ISLAMABAD, June 27 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday telephoned Khawaja Ahmad Tariq Rahim, former Governor Punjab and condoled with him the death of his son Barrister Hassan Tariq Rahim. Conveying his sympathies on the sad demise, the Prime Minister prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the loss.

(Courtesy: Associated Press of Pakistan)