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The State Bank on 24th February, 2015 announced reduction in the interest rate on certain financing schemes. According to the circular, end-user rates for financing for power plants using renewable energy have now been fixed at 7.5 percent per annum compared to 11.4 percent previously. The end-user rate would include 2.5 percent service charges/spread for banks/DFIs for a loan period of up to 5 years while financing for over 5 years and up to 10 years would comprise 4.5 percent rate for refinance and 3 percent for the lending financial institutions. Rate of financing the modernisation of SMEs has also been fixed at 7.5 percent. However, the share of banks/DFIs in the interest rate would depend on the period or tenor of the loan. Previously, borrowers in this category were paying three different rates varying between 8 and 10 percent depending on the tenure of financing. Rate for Export Financing Facility for Locally Manufactured Machinery ((EFF-LMM) and the Financing Facility for Storage of Agriculture Produce (FFSAP) has also been fixed at 7.5 percent. It was also decided that w.e.f. February 23, 2015, refinance for financing of revival of SMEs and agricultural activities in flood-affected areas of 2014 will be provided at 4.5 percent while banks would be permitted to charge a maximum spread of 3 percent per annum from the borrowers, enabling the end-users to avail the facility at 7.5 percent.

Some broad contours of the terrorism and extremism challenge have been ably reflected by a media encounter that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had in Lahore on Wednesday. Earlier during the day, he had met his cabinet which took stock of the actions his government has taken in compliance with the National Action Plan (NAP) on terrorism. One thing that stands out from his expose of the menace is that an effective combat against terrorism is a long haul proposition, requiring institutional response on a long-term basis. Another is that the religious seminaries, at least some of them, are not as innocent of charge of promoting terrorism as they pretend to be. And to some extent that should put paid the detractors of the 21st Constitutional Amendment for they have taken umbrage at it carries the word 'sectarian'. Earlier this month, Punjab Home Minister Colonel Shuja Khanzada had disclosed in a TV interview that some five hundred foreign students were allegedly involved in 'assisting' terrorists. Now their deportation has been sought by the Punjab government. Shahbaz Sharif says their visas have expired and they were overstaying. Seeking education in foreign lands is not uncommon - particularly among the Muslims who are exhorted 'to even go to China in search of knowledge'. That they should get involved in fomenting trouble in the host country, as seems to be the case, is absolutely un-Islamic. However, every case should be looked into as dictated by the law and due process, instead of earning the state the ignominy of delivering collective punishment.
The power policy 2015, a Business Recorder exclusive, focuses on bridging the electricity demand-supply gap hovering at around 6000MW today. What is unfortunate about this policy is that it focuses only on electricity which is the domain of the Water and Power Ministry; fails to take a holistic view of the entire energy sector and which is not only the logical approach to take but was also a commitment made by the ruling PML-N in its election manifesto. The manifesto correctly argues that 'the multidimensional energy crisis' requires 'decisive steps' including "creation of a Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources through the merger of ministries of Water and Power and Petroleum and Natural Resources."
Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will visit Islamabad next week as part of India's effort described as the "regional outreach" and hopefully there will be a discussion about talks that stand stalled ever since the Modi government called them off last August just because Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi had met the Kashmiri Hurriyat Conference leaders. Both sides have indicated that the agenda for talks would include Kashmir, though Indians say it would be "in accordance with the Simla Agreement". Bilateral talks between the two neighbours is a long-haul proposition, yet the occasion would help Pakistan directly gauge the mind of the Modi government. A part of the so-called 'Saarc Yatra' already stands exposed as the BJP has achieved its lifelong goal to become part of the government in Held Kashmir. It is obvious that Narendra Modi renewed the talks offer to win over the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of which BJP is going to be a coalition partner now. Perhaps, his foreign friends' advice not to let Kashmiris' struggle be hijacked by the Islamic State supporters and sympathisers has gelled with him too. No less intriguing is the timing of the Jaishankar's visit - it is going to take place before March 23 Pakistan Day when the presence of the Hurriyat Conference leaders at a reception hosted by the Pakistan High Commission is a given thing. Earlier, the foreign secretary-level talks scheduled to be held in Islamabad were called off by the Modi government as its reaction to the High Commissioner Abdul Basit's move to meet the Hurriyat Conference leaders essentially to have their brief to make the upcoming talks more meaningful. Undoubtedly then, not much should be expected from Foreign Secretary Jaishankar's visit. Yet the two countries must talk.
The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) seminar titled Economic Revival of Pakistan urged the government to take appropriate measures to create an environment conducive to putting the economy on the right track. The FPCCI chairman emphasised that the achievement of a 7 percent growth rate is critical to ensuring the economy's revival as well as to ensure that the trickle-down theory, or dissemination of wealth to the grassroots, can become effective.
For more than three decades the Afghans have been at war with themselves, and there has been no clear victor. And for nearly the same period there have been attempts and moves, some quite serious, to bring this fratricidal conflict to an end through negotiated peace, but till to date that hasn't happened. Once again a feeling of déjà vu permeates the Afghan national landscape as reports surface that the Afghan government is in peace talks with the Taliban. Last week, the Afghan Taliban were said to have met the Americans at Doha, Qatar where a part of the Afghan Taliban leadership has taken residence. In June 2013 too such an interlocution took place, but failed to achieve anything as the then Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, questioned the diplomatic legitimacy of the host country to allow the Taliban to open office and fly their flag and thus blew off the palm the possibility of national reconciliation. Once again the Doha peace process seems to be afoot. Quoting sources close to the Taliban the BBC says 'top leadership of Taliban in Afghanistan had a green signal to hold dialogue with the Afghan government'. Earlier, Pakistani officials had indicated this possibility - though both the United States and the Taliban leadership denied, but confirmed by the same media network that Taliban leader Qari Din Muhammad would be shortly visiting Islamabad. He was here some days ago, after he had led a Taliban delegation to Beijing. Doha or Beijing, which of the two finally emerges as venue for Taliban talks with Afghanistan the latter as the possible venue is more likely, given the Chinese government's first-ever open offer to help the cause of Afghan national reconciliation.
Highly agonising though it is but the use of generators has now become a part and parcel of our lives and claims a considerable chunk of the country's foreign exchange resources. According to the latest data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), imports of generators have risen by as much as 20.4 percent to dollar 775 million during the first seven months (July-January, 2015) of the current fiscal year as compared to dollar 643 million in the corresponding period of FY14. It may be noted that the imports of generators had also risen by almost 12 percent to dollar 1.07 billion in 2013-14 compared to dollar 958.6 million a year earlier. Punjab, which has been hit very hard by energy shortages, holds 60-70 percent share in total arrival and consumption of foreign generators. Khurram Saigol, President of Pakistan Machinery Merchants Group (PMMG) has revealed that industrialists in Punjab were importing over 20 KVA (kilo volt amps) diesel generators in large numbers and also purchasing second-hand imported generators. This was due mainly to the reduction of Rs 28 per litre in diesel price from September, 2014 till February, 2015 that had curtailed operating cost of diesel generators for the industrialists. Future cuts in diesel price may push up the demand for diesel generators further in the coming months. However, over 90 percent of the ordinary people prefer running their residential/portable generators on natural gas.


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ICT 2014

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-1.703 bln
Exports $2.156 bln
Imports $3.859 bln
WeeklyFebruary 26, 2015
Reserves $15.944 bln