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The trade war between the United States and China escalated on Friday as Beijing threatened to unleash “countermeasures” against US plans to impose tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods. President Donald Trump jolted global stock markets as he issued the threat just a day after US and Chinese trade negotiators revived talks aimed at ending the year-long dispute.”China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to this,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing. “If the US implements the tariff measures, China will have to take necessary counter-measures to resolutely defend the core interests of the country and its people,” Hua said, adding that Beijing did not want a trade war “but is not afraid to fight one if necessary”.

She did not specify what kind of measures China would take, but in the past Beijing has hinted that it could restrict exports of rare earths that are vital to the US technology industry, and it is also drawing up a blacklist of “unreliable” foreign companies. Trump’s announcement means virtually all of the $660 billion in annual two-way trade between the world’s two biggest economies will have tariffs on it.

China has imposed tariffs on $110 billion in American goods, almost all of the products it imports from the US. Trump said 10 percent duties on $300 billion will take effect September 1, and come on top of the 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese imports already in place.

Trump later raised the possibility he could increase the duties to “well beyond” 25 percent. “The 10 percent is… for a short-term period and then I can always do much more or I can do less, depending on what happens with respect to a deal,” he said at the White House. After resuming face-to-face talks in Shanghai this week, trade negotiators were set to reconvene in Washington in early September for another round of discussions, which means they will take place just after the new tariffs take effect.”Slapping on tariffs is definitely not a constructive way to resolve economic and trade frictions, it’s not the correct way,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on the sidelines of a regional meeting of top diplomats in Bangkok on Friday. Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council, said his group was concerned that the new tariffs “will drive the Chinese from the negotiating table”.

The council is also worried about the potential Chinese retaliation. “We are particularly concerned about increased regulatory scrutiny, delays in licenses and approvals, and discrimination against US companies in government procurement tenders,” Allen said. When he announced the tariffs on Twitter, Trump said Beijing had agreed “to buy agricultural product from the US in large quantities but did not do so”.

Just hours earlier, China had said it had started to make more purchases of US farm goods. “Additionally, my friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of fentanyl to the United States – this never happened, and many Americans continue to die!” Trump said, referring to the highly potent and addictive opioid. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directed more criticism at China at the meeting of Southeast Asian nations that Wang also attended in Bangkok.

“China has taken advantage of trade… It’s time for that to stop,” Pompeo said, accusing Beijing of “protectionism” and “predatory tactics” to give its companies an advantage in global markets. Washington has accused China of using a state-directed economic model, unfairly subsidising production and stealing US technology. Trade relations with China have swung between progress and disaster, appearing to collapse in May only to be revived two months later after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a truce at a meeting in June.”We expect this (tariffs) step to make China less keen to achieve a deal and more determined to prepare itself for long-term economic tension with the US,” Oxford Economics said in a note. The Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement that the new tariffs are a “serious violation” of the ceasefire.

“The core motivation is the talks clearly weren’t going to go anywhere without more pressure on the Chinese,” said Derek Scissors, an expert on US-China economic ties at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “Of course, they could react badly now and the talks could end entirely. It’s a measured risk,” he told AFP.

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KARACHI / WASHINGTON: On the first anniversary of 2018 general elections, Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to carry out ruthless accountability of those found involved in loot and plunder.

“We have to transform all institutions which had been destroyed by thieves who only want to loot Pakistan,” he said while speaking to charged party workers who thronged Islamabad International Airport in the wee hours of Thursday morning to welcome him.

The PM, who returned aboard a commercial flight from the US after completing his three-day visit, was given a warm welcome by senior party leaders and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf amid slogans and applause.

In response to scenes of jubilation at the airport, Mr Khan said he felt as if he had come home after winning the World Cup and not from an official visit.

Without naming former rulers, the PM said he had asked the United States and other western countries to help Pakistan in getting back its looted wealth that the ‘thieves and robbers’ had stashed abroad.

Returns to Islamabad where cheering party workers warmly welcome him; PM says Pakistan, US share same objective of Afghan peace

He promised to make Pakistan a great nation.

Earlier in Washington, the PM told members of the US Congress that Pakistan and the United States shared the same objective of reaching a peaceful solution in Afghanistan.

The need for better coordination between the US and Pakistan for restoring peace to the war-ravaged Afghanistan was also discussed at a meeting on Tuesday between PM Khan and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo.

The prime minister said that Pakistan would continue to work with the US to promote the Afghan peace process, but it would not be easy. Pakistan was trying its best to get the Taliban engaged not just with the US but also with the Afghan government and would continue to do so, said Mr Khan.

“Secretary Pompeo emphasised the continued importance of the United States and Pakistan working together to advance shared priorities, including Pakistan’s significant role in supporting the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism,” said a statement issued by the US State Department after the meeting.

“Secretary Pompeo welcomed the occasion to discuss opportunities for enhanced cooperation including expanded trade and investment opportunities.”

Mr Pompeo looked forward to continued progress from Pakistan on shared security priorities, including defeating terrorist organizations, which he hoped would form the basis of a reinvigorated partnership, the statement added.

This was a follow-up on their Sept 5, 2018 meeting in Islamabad and took place at the Pakistani ambassador’s residence in Washington.

Unlike the formal setting of the ambassador’s residence, the meeting on the Hill outside the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was informal and friendly. It was organised by the Pakistan caucus, which is co-chaired by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat, and Congressman James Banks, a Republican. The caucus made elaborate arrangements for PM Khan’s first visit to the Hill, with halal food — sushi and vegetable samosas included — arranged neatly on one side, and non-alcoholic drinks on the other.

Ahead of the PM’s address, Speaker Pelosi told the audience how she was introduced to Pakistan as an undergrad, when another student, dressed in a sari, asked her to read books on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. That woman was Naila Ahmed, the daughter of former ambassador Aziz Ahmed. Reading those books taught her the “greatness of statesmanship” and made her realise that the relationship between Pakistan and the US was “important”.

The prime minister said Pakistan was trying its best to get the Taliban engaged not just with the US but also with the Afghan government and would continue to do so. “The whole country is standing behind me, the Pakistan Army, the security forces, all are behind me. We all have one object and it is exactly the same objective as the US, which is to have a peaceful solution as quickly as possible in Afghanistan,” he added.

PM Khan said his meetings with President Donald Trump and Secretary Pompeo were very encouraging and he told them that moving forward the bilateral relationship required mutual trust. “I hope that from now onwards our relationship is on a different level,” he said, noting that unfortunately over the past 40 years, specifically the last 15 years, a lot of misunderstandings had developed.

“So what I hope is that by the time I leave, I would have made people here understand our point of view,” he said, explaining that 70,000 Pakistanis had been killed and billions of dollars were lost when the country was “fighting the US War on Terror”.

“Pakistan had nothing to do with 9/11. Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. There were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. But we joined the US war,” he said, adding that 40 different militant groups were operating in Pakistan and the governments weren’t in control.

“So, while the US expected us to do more and help [the] US win the war, Pakistan was at that time was fighting for its own existence” and felt that their sacrifices were not appreciated, he said.

“We hope from now onwards our relationship will be completely different and rest assured I will make sure that our relationship is now based on truth … and mutual respect.”

Ms Pelosi assured Mr Khan that the US “values the critical relationship, the partnership between the United States and Pakistan”.

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RAWALPINDI: After complaints that traffic wardens having been playing games on their mobile phones while on duty, the city police officer (CPO) on Sunday directed the chief traffic officer (CTO) to ensure traffic wardens do not have games on their phones while on duty.

The matter was brought to CPO Mohammad Faisal Rana’s notice at a public meeting. He has directed the CTO to ensure wardens delete all games from their mobile phones and sought a report in this regard as well.

The CPO also said he would carry out surprise checks on traffic wardens at various points, and they will face departmental action if they are found inattentive.

A police spokesperson said the CPO has also sought reports from superintendents of police, sub-divisional police officers and station house officers on the implementation of his directives issued in a recent meeting with MNAs and MPAs.

On Saturday, the CPO met with parliamentarians said that the Rawalpindi police would abide by and act on suggestions from parliamentarians with regards to community policing, rule of law and effective action against criminals.

He also asked parliamentarians to point out rotten eggs in the department so he can take action against

them once the issue has been looked into.

The parliamentarians present included Sheikh Rashid Shafique, 

The parliamentarians present included Sheikh Rashid Shafique, Shafique Khan, Taimur Masood, Haji Amjad, Umer Tanvir Butt, Raja Sagheer, retired Maj Latasab Satti, Chaudhry Sajid and Chaudhry Javed Kausar.

Mr Rana also said that firing into the air at weddings and other events is banned and the police will register cases against the groom and the organisers of such events in case of such an occurrence. Departmental action will also be taken against the relevant police officials for negligence and incompetence.

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NEW DELHI: India has proposed a meeting with Pakistan in the second week of July to finalise modalities and infrastructure requirements to open the Kartarpur Corridor, state-run broadcaster — All India Radio (AIR) said on Sunday.

 

“India has proposed July 11-July 14 to Pakistan to hold a fresh round of talks on the Kartarpur Corridor,” the broadcaster said. Quoting its sources in foreign ministry, the broadcaster said it shows India’s commitment to the corridor.

The first meeting to finalise the modalities for the corridor took place on the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border on March 14. Officials said technical experts of the two countries met on March 19 during which alignment, coordinates and several other engineering aspects of the proposed corridor were discussed.

However, on March 29, New Delhi conveyed its strong concerns to Islamabad over the presence of some members in a committee appointed by Pakistan on the project. It sought clarifications from Islamabad over certain other issues related to the project.

India had also postponed a previously-agreed meeting onthe project, which was to be held on April 2 on the Pakistani side. Last year, Indian Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur Corridor in Gurdaspur district. Later, Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the corridor on his side. The corridor will provide a passage to Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy site. Pilgrims will be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year. Opening of the corridor and having smooth access to the Sikh shrine in Pakistan is a long-pending public demand of Sikhs from the Indian side.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Model Customs Collectorate (MCC), Preventive foiled an attempt to smuggle huge quantity of gold ornaments to Dubai at Jinnah International Airport (JIAP). According to details, credible information was received that some unscrupulous elements were planning to smuggle gold ornaments to UAE via air route.

Reacting on this information, the staff of MCC, Preventive mounted stiff vigilance at the international departure at JIAP. Resultantly, three passengers Tufail Junani, Sana Tufail and Farida Bano, who were travelling to Dubai and USA via Emirates airline flight no. EK 607 were intercepted.

During detailed examination of their luggage and personal search, the department has recovered 4.517 kilograms of gold ornaments worth Rs 31.17 million from their possession. The customs officials said that during initial course of investigations, it was revealed that gold in semi-finished form was being used to launder-money/assets. Consequent upon on recovery, case has been registered and all three accused persons were taken into custody. Further investigation was in progress.
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An unexpected spell of light rain in different areas of Karachi on Friday night turned the weather pleasant but also troubled people as it caused power outage in various localities and traffic jams due to accumulation of water on roads.

 

“It was development of Cumulonimbus clouds over Lasbela and its surrounding areas of Balochistan, which drifted towards Karachi, creating dust storm, lightning and light rain. It is over now after causing light rain in various areas of the city,” said Sardar Sarfraz of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

Weather remained warm and humid on Friday but it started improving in the evening when people observed an overcast sky and experienced a cool breeze blowing. As soon as the sun set, a mild dust storm followed by light rain hit the Surjani Town, Gadap, North Karachi and Sohrab Goth areas. Light rain also occurred in the North Nazimabad, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Sharea Faisal, Shah Faisal Colony and University Road, where it caused accumulation of water on roads.

A few minutes later, Cumulonimbus clouds covered the entire city and caused light rain in the Saddar, II Chundrigar Road and other areas. Commuters

on Preedy Street and streets of Saddar suffered as the rain caused traffic congestion.

The rain excited the people of Karachi who had been enduring sweltering heat for some days. Many people shared their joy on social media platforms by uploading videos, pictures and messages about the rain.

PMD officials termed it a light spell of rain, saying that hardly 1.2 to 2.4 millimetres of rain was recorded from different areas of the city. The drizzle, however, turned the weather pleasant by dropping the temperature in the city.

“The temperature dropped to 28 degrees Celsius from 32 degrees Celsius following the rain and it is expected that Friday night would be very pleasant in Karachi. Weather 

would remain warm and humid with the maximum temperature ranging between 34 and 36 degrees Celsius on Saturday and Sunday,” Sarfraz said.

PMD officials explained that this unexpected spell of rain had nothing to do with the monsoon season, which is expected to start in the first or second week of July. They said the upper parts of the country were expected to receive slightly above normal rain; whereas, Sindh and Balochistan would have slightly below normal rain in the upcoming monsoon season that would start in July and end in September.

Meanwhile, the light rain did not prove to be a blessing for everyone as different areas of the city suffered power cut. Some areas were without power when this story was being filed. Officials of K-Electric said their teams were working for the restoration of power.

 
 
 
 
 
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ISLAMABAD: The Budget 2019-2020 has proposed 10 percent increase as ad hoc relief in the salaries of civilian and military employees from grade 1 to 16 and 5 percent in the salaries of grade 17 to 20 employees. No increase has been proposed in the salaries of grade 21 to 22 employees.

 

The minimum wage has been set at Rs17,500 per month. Presenting the budget 2019-20 in the National Assembly, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar announced ad hoc relief of 10% in the salaries of grade 1 to 16 employees, including the armed forces’ employees.

He said the BPS 17 to 20 employees will be given ad hoc relief of 5% in their salaries. Employees in BPS 21 and 22 will receive no increase in pay as they have decided to sacrifice for the sake of improvement in the economic situation of

the country.

“Increase in net pension @10% will be given to all civil and armed forces pensioners of the federal government employees,” he said. Special conveyance allowance for disabled employees will be enhanced from Rs1,000 per month to Rs2,000 per month.

Special pay admissible to SPS/PS/APS to ministers, ministers of state, parliamentary secretaries, additional secretaries, and joint secretaries will be enhanced by 25%. The taxable income has been revised down to Rs600,000 for the salaried class and Rs400,000 for the non-salaried class.

 
 
 
 
 
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ISLAMABAD: The government is unveiling Budget 2019-20 in parliament today with an expected outlay of Rs6.6 trillion, demonstrating its political will to generate revenue and cut expenditure through the austerity drive for achieving economic stability under the IMF’s tight scrutiny.

 

Dr. Hafeez Pasha — Pakistan’s economic czar — will share a tough roadmap for economic stability under the 39-month IMF programme, with prescription of generating tax revenue in the shape of taking additional measures and improving administration as well as curtailing expenditures through the austerity drive with the help of all segments of society.

The government has estimated budget deficit slightly below 6 percent of GDP equivalent to Rs2.5 trillion. The government has accepted a challenging task to generate Rs5,550 billion revenue in the next budget against revised estimates of Rs4,150 billion, which requires over 35 percent growth. The non- tax revenue target has been envisaged at Rs1.2 trillion.

Pakistan’s expenditures revolve around three Ds including debt servicing, defence anddevelopment. Out of total revenue, more than Rs3 trillion will be transferred to the provinces under the National Finance Commission Award (NFC), while the remaining share of federal government amounting to Rs2.5 to 3 trillion could hardly meet the requirement of debt servicing in the next budget. With this kind of financial straits, the Centre is left with no option but to borrow to meet the requirements of defence, development, subsidies and running government affairs.

Former finance minister Dr Hafeez A Pasha told this reporter that the Ministry of Finance used to understate the budget deficit and they were doing the same in the revised budgetary estimates for the outgoing fiscal year 2018-19.

He said the revenue increase of Rs1,550 billion for achieving the annual target of Rs5,550 billion would be highly unfeasible. He said freeze on the defence expenditure at the level of outgoing fiscal year was a welcome move.

However, he said the overrun in expenditures could not be ruled out in the next budget as well. He said the government played a trick to show inflated figure of development programme by inserting Rs250 billion into the mode of public private partnership (PPP), adding that the provinces allocated Rs912 billion for annual development outlays out of which it would be hard to utilise Rs500 billion in the next fiscal year.

There has been a trend over the years towards the federal budget being unsustainable. There is a need to understand what do we mean by “unsustainable”. The budget is unsustainable when after meeting the unavoidable or legally required expenditures, there is little or no room left in the budget for other expenditures which, though not legally required, are very important to provide for public services and public investment.

These expenditures are called “discretionary”. In practice, there is no absolute distinction between “discretionary” and “non-discretionary” areas of expenditure. But for practical purposes, the non-discretionary areas of public spending should be considered to include: (i) the legally “charged” expenditures required to finance the constitutionally established bodies; (ii) debt service on domestic and external debt, (iii) transfers to the provinces under the National Finance Commission awards, (iv) spending on the security forces, and (v) meeting the salary costs of established public sector employees.

The problem of fiscal sustainability

The problem of fiscal sustainability which the federal government is facing is that the amount of space in the budget remaining for “discretionary spending” after meeting the non-discretionary items, has been declining year after year. This has happened for several reasons: first, federal revenues have risen only modestly and from a base which is very low by international standards (as measured, for example, by the tax to GDP ratio); second, the share of the budget used to meet debt service obligations has risen at an alarming pace; third, the size of public sector workforce continues to grow, and this is in spite of provisions of the 18th Amendment, which in principle should have led to a reduced federal work-force, as important service delivery responsibilities of the federal government were transferred to the provinces.

The steady erosion of discretionary space in the federal government budget can be most clearly seen in reduction in the size of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) when measured as a share of GDP. This ratio has fallen over the years, as it used to range at 4.7% in 2006-07 but now it has nosedived to less than 2 percent of GDP in the outgoing fiscal year. It will further shrink in percentage of GDP in the next budget for 2019-20. However, it has also led to chronic pressure on the non-salary component of recurrent budget, and is reflected in divisions having inadequate operation budgets to provide quality services.

Clearly, it will not be easy to reverse the existing trend towards reduced fiscal space. Any solution will necessarily involve politically difficult policies aimed at addressing the underlying causes of the problem. Such policies include “right-sizing” of the federal public sector staffing in the light of 18th Amendment, more effective policies and administrative systems to increase federal revenues and/or several years of fiscal restraint to reduce the magnitude and growth of debt-service obligations.

There are many off-budget items and the main areas of under-estimation usually relate to the likely “contingent liabilities” which in all probability will arise during the budget year. These are liabilities which sometimes cannot be forecast accurately in advance, but which are highly likely to be met during the year.

The most important examples are “circular debts” arising from operations in the energy and other sectors – e.g. commodity financing. The present practice is not to make provision in the approved budget 

for such expenditures. The second type of off-budget items are the periodic expenditures required to support loss-making public sector enterprises (PSEs).

 
 
 
 
 
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The Goods clearing process has resumed at Tokham border as customs clearing agents on Tuesday ended their protest after successful negotiations with officials’ customs department. The clearing of a large number of vehicles, loaded with good items, was remained suspended for last 24 hours due to strike of customs clearing agents against one Goods Declaration (GD) form one truck policy, introduced by the Customs centre at Torkham border.

However, the customs agents and officials held a successful negotiation after which the protest was ended. The Torkham border will remain open till 12:00 pm today night as long queues of vehicles, loaded with goods items stuck up at the Pak-Afghan sharing border. According to Customs clearing agents, they are facing difficulties in Web-based One Custom (WeBoC) system but the customs authorities didn’t clear vehicles, loaded with goods items without the WeBoC system.

Whenever, the customs agents said the issue of WeBoC raised so the goods clearing process was carried by manual system. They said that authorities assured them the old system of goods clearing will be reactivated after the Eid-ul-Fitr. Officials of customs department said that the customs agents were against the submission of duty and checking of goods through WeBoC system, which aimed at to make the modern goods clearing system non-functional. Assistant Collector Customs Torkham said that the WeBoC is modern online goods clearance system, which has remained operational around the clock at the border. He said that all details of goods cargo registered and goods pictures also attached with form under the WeBoC system, preventing the any chance of corruption and other corrupt practices.But, the officials said that some customs clearing agents and importers were unhappy with this modern system because they were aimed to earn millions of rupees by smuggling and fake declaration, therefore they [clearing agents] are strongly opposing the WeBoC and showing resistance in implementation of the modern goods clearing system and held strike against WeBoC.
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ISLAMABAD: The government on Sunday increased prices of all petroleum products by up to 6.45 per cent for the month of April as the international crude price inched up by less than 2pc over the last month.

Petrol and diesel prices were increased by Rs6 per litre while kerosene and light diesel oil (LDO) were jacked up by Rs3 per litre with immediate effect, according to an official announcement.

With the decision, the ex-depot price of high speed diesel (HSD) was set at Rs117.43 per litre — the highest since July 2018 — instead of existing rate of Rs111.43 per litre, up by 5.36pc.

Likewise, the ex-depot price of motor spirit (petrol) was fixed at Rs98.89 per litre — also a nine-month high — instead of current rate of Rs92.89, showing an increase of 6.45pc.

The ex-depot price of kerosene oil was increased to Rs89.31 per litre — the highest since October 2014 — from Rs86.31 per litre, indicating an increase of almost 3.5pc.

The ex-depot price of LDO was increased to Rs80.54 per litre — a five-month high — from the previous rate of Rs77.54 per litre, up by 3.9pc.

However, the government did not pass on the full price hike calculated by the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) last week and reduced tax rates to minimise political backlash.

Based on import parity price of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) for purchases in March, Ogra had worked out about Rs11.17 increase in the price of HSD per litre, Rs11.91.71 hike in petrol price, Rs6.65 rise in kerosene price and Rs6.49 increase in LDO price.

Crude price (Brent) had increased by less than 2pc over the last month from $66.57 on Feb 28 to $67.86 per barrel on March 28.

The government had already increased general sales tax (GST) on all petroleum products to standard rate of 17pc across the board to generate additional revenues. Until January 2019, the government

had been charging 0.5pc GST on LDO, 2pc on kerosene, 8pc on petrol and 13pc on HSD.

Besides the 17pc GST, the government had more than doubled the rate of petroleum levy on HSD in recent months to Rs18 per litre instead of Rs8 per litre, while levy on petrol had also been increased by 40pc to Rs14 per litre instead of Rs10 per litre.

Over the last two months, the government started increasing petroleum levy rates to partially recoup a major revenue shortfall faced by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The petroleum levy remains in the federal kitty unlike GST that goes to the divisible pool taxes and thus about 57pc share is taken by the provinces.

Petrol and HSD are two major products that generate most of the revenue for government because of their massive and yet growing consumption in the country. Total HSD sales are touching 900,000 tonnes per month against monthly consumption of around 700,000 tonnes of petrol. The sales of kerosene oil and LDO are generally less than 10,000 tonnes per month.

The petroleum prices have been on the rise since early 2017, barring only a couple of times when they were reduced.

For the past two weeks, the international benchmark Brent prices have been inching up and the government has also been mopping up tax rates in run up to finalisation of an IMF-assisted stabilisation programme.The government has already announced that it will gradually increase electricity and gas rates over the next few months

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