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Govt hikes petroleum prices

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday hiked prices of petroleum products by as much as Rs6 per litre, according to the Ministry of Finance.

The price of petrol was increased by Rs3.56, after which it would be available at Rs88.07 per litre.The price of diesel was hiked by Rs2.62 taking it to Rs98.45 per litre.

The highest increase was recorded in the rate of Kerosene Oil i.e. Rs6.28. It would now be available at Rs76.46 per litre. The price of light diesel also went up by Re1, which would be available at Rs65.30 per litre. The new prices will be effective from March 1.

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MoIT joins hand with Huawei

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication joined hands with Telecommunication Company Huawei to contribute towards digital development in the country via USF programs through appropriate utilization of its expertise.

Ministry of IT & Telecom through the USF signed an MOU with Huawei at the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, under which they will cooperate in spheres of program designing, training and sharing successful experiences with regard to broadband services, vertical public services and intelligent digital platforms.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for IT & Telecom Anusha Rehman said that through this MOU, Huawei will provide the requisite expertise to MoIT through USF. She said it will help develop National ICT services execution strategy, support Joint Innovation center (JIC) for empowering women who are benefiting from the USF ICT for Girls program.

She expressed her support and encouragement for the top three best performing graduates. She added that this will ensure that the top performer girls from lower strata of the society will continue to pursue technology based empowerment. She also said that partnership of Huawei will further enhance the effectiveness of the projects and will go a long way in socio-economic development of the people of Pakistan.



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European automotive demand up 7% in January

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Demand for vehicles in the European countries recorded a 7 percent annual rise in January 2018, Turkey’s Automotive Distributers’ Association said on Wednesday.

“In the EU 28 and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, automotive market rose by 7 percent to 1,480,499 vehicles in January 2018, compared to the same month of 2017,” the association said in a press release, citing statistics of European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

Among the five big markets, Spain (19.5 percent), Germany (11.4 percent) recorded the strongest gains, followed by Italy (4.3 percent) and France (3.2 percent), it noted. The association noted that demand for automotive in the UK declined 6.2 percent last year.

In January, 2018, a total of 296,465 vehicles were sold in Germany, 194,554 in Italy, 194,351 in France, 187,736 in the UK, while 120,327 vehicles were sold in Spain. Turkey’s automotive sales were 36,053 vehicles in January, down 0.26 percent from 36,146 in January 2017, the report added.

The EU is the main automotive export market for Turkey, where the world’s prominent automotive manufacturers — including Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Renault, and Toyota — have manufacturing operations.

Last year, nearly 80 percent of Turkey’s total automotive exports were made to the EU countries amounting to $22 billion, marking a 17 percent rise year-on-year.

The EU’s automotive market rose by 3.3 percent to 18,118,072 vehicles in 2017. In Turkey, 980,277 vehicles were sold during the year. AA



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France raises its 2017 growth

Monitoring Desk

PARIS: France’s 2017 GDP growth has been revised upwards to 2 percent, a rate that has not been observed since 2011, the country’s national statistics agency said on Wednesday.

“The revision of several indicators led to increase the annual estimation of GDP growth in 2017 by 0.1 points, from 1.9% to 2.0%,” said a statement issued by National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE).

The new forecast is higher than 2016’s forecast of 1.1 percent, the government’s 1.7 percent projection and the central bank’s 1.8 percent forecast.

The GDP growth figure for the final quarter was unchanged at 0.6 percent on quarter, INSEE said.

According to INSEE, the strong surge is particularly due to high acceleration in investment from companies (+ 4.4 percent after + 3.4 percent in 2016) and households (+ 5.4 percent after + 2.4 percent).

The good growth momentum recorded in 2017 will continue at a relatively steady pace in the beginning of 2018, according to INSEE. AA



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PTEA urges govt to remove major irritants in export growth

F.P. Report

FAISALABAD: The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) has urged the government to immediately remove the major irritants in export growth. Extreme cash flow crunch is gradually eroding the biggest job providing textile export sector; consequently sizeable textile capacity had been severely impaired, it said adding that the government should accord preferential treatment in upcoming budget to boost the exports and generate industrial activities.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, chairman PTEA Mian Shaiq Jawed stressed for immediate payment of stuck up liquidity in refund cycle as extreme cash flow crunch is causing major dent to country’s exports. He said that in order to accelerate the export pace, Government allowed Duty Drawback of Taxes on export proceeds of textile value chain last year but sufficient funds have not yet been transferred to the State Bank and the exporters are still deprived of the benefits of incentive scheme.

He said that due to short releases of funds, half of the incentives of Textile Policy (2009-14) are still yet to be disbursed as outstanding claims of Technology Up-gradation Fund amounts to Rs. 10 billion and claims of Mark up support stands at Rs. 10 billion from last 4 years.

Highlighting the huge pendency in sales tax refund regime, the chairman PTEA said that outstanding refunds under section 66 are Rs. 10 billion; whereas deferred amounts has reached to Rs. 19 billion and regular claims till January 2018 are of Rs. 17 billion. Similarly Rs. 8.5 billion are pending on account of custom duty claims.

Mian Shaiq Jawed demanded immediate payment of all outstanding refund claims to boost the exports. FBR should evolve mechanism for ending practical hassles, liquidity problems of refund claimants and frivolous litigation pertaining to refunds, he said. In Finance bill 2016, zero-rated regime was revamped; however refund on packaging material was disallowed. Such disallowance is adding 1.5% to 2% additional financial impact on exports and accumulative incidence of the restriction comes to PKR 13 Billion.

The chairman PTEA demanded that refund on packaging material may be allowed in upcoming budget. Pointing out the heavy duties on coal import, he said that an Advance Income Tax @ 5.5% and Custom Duty @ 5% is levied on import of coal across the board. Coal fired machines worth billions of rupees were installed in the textile industry particularly in Punjab to cope with the energy crisis; however heavy duties on coal at import stage are adding the financial burden.

He demanded to allow coal import under SRO 327 for export oriented textile industry. Pointing out the issue of subsequent recovery proceedings against blacklisting of supplier on a subsequent stage, he said that it was principally agreed at different forums that status of the supplier at the time of transaction / supplies will be reckoned for initiation of recovery proceedings.

Mian Shaiq Jawed stressed for amendment in Sales Tax Act and Sales Tax Rules. He termed high production cost is a strong barrier block in export growth. High-priced energy / fuel create a chain effect to ultimately increase production cost of export goods as industries in Punjab are supplied high-priced RLNG based on USD based tariff; whereas industries in other provinces are supplied system gas based on PKR tariff. He demanded equal prices of gas @ PKR 600/MMBTU for the industry across the country and withdrawal of surcharges of PKR 3.6/kwh to bring power tariff at par with regional rates PKR 7/kwh.

PTEA Vice Chairman Ammar Saeed was of the view that industrial production is not in accordance with the built up manufacturing capacity. Due to this underutilization, the country is not fetching the full potential of foreign exchange earnings. There is need to enhance the industrial production to accelerate economic growth and generate vast opportunities of employment.

He demanded that Government should concentrate upon some truly visionary steps and address genuine concerns of the industry with innovation and bring extraordinary solutions in the upcoming budget.

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Turkish Central Bank reserves top $ 115 billion


Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: The Turkish Central Bank’s total reserves reached $115.29 billion as of the end of January, the bank announced Wednesday.

Official reserve assets rose 7.1 percent, compared to $107.63 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to the bank’s international reserves and foreign currency liquidity report. In January, foreign currency reserves — in convertible foreign currencies — rose to $88.44 billion, a monthly increase of 7.1 percent.

As another sub-item of official reserve assets, gold reserves — including gold deposits and, if appropriate, gold swapped — climbed 7.4 percent last month to reach $25.28 billion, compared to the previous month. At the end of January 2017, the bank’s total reserves were $106.45 billion, including $89.05 billion in foreign currency along with $15.93 billion in gold reserves.

Over the past 10 years, Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT) official reserve assets rose nearly 61.5 percent, from $71.4 billion in January 2009 to $115.29 billion in January 2018. In mid-December 2013, the bank’s total reserves saw a historic high of nearly $136 billion, including some $21 billion in gold reserves.

Liability side:

Meanwhile, the bank noted that short-term predetermined net drains of the central government and the CBRT — foreign currency loans, securities, and foreign exchange deposit accounts of residents abroad within the CBRT — climbed 0.8 percent in January from the previous month, realizing at $11.77 billion. Of this amount, $7.6 billion belongs to principal repayments and $4.16 billion to interest repayments, it added. The CBRT report also said contingent short-term net drains on foreign currency rose 8.5 percent to $66.85 billion last month, compared to December 2017.

According to the bank’s definition, contingent short-term net drains on foreign currency consist of “collateral guarantees on debt due within one year” and “other contingent liabilities,” which are the banking sector’s required reserves in blocked accounts in foreign currency and gold, and letters of credit items on the CBRT’s balance sheet. AA


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UK: May rejects customs union for Northern Ireland

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: A draft withdrawal agreement published by the EU “would undermine the UK common market, if implemented,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday.

“It would threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea,” she said, speaking at a weekly question session in the House of Commons.

“No UK prime minister could ever agree to it,” she said. The just-published draft text, which aims to put the deal struck between the sides in December into a legally binding form, suggested that Northern Ireland would be considered part of the EU’s customs territory after the UK left the bloc.

If implemented and Northern Ireland remained in the Customs Union, it would mean the creation of a trade border within the UK and the necessity of checks on shipped goods.

The EU draft said: “A common regulatory area comprising the Union and the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland is hereby established”.

“The common regulatory area shall constitute an area without internal borders in which the free movement of goods is ensured and North-South cooperation protected,” it said. The EU proposal suggests a “common regulatory area” on the island of Ireland after Brexit, if any other solutions are found.

Text ‘no surprise’:

On the issue of the whole UK staying in the Customs Union, May said this “would be a betrayal of the British people.” May also said the December agreement reached with the EU included assurances for EU nationals in the UK as her government promised since the start of the Brexit negotiations.

She said she wants to deliver on the wishes of the British people to get control of their borders, laws, and money. She also reiterated that her government is committed to having no hard border on the island of Ireland.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a press conference in Brussels that “if Brexit negotiations are to be a success, we must pick up the pace.”

Barnier called on the UK to come up with alternatives for the border issue, adding that the text was “no surprise” as it is based on what was agreed in December between the sides.

The document contains “concrete and realistic solutions” for the border issue, Barnier said.

Prompted by a question, he denied the EU was trying to undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK

Johnson’s memo:

A leaked memo penned by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to the prime minister has also come under fire, as opposition parties accused the Tory government of being divided and lacking a clear Brexit strategy.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded May that Johnson said recently a hard border in Ireland was unthinkable.

“The foreign secretary’s leaked letter shows he can’t get to grips with one of the most fundamental issues of Brexit,” said Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Westminster.

A letter obtained by Sky News from Johnson to May said: “It is wrong to see the task as maintaining ‘no border’ but the aim was to stop the frontier becoming “significantly harder.”

“The government will not accept anything that undermines the constitutional integrity of the UK, or that creates a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland,” David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, said, responding to an urgent question on the leaked memo.

May said she would set out her government’s position for a future trade relationship with the UK later this week.

The EU members are expected to discuss the draft withdrawal agreement document at a EU summit next month.

The UK is set to leave the bloc on March 29, 2019. AA

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Moody’s revises up Turkey’s growth forecasts

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: The international credit rating agency, Moody’s, on Tuesday revised Turkey’s growth forecasts, projecting that it would go up from 3.2 percent to 4 percent in 2018 and from 3.3 percent to 3.5 percent in 2019. “We have raised our growth forecasts for Turkey to 4 percent in 2018 and 3.5 percent in 2019, from 3.2 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively.

“After growing by a solid 6.7 percent in 2017, well above potential, we expect real GDP [gross domestic product] growth to slow,” according to Moody’s Global Macro Outlook: 2018-2019 February update.

The slightly higher growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 reflect Moody’s view that the Turkish government will continue to undertake fiscal measures to keep economic growth high in advance of the November 2019 presidential election, it said.

G20 economies will collectively grow 3.4 percent in 2018 and 3.2 percent in 2019, up from prior forecasts of 3.2 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, Moody’s said.

Moody’s also revised real GDP growth forecasts upwards for the US, Japan, Germany, France, UK, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Notably, the euro area is exhibiting the best economic performance since the 2012 sovereign debt crisis.

Moody’s raised its projections of US real GDP growth to 2.7 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent in 2019, from a prior forecast of 2.3 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. These revisions account for stronger than expected momentum going into 2018 and additional fiscal stimulus from the February 2018 congressional budget deal. The recent financial market selloff does not alter Moody’s US and global growth outlook.

“Stimulative policies at full employment can push the economy above potential in the short run,” Madhavi Bokil, Moody’s senior analyst, said.

“But we are also watching the consequent rise in interest rates, which can crowd out private sector demand. We expect the economy to grow more slowly in 2019 as credit conditions naturally tighten.”

Stronger inflationary pressures will lead to a steady convergence of the monetary policy outlooks of global central banks over the next two to three years. The current “goldilocks” period of synchronized upward growth momentum, low inflation, low interest rates, steadily rising asset prices and historically low volatility will gradually wane.

“The recent return to financial market volatility is likely here to stay,” Elena Duggar, associate managing director at Moody’s, said. AA



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SECP organizes two sessions

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) on Tuesday organized two sessions with the contributors under ease of doing business reforms agenda at Company Registration Offices in Lahore and Karachi.

The purpose of these sessions was to engage with the contributors and end-users of the services being provided by the SECP for starting a company. The participants were apprised of the recent initiatives taken by SECP to reduce time, procedures and cost in order to facilitate the new start-ups and businesses.

The reforms introduced by SECP include the launch of unified online procedure for company registration through e-Services, 75% reduction in filing fee at the time of company registration and processing of complete application for company registration in just “four working hours”.

The participants appreciated the SECP’s continuous efforts aimed at creating a conducive environment for ease of doing business in Pakistan.


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Turkey to export military vehicle remote control system

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: A Turkish defense company, Best Grup, is set to export its military vehicle’s remote control systems to the US and the UAE in the near future, an executive of the company said.

Ankara-based company’s deputy General Manager Ozgur Derebasi told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday that the company’s armored wheeled loader Tosun, used by the Turkish army in the country’s cross border operations, was highly effective on the ground. “We will start exporting its remote control system to the US and the United Arab Emirates in the next three months”, Derebasi said, adding that Tosun — whose production is six times less costly than its foreign peers — had been on the ground for three years. One hundred percent locally-produced, Tosun is an unmanned armored land vehicle with a ballistic protection characteristic and has a remote control feature so it can be used without an operator. Equipped with a digger, Tosun’s ballistically protected parts are the operator cabin, the engine section, the fuel tank and the tires.

Derebasi said Tosun was able to shatter and remove concrete roadblocks in operations and it was one of the vehicles of this company being used in Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch launched in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region on Jan. 20. “After the US and Israel, we are the third country that uses remote-controlled military vehicles in operations,” he said.

“Currently, there are 85 Tosuns taking part in Turkey’s anti-terror operations. As part of Operation Olive Branch, we are actively involved on the ground with 43 vehicles. Our policy is based on technology export rather than import”, he said, adding that the armored vehicles Tosun and Pusat were very successful against serious threats on the ground in that they were able to continue operating even after being shot by rockets.

Also locally-made, Pusat is a light tactical and four-wheeled armored vehicle used in anti-terror operations and can be fitted with different weapons systems.

Developed by Tumosan, a diesel engine and tractor manufacturer, Pusat was unveiled at the 13th International Defense Industry Fair (IDEF) held between May 9-12, 2017 in Istanbul.

Derebasi said Pusat was especially effective for search and rescue operations in narrow streets and ruined areas.

He also talked about Boru, another product of Best Grup.

Boru has been designed for police and special operations units, for transfer of personnel, VIP transfer and also help command and control vehicles and weapon carriers.

Operating in security and defense industry fields, Best Grup produces remote controlled armored vehicles, armored personnel carriers, armor for SUVs and vans, armored construction vehicles, armed operation robots and unmanned land and aerial vehicles as well as their remote control systems. AA