Saudi media minister meets Pakistan’s top civil, military brass

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Saudi Minister of Media Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad, left, called on Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Quraishi in Islamabad on Sept. 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy: Press Information Department)
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Federal Minister for Finance Asad Umar, third left, presenting a memento to H.E. Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Media, in Islamabad on Sept. 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy: Press Information Department)
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Saudi Minister of Media Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad, center, visited Pakistan's state run television during his visit. (Photo courtesy: Press Information Department)
Updated 09 September 2018
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Saudi media minister meets Pakistan’s top civil, military brass

  • Dr. Awwad Al-Awwad's visit further cements “historic ties”
  • Relations between Islamabad and Riyadh are moving beyond security and people-to-people contact, analysts say

ISLAMABAD: After attending the swearing-in ceremony for the 13th president of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia’s Media Minister, Dr. Awwad Bin Saleh Al-Awwad, engaged with the country’s top political and military leadership, as part of his three-day visit, on Sunday.
In addition to meeting Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, Al-Awwad also engaged with several government officials and media representatives to discuss the way forward in strengthening bilateral ties.
“The minister conveyed the message of felicitation to Prime Minister Imran Khan on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He also invited the prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia,” Pakistan’s state-run radio said, sharing details of the meeting, on its website.
Al-Awwad also “reaffirmed KSA’s full support to Pakistan in its efforts toward peace and stability,” a statement released by the Inter Services Public Relations, read.
On Saturday, Al-Awwad had called on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, with Qureshi “emphasizing on the need to activate all existing institutional mechanisms between the two countries, to take bilateral relations to the next level.”
Qureshi also assured Al-Awwad of Pakistan’s continued support to the Kingdom in realizing its Vision 2030. “He invited Saudi investors to invest in Pakistan, which after completion of the CPEC, will become a market for a billion plus people,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
Analysts say the plan is not far-fetched and possible because of Pakistan’s “historic relations with Saudi Arabia.”


Government will issue ‘debt instrument’ for Pakistani expats to finance dams

Updated 21 October 2018
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Government will issue ‘debt instrument’ for Pakistani expats to finance dams

  • ‘This will be the last IMF bailout package the country is seeking,’ claims Asad Umar
  • Pakistan’s current account deficit will likely remain around $1 billion

KARACHI: Pakistani Finance Minister Asad Umar said on Saturday that the government will introduce a “debt instrument” for Pakistanis living overseas in order to secure financing for the construction of a number of dams. 
“We are planning to issue a debt instrument for overseas Pakistanis, on which we will offer them good returns,” he said during a speech to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI). He did not elaborate.
Facing a water and power shortage, Pakistan is currently seeking donations to build dams in Diamer-Basha and Mohmand and has set up a fund for that purpose. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already asked expat Pakistanis to donate $1000 each to the Dam Fund established by the chief justice of Pakistan.
Umar also explained that the government was taking steps to increase the investment opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which currently contribute 30 percent of the country’s GDP. 
“We are asking banks to increase SME financing by reducing their cash-to-deposit ratio from the existing 37 percent to 25 percent,” he said. “By doing this, two trillion rupees of credit will be available for financing purposes. People keep asking how we will finance our housing project. This is how.”
Pakistan is currently facing serious economic challenges. According to the central bank, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves stand at $8.08 billion and its current-account deficit for July-August was $2.7 billion.
However, the minister told the business community that the government was reshaping the country’s foreign policy by focusing more on its economy. “The ministries of finance, commerce and foreign affairs are working closely to make Pakistan self-reliant and economically secure,” Umar said.
He noted that oil products make up around 30 percent of the country’s $60 billion imports, so the government is currently encouraging domestic oil exploration.
Earlier, speaking about the International Monetary Fund bailout program at an event organized by the Pakistan Stock Exchange, the finance minister said that the government had approached the IMF for the last time. 
“This will be the last IMF program Pakistan is seeking,” he claimed.
Pakistan approached the IMF last week for a bailout program to stabilize the country’s external balance-of-payments crisis. Last year, the country faced a current-account deficit of $18 billion and is currently struggling with depleted foreign-exchange reserves.
Pakistan needs $12 billion to plug the financing gap for the current year and, Umar said that gap would be reduced by “adding one time.”
He stressed that Pakistan’s current-account deficit was easing, saying it had “almost halved” in the August-September period to around $1 billion, as imports had gone down and exports had surged.
The finance minister assured his audience that the country’s “painful economic days” would end “in three years,” claiming that “the third year will be the break-even time since all the indicators are moving in the right direction.”
Umar reiterated that the country was not in emergency mode, contrary to what was being said in the media.
He assured his audience that the government would find solutions for the real price valuation of properties in the country for greater transparency and stressed that the government was working to make it easier to do business in Pakistan. 
“The council of business leaders is tasked to come up with suggestions to improve the country’s ranking from 147 to under 100 (in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ report),” he added.