Sindh introduces reforms to climb up the Ease of Doing Business ladder

Syed Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of Sindh, Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment and Illango Patchamuthu, Country Director, World Bank launch Sindh Business Registration Portal. (Photo courtesy SID).
Updated 20 February 2019

Sindh introduces reforms to climb up the Ease of Doing Business ladder

  • Launches online registration portal to facilitate investors
  • Aims for Pakistan to be in the list of top 25 economies across the world by 2047

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Sindh province launched an online registration portal on Wednesday with an aim to improve the country's global ranking in terms of its ease of doing business.

The Sindh Business Registration Portal (SBRP) is part of reforms to ensure Pakistan's position is less than 100 in the global index. 

In the World Bank’s Doing Business Index issued last year, Pakistan had improved its position by 11 notches --from 147 to 136 -- out of 190 countries. The Sindh province plays an important role in facilitating the process as the port city of Karachi represents 65 percent of the country's business  community, followed by Lahore at 35 percent. 

“We have determination and a keen focus on improving the ease of doing business. The prime minister has given a target to come 100 or below for this year. The time is running out and we have only a couple of months left as the World Bank will start its evaluation in April," Abdul Razzak Dawood, Adviser to Prime Minister for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment, said. 

“We are well on our way to come under 100," he added while highlighting the three areas where the country needs to improve. These include “taxation, giving permit for construction and property registration and getting electricity connections”.

Stressing on the need for the implementation of key policies, Dawood said the “ease of doing business is one of the most discussed topics wherever I go”.

The World Bank, for its part, has been providing technical support to the Sindh government for the implementation and facilitation of the reforms. The province has also had the support of the Department for International Development (DFID), in the UK.

“Pakistan now needs to move towards one single integrated market in which businesses [irrespective of whether] they operate from Karachi or Peshawar...can operate across the country without worrying about registering in Sindh or registering in Punjab or KP. This makes Pakistan the perfect location for local and foreign investments,” Illango Patchamuthu, Country Director, World Bank, said.  

He added that it was critical for the on-going momentum to be sustained in order to help Pakistan become a competitive and business-friendly investment destination. "The reforms are prominently featured in the [email protected] initiative which aims for the country to be in the top 25 economies globally by 2047," Patchamuthu said. 

Speaking at the occasion, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the Ease of Doing Business report was an important measure with economic and political consequences, and that the index had become one of the most important indicators for companies to choose which countries to invest in.

“Through this portal, the business community can complete the registration process for four different departments... We intend to include all provincial departments,” Murad said.

The SBRP will ensure businesses are able to register swiftly by providing access to a slew of online services, in addition to cutting down the cost, time and effort of visiting multiple government departments for the purpose. The portal will also link the four provincial and federal departments for a smoother and faster registration process.

Furthermore, the Punjab Information Technology Board has extended its technical support to the government of Sindh for designing, testing and launching the portal, in addition to training relevant departments to effectively use it to facilitate private sector investments.


Pakistan sets up relief fund as earthquake kills over 6,200 in Turkiye, Syria 

Updated 11 sec ago

Pakistan sets up relief fund as earthquake kills over 6,200 in Turkiye, Syria 

  • Officials say nearly 4,544 people killed in Turkiye and at least 1,712 killed in Syria 
  • PM Sharif will depart for Ankara on Wednesday to express solidarity with Turkiye 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has established a relief fund to help earthquake-hit people of Turkiye and appealed to Pakistanis to generously donate to the fund, his office said on Tuesday, as death toll from Monday’s quake in Turkiye and Syria rose above 6,200. 

Rescuers in Turkiye and Syria battled frigid cold on Tuesday in a race against time to find survivors under buildings flattened by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Tremors that inflicted more suffering on a border area, already plagued by conflict, left people on the streets burning debris to try to stay warm as international aid began to arrive. The latest toll showed 4,544 people killed in Turkiye and 1,712 in Syria, for a combined total of 6,256 fatalities. 

Pakistan PM Sharif presided over a meeting of his cabinet, wherein members announced donating their one-month salary to the relief fund for the Turkish people. 

“Turkiye generously helped Pakistan during the 2005 earthquake and the 2010 and 2022 floods,” PM Sharif’s office quoted him as saying in a statement. 

“I have established PM’s Relief Fund for Turkiye Earthquake Victims. People and well-off individuals should deposit their generous donations into account G-12166.” 

Pakistan on Tuesday called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye and Syria, and dispatched rescue teams and emergency goods, as the confirmed death toll across the two countries soared above 5,000 after a deadly earthquake hit the region a day earlier. 

Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said PM Sharif would depart for Ankara on Wednesday to “express his condolences,” adding that a planned all-parties conference on Feb. 9 would be rescheduled. 

“It breaks the heart to witness sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy,” Sharif wrote on Twitter. “Solidarity should translate into tangible & timely material support for suffering humanity.” 

 

“Special teams consisting of Pakistani doctors, paramedics and rescue personnel are being sent to Turkiye to lend a hand in the ongoing rescue and relief operations,” Sharif had said on Monday, adding that planeloads of essential items and medicines would also be dispatched. 

On Monday night, a Pakistan military plane was sent, “carrying Army’s Search and Rescue Team, directly to Turkiye earthquake area.” 

On Tuesday morning, a 51-member rescue team left from Lahore for Turkiye via national carrier PIA with seven tons of rescue equipment. 

“They will be on ground soon as part of government of Pakistan’s contributions in rescue efforts. Hearts & prayers,” PIA said. 

Another military plane flew out to Turkiye on Tuesday, carrying nine tons of cargo, including winterised tents, blankets and other articles, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). 

Hundreds are still believed to be trapped under rubble across the two nations, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue workers search mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, preparing for a tough election in May, has called the quake a historic disaster and said authorities were doing all they could. 

“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts although the winter season, cold weather and the earthquake happening during the night makes things more difficult,” he said. He said 45 countries had offered to help the search and rescue efforts. 

The earthquake, which was followed by a series of aftershocks, was the biggest recorded worldwide by the US Geological Survey since a tremor in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021. 

It was the deadliest earthquake in Turkiye since a quake of similar magnitude in 1999 that killed more than 17,000. 


Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

Updated 07 February 2023

Pakistan among most vulnerable nations as glacial lake floods threaten communities

  • Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world
  • Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016

Melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to some 15 million people around the world, researchers said in a report published on Tuesday, with communities in Asia facing the biggest danger.

Runoff from melting glaciers often pools in shallow lakes, held back by rocks and debris. The risk comes when a lake overfills, bursting through its natural barrier and sending a torrent of water rushing down mountain valleys.

Scientists have assessed for the first time how many people globally are at risk from these floods, finding that more than half of vulnerable populations live in India, Pakistan, China, and Peru.

Danger is highest, they report in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, when a large number of people live near a lake.

“Our work does not just focus on the size or number of glacier lakes — no disaster is natural — it is the presence of people, especially vulnerable people, in the landscape that causes a disaster,” said Stuart Dunning, a physical geographer at Britain’s Newcastle University, and a co-author of the study.

Collectively, the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatons of ice a year between 2006 and 2016. Since 1990, the number and volume of glacial lakes worldwide have each increased by about 50 percent.

In the high mountains of Asia, some 9 million people live near more than 2,000 glacial lakes. In 2021, more than 100 people were killed in India in an outburst flood in its northern mountains.

HEATING UP THE HIMALAYAS

Compared with mountain glaciers in the Alps and North America, Asia’s icy places are not as well monitored — most lack long-term observations of how they have changed over time.

The best-studied glacier in the Himalayas is north India’s Chhota Shigri, which has 20 years of mass balance measurements — the difference between how much ice a glacier gains and loses in a year.

In 2022, India suffered blistering temperatures and near the end of the year, scientists headed into the Himalayas to measure Chhota Shigri’s mass.

Their findings, shared with Reuters, revealed the best-studied glacier in the Himalayas had experienced its worst year on record; Chhota Shigri lost three times as much mass in 2022 compared with its 2002 to 2022 yearly average.

“The impacts are already visible as the glacier is thinning and retreating,” said Farooq Azam, a glaciologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Indore who monitors Chhota Shigri. This will be “impactful to downstream water availability in near future,” he said.

Satellite observations also show that the glaciers in the Himalayas are in a state of overall decline.

“The ice is really melting significantly during the last decades — mass loss is accelerating,” said Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with Graz University of Technology in Austria.

From 1990 to 2015, glacier coverage in the Himalayas shrank by about 11 percent, according to July 2022 study.

During the same time period, Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9 percent in number, and 14 percent in area. More than 200 lakes now pose a very high hazard to Himalayan communities, according to 2022 research.


Saudi diplomats leave Afghanistan, relocate to Pakistan over ‘security concerns’ — source

Updated 07 February 2023

Saudi diplomats leave Afghanistan, relocate to Pakistan over ‘security concerns’ — source

  • Taliban government says Saudi diplomats’ departure was temporary and not for security reasons
  • Since US withdrawal from Kabul in August 2021, Afghanistan has struggled with increasing terror attacks

ISLAMABAD: Saudi diplomats have left Afghanistan and relocated to Pakistan over security concerns,” a diplomat with direct knowledge of the development said on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Taliban government in Kabul said the Saudi diplomats’ departure was temporary and not for security reasons.

“Some employees of Saudi Arabia’s embassy have gone out for a kind of training, and will return,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Taliban administration, said.

But a diplomatic source privy to details of the relocation confirmed to Arab News that the move was due to security concerns. He declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the record to the media. He also did not specify how long the Saudi diplomats would be based outside Afghanistan, or how many had had left the country.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry has not yet commented on the development.

In the months since the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Kabul in August 2021, Afghanistan has struggled with terror attacks, mostly claimed by Daesh, as well as poverty, drought, malnutrition and increasing bans on women from participating in public life.

Development aid upon which the country relied so heavily has been cut as the international community demands that the Taliban respect the rights of Afghans, particularly girls and women whose access to work and education has been curtailed.
 


Pakistan, IMF initiate policy-level talks on bailout amid deadlock over fiscal gap, new taxes

Updated 07 February 2023

Pakistan, IMF initiate policy-level talks on bailout amid deadlock over fiscal gap, new taxes

  • Successful talks with the IMF will unlock more than $1 billion in funding to cash-strapped Pakistan 
  • Economist says the government will have to jack up electricity and gas prices to ink the agreement 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday initiated policy-level talks to bridge differences on data regarding the budget deficit, taxation and measures required to overcome fiscal gaps, particularly in the energy sector. 

The IMF mission has been in Islamabad since January 31 following the government’s request to negotiate resumption of Pakistan’s $7 billion loan program, which has been stalled since November last year. 

In the first four days, the global lender and the government held technical talks, in which Pakistani officials shared the fiscal statistics, including development budget, external financing and energy sector data, with the IMF mission for its perusal. 

“The differences with the IMF still persist over numbers regarding the fiscal gap and need for new taxation through a mini-budget, but hopefully we will overcome it,” a finance ministry official with the knowledge of talks told Arab News, on the condition of anonymity. 

Islamabad is struggling to get the loan program revived to receive a tranche of more than $1 billion to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis after the nation’s foreign exchange reserves dropped to $3 billion, just enough to provide 18-day cover for imports. 

The official said the government was willing to generate an additional revenue of around Rs450 billion ($1.6 billion), but the IMF was pushing it for at least Rs840 billion ($3 billion) additional revenue to overcome the primary deficit. 

“We have agreed with the IMF in principle to slash our development budget too,” he said. 

Pakistan’s development budget is expected to be reduced to over Rs400 billion ($1.4 billion) this fiscal year from Rs727 billion. 

“The discussions on withdrawal of subsidy and measures to abolish energy sector debt will be held in the next two days,” the official said, hoping the two sides would reach an agreement on all issues by February 9. 

The Pakistani finance ministry and the IMF country representative did not respond to Arab News’s requests for comment. 

Pakistan is struggling to quell default fears in the domestic and international markets with the $1.1 billion bailout tranche as the South Asian country witnesses a decades-high inflation and depreciation in the national currency. 

The Pakistani currency has depreciated by more than Rs100 against the US dollar since January last year due to external repayment pressure, while inflation jumped to 27.5 percent year-on-year in January. 

Economists say it is imperative for the government to secure a staff-level agreement with the IMF by Thursday to complete the 9th revenue of $7 billion to ensure dollar inflows from multilateral partners, friendly countries and other bilateral sources to shore up the country’s foreign reserves. 

“As slippages from the budgeted amounts are considerable, adjustments in the prices of electricity and gas as well as in the fiscal sector would need to be done to ink this agreement,” Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, a former adviser to the finance ministry, told Arab News. 

“Some expenditure cuts would also be required to ensure that the primary deficit comes back to the agreed amount with the IMF.” 

Najeeb, however, hoped the IMF would be sympathetic to the plight of the people suffering from last year’s floods and double-digit inflation. 
 


Pakistan bans spinner Asif Afridi for two years on corruption charges 

Updated 07 February 2023

Pakistan bans spinner Asif Afridi for two years on corruption charges 

  • The 36-year-old has so far played 35 first-class, 42 List A and 65 T20 matches in his career 
  • The Pakistan Cricket Board says Afridi had ‘unintentionally’ breached its anti-corruption code 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has banned international spinner Asif Afridi for two years after he pleaded guilty as charged for two violations under its anti-corruption code, the board said on Tuesday. 

Afridi, who was provisionally suspended in September last year, failed to disclose “full details of any approaches or invitations received by the participant to engage in corrupt conduct” and was found guilty of breaching the PCB’s anti-corruption code. 

The 36-year-old has played 35 first-class, 42 List A and 65 T20 matches in his career. 

“It gives the PCB no joy to suspend an international cricketer for two years, but we have a zero-tolerance approach toward such offenses. As the game’s governing body, we need to make examples, handle such matters robustly and send out strong messages to all cricketers,” Najam Sethi, chair of the PCB management committee, said in a statement. 

“It is bitter fact that corruption poses a threat to our sport as selfish corrupters lure cricketers in different ways and methods. That’s precisely why the PCB has been investing heavily on player education so that they remain vigilant and can help the PCB eradicate this menace by reporting approaches and if, despite all our best efforts to create awareness, a player falls victim to his greed, then the PCB has no sympathy.” 

Afridi was handed a six-month ban for failing to disclose any approaches to engage in “corrupt conduct” and a two-year period of ineligibility for the breach of the code, according to the PCB. Both sentences will run concurrently and commence from the day of his provisional suspension since September 12, 2022. 

The PCB said it took into consideration the admission of guilt, expression of remorse, past track record and Afridi’s request that the PCB considered his case compassionately, claiming he had “unintentionally” breached the code.