Russian minister in Islamabad to offer investment in heavy industry

Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky and Pakistan's Ministry of Energy Additional Secretary Sher Afgan Khan sign a memorandum of understanding in Moscow, Russia on Sept. 27, 2018. (Photo by Russian Energy Ministry)
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Updated 10 December 2019

Russian minister in Islamabad to offer investment in heavy industry

  • Russians are interested in Pakistan’s energy, oil and gas, defense and steel sectors
  • Russian delegation is in Islamabad to attend Inter-Governmental Commission meeting

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia have agreed to expand business and trade ties, with investment in the energy, oil and gas and defense, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar told Arab News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

A delegation of 64 Russian officials, led by Trade and Industries Minister Denis Manturov, discussed the plans with Pakistani stakeholders at a meeting of the Pakistan-Russia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Energy in Islamabad on Monday.

“The Russian delegation is here to expand ties with Pakistan and engage in trade and business worth billions of dollars. They are interested in three major sectors – energy, oil and gas, and defense,” Babar said.

“In its first phase, Pakistan is going to auction 12 blocks of E&P (exploration and production) this month. Russians are very much interested in this auction,” he added.

“They have representatives of oil and gas companies with them in this delegation, who discussed different projects and showed interest in bidding for these blocks. We are very hopeful that they will take a few blocks in this auction which would be a first as they have never operated in Pakistan before,” he said.

Russian companies are also interested to build a gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore, Babar said. “We hope to sign an agreement on this in the next two months as both sides have agreed on many things. We have many meetings on this and after this visit, we hope all remaining issues will be solved.”

He said Pakistan and Russia have also discussed an agreement, which was signed earlier, for the laying of more than 1,500 kilometers of an offshore gas pipeline that would transport natural gas from Russia to Pakistan.

Babar said Russia has also shown interest in the rehabilitation and upgrading of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and wants to invest $1 billion. He added, however, that “other countries are also interested in Steel Mills.”

Sergey Vasiliev, director of Russia-Pakistan Business Forum who is in the delegation, told Arab News the visit will be good for removing trade and investment obstacles between the two countries, and for improving business to business contacts.

As Pakistan’s image has lately improved in Russia, “Russian businessmen are more interested in the oil and gas and energy sectors,” he said.

“We are discussing collaboration with Pakistan Steel Mills, so new technology from Russia can enhance its production. We are also ready to provide support in the field of agriculture, especially in increasing storage capacity for local food items and fruits.”

A major breakthrough in Pakistan-Russia relations was the signing of an agreement in Moscow on Dec. 4 by Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak and Pakistani Ambassador Qazi Khalilullah, whereby Pakistan will repay its $93.5 million debt to Russia, he said.

On Wednesday, the delegation is scheduled to attend an inter-governmental commission meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

Updated 30 March 2020

Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

  • Assistance to reach 3 million workers — less than a half of the affected, according workers’ association
  • The support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion scheme to minimize the impacts of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Monday approved Rs17,500 ($106) monthly cash assistance for around 3 million daily wage workers who lost their jobs amid cutbacks and shutdowns over the coronavirus crisis. The amount may be insufficient for them to survive.

“Something is better than nothing in this critical time, but this amount (17,500 rupees) isn’t enough even for a small family of five members to get by, ” Zahoor Awan, secretary general of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF), told Arab News.

“A small family needs at least 50,000 rupees per month to fulfill all its expenses including house rent, food and utilities,” he said.

The Rs200 billion financial support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion fiscal stimulus scheme to minimize the adverse impacts of the disease outbreak on the country’s fragile economy.

“It was estimated that around 3 million workers will fall in this category and they will have to be paid a minimum wage of Rs17,500 ($106) per month,” the government’s Economic Coordination Committee said in a statement on Monday.
The government will disburse the money to workers through provincial labor departments.

“This is a substantial and major commitment from the government at this difficult time,” Khurram Husain, business analyst and editor at Dawn daily, told Arab News, adding that the labor departments will have to generate “authentic data” on the workers for the funds to be fairly distributed.

However, the very data on which ECC based its relief may be unreflective of the reality. 

While the ECC estimates that 3 million daily wage workers have been affected by the shutdown of commercial activity across the country, according to PWF’s Awan the number is at least 7 million.

He said the government’s package covers only the formal industrial sector. “What about those thousands working in small hotels, shops, self-employed, and others who aren’t registered with labor departments?” he said, adding that it is necessary for the government to broaden its definition of daily wage earners.

Ghulam Mustafa, a daily wager at a textile mill in Chakwal, said that prior to the business shutdown his monthly income was Rs26,000.

“It’s impossible to meet all the expenses with Rs17,500,” he told Arab News. “The government should waive off our utility bills along with this allowance.”