ICCI concerned over upward revision in bank tax

ISLAMABAD (APP): Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) Thursday expressed concern over plans of upward revision in the withholding tax on bank transactions. “Any such revision will trigger another crisis”, President ICCI, Atif Ikram Sheikh said. The stand-off between government and business community over imposition of bank tax can result in a major crisis any time, President ICCI stated this in a statement. He said the issues must be resolved as it continue to hit banking industry while promoting parallel banking system which is adding to black economy. Businessmen are preferring business through lockers and increasing using dollars which is not good for the health of the economy, he said.

A common man is paying over 15 percent tax on internet and mobile and 30 percent tax on power bills. Senior citizens are made to pay 10 percent WHT on saving schemes which is injustice, he maintained.

He said the repressive taxation has hit poor out of which 40 percent were living below poverty line while elite continue to enjoy princely living without paying taxes.

He appealed to the government to take due care and caution before taking any such step and avoid overburdening the poor.

Over 8.6m cotton bales reach ginneries across Pakistan

MULTAN (APP): Seed cotton (Phutti) equivalent to 8.631 million or 8,631,933 bales reached ginneries across Pakistan till Dec 1 registering a shortfall of 28.93 per cent compared to corresponding period last year. According to a fortnightly report of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) issued here Thursday, out of total arrivals, Phutti equivalent to 7,834,819 or 7.83 million bales has undergone the ginning process. The arrival at Punjab ginneries was recorded at over 5.1 million or 5,103,092 bales, thus recording a percentage decrease of 39.95 per cent compared to corresponding period of last year. Arrivals at ginneries in Sindh was recorded at 3.5 million or 3,528,841 bales showing a percentage decrease of 3.26 per cent.

Textile Mills have purchased over 6.2 million or 6,289,399 bales, and exporters have bought 352,826 bales. Total sold out bales were calculated at 6.64 million or 6,642,225 bales.

Exactly 1,989,708 bales were still lying with the ginneries as the unsold stock, the report said. Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) has not yet intervened in the buying process.

Meanwhile, 919 ginning factories in Punjab and Sindh continued to remain operational converting seed cotton (Phutti) into bales. There are almost 1300 ginning factories in the country and 919 were operational including 228 in Sindh and 691 in Punjab.

Despite overall production downfall by 28.93 per cent, district Sanghar maintained its top position up till now as over 1.29 million bales have reached ginneries in the district, though,it was down by 8.87 per cent compared to last year.

No other district except Sanghar has so far touched the figure of even one million bales in Punjab and Sindh,according to PCGA fortnightly report statistics.

Unleashing the potential of SME demanded

ISLAMABAD (APP): The United Business Group (UBG) of the FPCCI on Thursday said economy cannot excel unless SMEs are supported at policy level and given preference in provision of credit. Uninterrupted flow of finances are important for survival and expansion of the SME sector without which economy cannot be revived, it said. The role of microfinance banks remains crucial to ensure unobstructed flow of financial resources to the SME sector which is engine of economic growth for country, said Abdul Rauf Alam, presidential candidate for the presidency of FPCCI. Speaking to the business community, he said that the current level of finance and access of SMEs to banking services remains unsatisfactory which calls for serious initiatives.

He said that SME sector represents over 90 per cent of all enterprises, employs some 75 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce and contributes Rs 86 billion to the GDP.

Abdul Rauf Alam said that the sector that plays important role in poverty alleviation, and equitable resource distribution is being ignored by the government and commercial banks.

SMEs’ growth potential for employment, income generation, and poverty reduction remains mostly untapped in Pakistan.

Only 2.5 million people are recorded as active borrowers of microfinance which is discouraging, he said.

Questioning policies which are hindering growth of SMEs, he said that there is a serious need for the small and medium banks to study successful microfinance banks in other countries in a bid to come up with effective and implementable ideas.

Authorities must take on the challenge of developing SME by providing an enabling environment, business development services and facilitate their growth agendas.

Solar energy an alternate way to overcome power crisis

ISLAMABAD (APP): Among many other problems that the country is facing, one of the most attention seeking is power load-shedding; and different ways are being explored by the government and private sector to cope with the issue. Where different projects are underway to produce electricity through hydel, hydral and coal, experts see a great potential in Pakistan regarding power production through solar energy. A strategy is needed to be evolved to counter the problem of load-shedding as being a developing country we need different micro and macro power projects. “Pakistan is blessed in a way that sun can be an excellent source to provide this energy. As solar energy needs more sunlight and wind flow.

, so Pakistan is at the best place because the duration of sunlight and day time is more as compared to other countries,” said Mr. Naveed Sub Engineer of Pakistan Meteorological Department.

Power generation through solar energy was suitable for Pakistan in many ways. The most prominent one was its ability to take less time to accomplish as compared to other hydroelectric power projects, he said.

“A hydroelectric power project will take around 10 years to accomplish, while the solar power system will take 2 to 3 years at most for its installment,” he added.

This will be more suitable for Pakistan as in these days as we need electricity and that too on urgent basis to fulfill our energy requirements, Naveed said.

The rates of fuel are increasing consistently in Pakistan and so are the rates of electricity. Solar power in this situation can decrease the dependency on fuel. Moreover, the rate of electricity will also reduce once the dependency over fuel will end.

“We can get the solar energy as long as sun is there and it’s totally free of cost. It just need installment. Solar energy is a renewable source and will be available for a long period of time,” Naveed mentioned.

According to a report, sunlight will be available for more than 5 billion years. Solar energy is cheaper and flexible as one can install the system depending upon his need of electricity.

One of the major problems of our electricity system is that it is not available in far flung rural areas, and where it is available, people get it only for three to four hours. As solar energy has diverse applications and is much more suitable for such areas, so people of these areas can install solar systems and become independent as far as production and consumption of energy is concerned.

Citing the potential of this very source, the government has initiated a number of projects including Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park and installation of the system at the parliament house.

Pakistan has initiated a solar energy project by the name of Quaid e Azam solar park which will produce around 1000 MW of electricity by the end of 2016. This will be useful in generating much electricity and will be the biggest project of Pakistan.

“The Chinese government had provided a grant through the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to set up the SPGS system as an alternative source of energy to meet electricity needs of the Parliament House,” said Adviser to Finance Division Rana Asad Ameen in a published report.

Solar energy has an advantage that if one is generating more energy in comparison to his needs; it will be stored in the system and can be transmitted to others as well.

Oil prices bounce back on eve of OPEC meeting

SINGAPORE (AFP): Oil prices bounced back in Asia Thursday but trading was cautious on signs the OPEC cartel is divided ahead of a meeting on whether to maintain or slash its high output levels. The US benchmark West Texas Intermediate closed below $40 a barrel for the first time since late August on Wednesday after data showed an increase in US commercial stockpiles and production, adding to anxiety about a long-running supply glut. Focus is now on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting in Vienna Friday. Analysts say the 12 members appear to be divided, with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf partners at odds with others pushing for a cut in output in a bid to perk up prices.

WTI for delivery in January was up 20 cents at $40.14 and Brent crude was trading 23 cents higher at $42.72 at around 0300 GMT.

WTI fell 4.6 percent Wednesday while Brent sank 4.4 percent.

Bloomberg News said Venezuela and Ecuador — which have been badly hit by the plunge in prices — would seek production cuts during the meeting.

IHS Energy said Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will have great influence on the tone of the meeting as they account for more than half of OPEC’s 31.5 million barrels per day output.

“Without the Gulf group, there can be no effective OPEC agreement,” IHS Energy said in a report ahead of Friday’s meeting.

OPEC has been pumping above its collective target of 30 million barrels per day as its influential members led by Saudi Arabia try to maintain their share of a highly competitive market.

Prices have plunged by more than half from peaks of above $100 a barrel in mid-2014 largely because of the oversupply.