Saudi construction industry

output to reach $148b in 2020

ISLAMABAD (APP): The outlook for Saudi Arabian construction remains bright as the industry's output value is forecast to rise at a 7.05 percent by 2020, compared with 6.35 percent during the review period (2011-2015). According to a report from Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center (CIC), Saudi industry is consequently set to rise from a value of $105.6 billion in 2015 to $148.5 billion in 2020, measured at constant 2010 US dollar exchange rates, Saudi Gazette reported. The growth will be supported by increased government participation and investments in sectors such as health care, education and infrastructure construction to diversify the country's economy away from oil and to support economic growth.

The residential construction market is expected to remain relatively sizable over the forecast period, with 29.3 percent of the industry's total value in 2020.

Furthermore, the energy and utilities construction market is expected to increase in importance over the next five years.

Inefficient methods of farming up cost of production: Dr Iqrar

FAISALABAD (APP): Inefficient methods of agricultural farming are making Pakistan’s cost of production higher than international markets, which is not only multiplying problems of farming community but also posing a threat of food insecurity. This was stated by Prof Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan Vice Chancellor University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF) here on Saturday while addressing the second consultative meeting on current status and future prospectus of adoption of Precision Agriculture in Pakistan arranged by Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security, University of Agriculture Faisalabad at Video Conference Room.

He said only in the case of wheat, progressive farmers were getting 80 maunds per acre against the average per acre production of 28 maunds.

"This is a big gap between potential yield and the production of small farmers," he said, adding that developed countries were using system of precision agriculture and cooperative farming, resulting in increasing the productivity manifold.

Dalhousie University Canada Precision Agriculture Chair Dr Qamar Zaman said 30 percent of the fertilizer could be saved by using modern technologies.

He said the world population would touch to nine billion and cropland area is decreeing. He said the smart controller and sprayer would be helpful to decrease the cost of production.

CEO Farmers' Associate Pakistan Afaq Tiwana said farmers must be educated about the benefit of mechanization that would not only increase the productivity but also minimize the cost of production.

Smeda asked to brief SMEs

owners on Cyber Crime Bill

ISLAMABAD (NNI): The UNISAME has urged the SMEDA to convene a session to explain salient features of the Cyber Crime Bill, passed in the National Assembly, to the owners of small and medium enterprises before it becomes a law. In a statement issued here on Saturday, UNISAME president Zulfikar Thaver said since SMEDA had a very efficient legal services department, which provided free legal aid to the SMEs all over Pakistan; its provincial branches in had law officers who were well versed in regulatory, mercantile and criminal law and offered expert legal advice to the SMEs, therefore, the Cyber Crime Bill must be explained in letter and spirit so that owners of these enterprises could become aware of its benefits and also its sensitive features.

Thaver made the demand in a meeting with SMEDA, Sindh Manager Legal Services Feroze Ahmad

“Cyber Crime Bill is a document, which merits careful study and understanding and the SME sector must be made aware of its characteristics and features properly,” Thaver opined.

He said the corporate sector enjoyed the benefits of its own legal departments, whereas the SME sector relied on SMEDA for guidance and legal advice. “It is the responsibility of SMEDA to educate the sector on the subject,” he asserted.

UNISAME president also requested the SMEDA provincial law officers to brief the people belonging to the sector on online FIRs, and the correct procedure prescribed for lodging complaints against victimisation and offenses.

Towards the end, Thaver reiterated the demand for a SME Liaison Committee (SME-LC) in SMEDA offices to link the entrepreneurs with several agencies functioning under the federal government.

“People belonging to SMEs sometimes suffer highhandedness of officers. The SME-LC, in this situation, could tell them their rights and duties, and also teach them how to protect these rights,” he opined.

Govt to transform Pakistan into knowledge-based economy

WASHINGTON (APP): Pakistan was promoting increased global connectivity through a series of initiatives and the govt is committed to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy, Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Maood Khan said. Speaking at an event at the World Bank, Washington, the finance secretary reiterated Pakistan's resolve to support the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), action lines and targets that were set under the agenda for the SDGs. The Secretary appreciated the US govt for launching the Global Connect Initiative (GCI) to provide internet access to an additional 1.5 billion people worldwide by 2020 and recognized that the GCI will go a long way in meeting the UN's SDG of achieving internet access by 2030.

The finance secretary highlighted the World Bank's recognition of tremendous growth of internet penetration, in Pakistan, from 2001 to 2014 on account of enabling policy environment, enormous growth potential and the private sector's entrepreneurial spirit.

He said that Vision 2025 envisages digitizing every school, college and the university in the country by 2025.

He apprised the audience that as landmark progress for the future growth and development of ICT, the government has approved the telecommunication policy 2015. He further elaborated that the policy basically aims to facilitate universally available, affordable and quality telecom services through open, competitive and adequately regulated markets. The policy, he emphasized, will help bridge digital divide.

In 2014, the Government of Pakistan's fair auction of 3G and 4G licenses earned USD 1.2 billion for the national exchequer and also facilitated investment of USD 1.3 billion in rolling out 3G/4G networks and infrastructure in the country.

The secretary said that there were nearly 29.3 million broadband subscribers in the country, of which 26.1 million are using 3G/4G services. He said that the Government of Pakistan is also gradually shifting public services on to e-platforms.

In this regard, debit cards have been issued to beneficiaries of Benazir Income Support Programme which will further be replaced with biometric cards particularly to enable women to draw funds from ATMS through simple fingerprint scan.

The finance secretary also shared that the State Bank of Pakistan, in partnership with banking and financial institutions and telecom providers, has developed a robust policy and regulatory framework for mobile/branchless banking to achieve universal financial inclusion in Pakistan.

The revenues from Universal Service Fund are utilized to provide telephonic, internet and broadband services. The ICT industry is also being encouraged to develop applications that facilitate e-Agriculture, e-health, e-learning, e-security, e-connectivity and e-commerce. An e-commerce gateway has also been established in the country to promote digital trade in the country. The finance secretary reaffirmed the Government of Pakistan's support of all global initiatives and work programs including the target specific global connect initiative of the State Department, to achieve the global connectivity objectives.

Dollar falls on lacklustre US data

NEW YORK (AFP): The dollar dipped against the euro and the yen Friday following lackluster US economic data. The Federal Reserve reported that US industrial production fell 0.6 percent in March, matching the decline in February. Meanwhile the University of Michigan's survey of consumer sentiment showed consumer confidence fell to 89.7 in April from 91.0 in March, the fourth consecutive monthly decline. "Outside of a few upside surprises, most of this week's US economic reports highlight the ongoing challenges in the US economy," said Kathy Lien, analyst at BK Asset Management. Lien predicted the US Federal Reserve at its next meeting later in April would refrain from further interest rate increases and could slightly downgrade its assessment of the US economy.

Analysts debated the impact on foreign exchange of a widely anticipated meeting of major oil producers Sunday in Doha to discuss a potential agreement to limit output.

Lien predicted the failure to reach a deal would lead to a collapse in oil prices, depressing the stock market but lifting the dollar "as risk aversion returns to the markets."

Commonwealth Foreign Exchange said a breakdown in the Doha talks "could quickly deflate oil's recent rally, which would send equities and dollar/yen broadly lower as well."