Khushhalibank, IFC join hands

ISLAMABAD (APP): Khushhali Microfinance Bank, and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, have signed an agreement whereby IFC would help the Bank develop a housing finance product, targeting primarily the undeserved and rural communities of Pakistan. Housing remains a dire need in Pakistan where an estimated 20 million people are homeless according to the UN. This situation has been compounded over the years through the occurrences of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, a statement issued here on Thursday said. With 137 branches, over half a million borrowers and 1.2 million savers, Khushhali Microfinance Bank is well poised to venture into housing finance to address the needs of both the salaried and entrepreneurial class. The IFC would help tailor a product suite addressing home improvement at the outset. This phase is expected to lead to Khushhali Microfinance Bank exploring a potentially comprehensive offering, covering aspects of property purchase.

On the occasion, Mohammed Khaled, IFC's Head of Microfinance Advisory Services in the Middle East and North Africa said on the occasion that shelter was not only a basic human need that ensured the wellbeing of people, it was also a personal and productive asset that appreciates over time while also helping low income households in generating income.

"Pakistan is a priority country for IFC and over the past three years, IFC has ramped up its investment and advisory work in Pakistan to help develop the private sector. IFC has mobilized investments in the power and infrastructure sectors and provided access to finance to MSMEs through financial intermediaries", he added.

Ghalib Nishtar, President of Khushhali Microfinance Bank said "We have endeavored to provide tailored financial solutions to our microfinance clients by choosing the right asset and liability offerings".

He said the mission was to harness the entrepreneurial zeal of this country and support people in graduating out of the poverty cycle and "we have been a market leader in doing so through traditional offerings such as group loans as well as more innovative products such as individual enterprise loans".

"Housing finance has long been a critical need, especially among the undeserved and Khushhali Microfinance Bank hopes to address this through the right mechanism which IFC will support us in developing", he added.

 IT ministry to set up 500 tele-centres

ISLAMABAD (APP): Ministry for Information Technology will set up 500 tele-centres under the Universal Service Fund (USF) to provide quality e-services in health, education and agriculture sectors to facilitate people in under served areas of the country.  In the first phase, the tender for establishment of 50 telecentres has been floated, a senior official of the ministry told APP. He said the USF was established by the government to extend the benefits of the telecom revolution to all corners of Pakistan. "Universal Service Fund promotes the development of telecommunication services in un-served and under-served areas throughout the length and breadth of the country," he added. The fund consists of contributions (1.5% of adjusted revenues) by the Telecom Operators with no government funding involved, he added. To utilize this fund for achievement of the targets, it was decided to follow a corporate Model, which led to establishment of USF Company under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984.

He said main objective of Universal Service Fund (USF) is to bring the focus of telecom operators towards rural population and increase the level of telecom penetration significantly in the rural areas through effective and fair utilization of the fund and to improve the Broadband penetration in the country, he said.

To a question he said each Telecenter will be connected to internet through high speed broadband, equipped with computers and other essential network elements (printer/scanner/copier/fax, etc), she said.

 APCNGA confident about CNG sector revival

ISLAMABAD (APP): All Pakistan Compressed Natural Gas Association (APCNGA) is confident that the CNG sector, affected due to gas shortage, will fully revive with increased import of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). APCNGA is finalizing modalities with Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) for effectively utilizing their network to supply its own imported LNG to CNG stations, the association leader Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha told APP on Thursday. Paracha, who is also heading the Universal Gas Distribution Company (Pvt.) Limited - the first-ever company which secured LNG sale and marketing licence from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to feed the CNG outlets, thanked the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources for making concerted efforts for reactivating the sector. He underlined the need for setting up more LNG terminals and improving the supply system across the country to get maximum benefit of the cheaper fuel for the common man.

Presently, he admitted that the CNG sector was not attracting motorists as they were still uncertain about its future but expressed the confidence that "future will be of the cheap and environment-friendly fuel, which is almost 30 percent cheaper than the petrol at the current rates."

He said although CNG stations were operating round-the-clock in a week but the number of CNG users would gradually increase with the improved LNG supply.

APCNGA, he said, had so far agreement with 1,351 CNG stations to get LNG through the gas companies distribution system and it was confident that the CNG sector would achieve `complete revival' due to the ongoing concerted efforts.

"CNG stations are consuming 100 mmcfd gas per day and it will be increased to 250 mmcfd per day level soon," he added.

Initially, a senior official of the Petroleum Ministry told APP, the government had encouraged the use of CNG as an alternative fuel to control environmental degradation, reduce foreign exchange expenditure on import of liquid fuel and generate employment. Following which, he said, Pakistan became the world leading CNG user country with more than three million NGVs (Natural Gas Vehicles) plying on the roads.

Currently, he said, more than 3,416 CNG stations are operational in the country fulfilling the fuel need of the NGVs.

On February 7, 2008, he said, the government had imposed ban on establishment of new stations, keeping in view the growth of CNG stations and fast-depleting natural gas reserves in the country.

The official said it was expected that the CNG stations, which were closed in Punjab due to the gas supply constraints, would start working in routine after the government initiated Rs 800 billion different gas projects including setting up of LNG terminals and gas pipelines to meet energy needs of the country.

 Oil loses more ground

LONDON (AFP): Oil fell for the sixth straight session Thursday on lingering worries over weaker-than-expected crude demand in top consumer the United States. At about 1015 GMT, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in August fell 62 cents at $48.35 a barrel. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for July delivery also lost 62 cents to $47.39 a barrel compared with Tuesday's close. "Oil prices are falling today for the sixth day straight, making this their longest losing streak since February," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch. The market had slid Wednesday after the US government's Department of Energy said commercial inventories fell 900,000 barrels in the week ending June 10. That dashed market expectations for a large gain of 2.33 million, according to analysts. After almost doubling between February and last week, WTI has plunged eight percent from an 11-month high, while Brent has lost more than six percent from an eight-month peak. Supply-side fears have increased, with Canada's output likely to normalise as wildfires that hit its oil region subside.

Meanwhile, Nigerian rebels, who have been attacking crude installations, consider peace talks with the government.  Selling pressure has been inflamed by turmoil on stock markets as traders grow increasingly fearful that Britain will vote next week to leave the European Union, which many warn could precipitate another global rout.

Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen on Wednesday sounded a warning about the possible impact of a "Leave" vote as the US central bank lowered its economic growth and interest rate projections over the next few years.

A Bank of Japan decision to hold steady on monetary policy despite the weak economy has also added to uncertainty, analysts said.