ISLAMABAD - Federal Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Saturday reiterated that a handful of speculators would not be allowed to create volatility in the foreign exchange market for their vested interests.

This he said at a meeting with representatives of exchange companies and representatives of the State Bank of Pakistan in the Finance Ministry. During the meeting, the finance minister asserted a handful of speculators would not be allowed to create volatility in the foreign exchange market for their vested interests. Such manipulation by a handful was against the national interest which was supreme, he emphasised.

On the issue of imposition of General Sales Tax by provincial governments on foreign exchange companies, the minister said he would take up the issue with them. Currency, he said, was not a commodity and could not be subjected to sales tax, he observed. He assured them that the issue would be resolved on priority.

Regarding their complaint of harassment by Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), the minister said he had issued necessary instructions to State Bank of Pakistan to redress the grievance in accordance with the rules. The representatives of exchange companies assured the finance minister they would continue to cooperate with the government.

Meanwhile, Rached Benmassaoud, director, World Bank, and Werner E Liepach, country director, Asian Development Bank (ADB), called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar separately at the Finance Ministry. Rachid Benmassaoud told the finance minister that World Bank was looking forward to the meeting of its president with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Davos. The World Bank, he said, had a very positive assessment of the government’s reform programme of the economy and assured him of full support.

While reviewing the ongoing projects, the finance minister underlined the significance of balance of payments support and financing for Dasu project.

It was agreed that the reassessment of other ongoing projects, eligible for IDA financing, would be undertaken to make preparations for availability of IDA under new arrangements.

The World Bank country director said the Development Policy Loan was on track and work so far done for the authorisation was appreciated Rachid said a group of executive directors of World Bank was planning to visit Pakistan in March. Werner said the new Vice president of Asian Development Bank, Wencai Zhang, who had recently assumed the office, was planning his first visit to Pakistan on Feb 11.

During his visit, Zhang will hold high-level meetings, including the one with the prime minister, and also sign US$900 million loan agreement for the construction of 1,320MW Jamshsoro Power Project.

The finance minister, while talking to Werner, said the present government had taken a number of steps to stabilise the economy and made a considerable progress in addressing macro-economic imbalances. The recent approval of US$ 1.5billion by ADB for power distribution projects will go a long way in strengthening the stabilisation process, he added.

The finance minister said the government envisages ADB would play a bigger role since it planned to begin work on new and important projects like Diamer Bhasha Dam, Dasu Power Project and others.

The finance minister said Pakistan hoped ADB would extend its technical and financial expertise in harnessing investments for an ambitious development plan of the government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Werner also informed the finance minister that a trade finance mission from ADB would be visiting Pakistan by the end of this month to hold talks with the government to explore extending a trade finance facility. He also said ADB was also exploring the possibility of financing with Middle East sources together with designing guarantees-based fund arrangement.

The forthcoming meeting of ADB President Jakehiko Nako with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Davos also came under discussion.

Werner also discussed the ADB’s programme of assistance for the next year, which includes support to the power sector, transport, communication and development of financial markets.

The finance minister appreciated the initiative of ADB to send a mission to explore the prospects of extending trade facility to Pakistan.

Separately, Ambassador Robin Raphel called on Finance Minister Ishaq Dar at the Finance Ministry Saturday morning.

During the meeting, they held discussion on bilateral economic issues and cooperation between the two countries to encourage trade and investment in the region.

During their meeting, they also discussed the agenda of the forthcoming meeting of the Economic Working Group expected to be held in Washington in April this year.

Ishaq Dar reiterated energy remained one of the highest priorities of the government. In this connection, the government had not only announced an energy policy but was also working on fast track to bring out a hydro carbon policy so that indigenous resources could be exploited to reduce dependence on imported resources.

He underlined the need to increase technical and technological cooperation between the two countries to help Pakistan exploit its proven hydro carbon resources.

Stressing the need to work more closely in the field of energy, the finance minister said addition of 1,700MW to the national grid due to clearance of circular debt had increased industrial growth by 5% against an average of 3% during the Last five years. This underscored the need and significance of focusing more on the energy sector as it would further accelerate growth in the economy.

Robin Raphel offered the US assistance for improving infrastructure and facilities on the borders of Pakistan. The finance minister expressed the hope the United States would accelerate the process of clearing outstanding Coalition Support Fund.