Standard Chartered celebrates 10 years of ‘Saadiq’

KARACHI (Staff reporter): Standard Chartered Bank is celebrating 10 years of Saadiq in Pakistan. Saadiq, which means ‘truthful’, is Standard Chartered’s global Islamic banking brand. Standard Chartered was the first international bank to get an Islamic Banking licence in 2004 and to open the first Islamic Banking branch in Pakistan. The franchise in Pakistan comprises 116 branches in 22 cities out of which, the Bank has 10 dedicated Islamic Banking branches across the country. Standard Chartered was one of the leading advisors to the Government of Pakistan (GoP) in the recently concluded international sovereign Sukuk transaction.

The Bank played an instrumental role in resolving a roadblock around asset structuring. This enabled smooth execution of international sovereign Sukuk which raised $1 billion for the country for 5 years at 6.75 percent per annum (50 bps less than conventional sovereign bond issue).

Shazad Dada, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Pakistan, said “Standard Chartered Bank, consistent with our brand promise, here for good, stands committed to strengthening our commitment to Saadiq for the long term growth and development of Pakistan. The future of Islamic Banking is very promising and we are thankful to both the State Bank of Pakistan and the Government, for creating a conducive environment for the growth of Islamic Banking in the country.”

Govt committed to strengthen institutions for development

islamabad (Staff reporter): The government is committed for the strengthening of the institutions and the heads of these institutions for the development of the country, said Raja Ashfaq Sarwar, Punjab Minister on Labour and Human Resource while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the two-day HRDN International Congress “Key to Sustainable Growth - Human Resource Development” and Pakistan Development Expo 2014 at Pak-China Friendship Center on Friday. Raja Sarwar said that Human Resource Development Network (HRDN) has emerged as a prominent network of organisations, professionals and experts, all motivated to further the progress and well-being of the country.

The congress is a good forum to share the good practices and exhibiting successful models towards the development of the Pakistan. I commend efforts of organisers of the Congress for conceiving this much needed initiative.

The minister said that earlier only Madaris were functional in Southern Punjab while the schools were nowhere in sight. He said that the Punjab government has introduced Danish School System to provide educational opportunities to the children of working class.

He said that the provincial government has over Rs.10 billion endowment fund being used for education. He said currently over 45,000 students are getting education under the system. He assured that recommendations made under the HRDN Congress would be incorporated in the plans and assured his all-out support to the HRDN in furthering the goals of the congress.

Earlier, HRDN’s Chairman Roomi S. Hayat welcoming the participants of the congress dilated on the very concept of the HRDN Congress and Pakistan Development Expo. He said that we must open the doors of opportunity for the youth by providing them with training and internship and employment. Pakistan has tremendous resources that need to be utilised to change the destiny of the country.

HRDN’s Executive Director Suhail Awan said that the purpose to undertake this holistic task is to harness the efforts at all levels and to come up with concrete solutions towards the real development. HRDN sees Vision 2025 closer to its ideas as it is all-inclusive, egalitarian and sustainable. HRDN being the network of 150 private sector organisations and over 1,000 development sector professionals is set to outline the developmental goals and explore new and successful models for the development of Pakistan.

The Congress is taking up the major issues like human resource development, energy and food security, a huge infrastructure deficit, issues pertaining to climate change, and leveraging world trade and markets.

In the second session Zafarullah spoke at length on the topic of Right to Information. The speakers pointed out flaws in the law and also suggested measures to make the law more compatible in the interest of the public. Zafarullah also unfolded details of the new law on the right to information that is being tabled in the parliament. He said that a powerful Information Commission is also being set up for the purpose.

In the third session of the congress was on Climate Change, Adaptility and food security. NDMA Chairman Aleem Saeed said that there is acute food insecurity in Pakistan mainly because we waste most of the food on our own. He stressed on strengthening the agriculture system to introduce new areas of production. The NDMA Chairman stressed the need to focus on the issue of youth and asked the HRDN to come forward in harnessing the potential of the youth.

Dr Abid Sulehari, SDPI ED and Dr Manzoor Awan, Deputy Country Representative of Oxfam, and other experts also shed light on the topic. Dr. Shafaqat Kakhel, Chairman SDPI in his address said that Pakistan has never been food secure. Climate has a number of effects on Pakistan including see rise in coastal areas, droughts, rapid melting of glaciers that affect the food production.

The main sessions of the congress include Youth Inclusive while other topics are:  Development; Education Quality and inclusiveness; Regional Peace, Security and Tolerance; Role of Private Sector in Vocational Training; Transformation of Export Led Economy and Strong Social Values; Climate Change, Adaptation and Food Security; Governance and Accountability: A Key to Success; and Globalisation and Workforce Development in the Era of Science, Technology and Innovation.

On the sidelines of the Congress, Pakistan Development Expo 2014 is successfully displaying their successful models. Around 50 development organisations, national and international NGOs have displayed their products at the stalls. Thousands of people thronged the expo and saw the displayed work of the organisations. Students evinced keen interest in the displayed material at the stalls. HRDN’s stall on Internship remained center of attraction for the youth and graduating students.

Structural reforms needed in world’s poorest nations: UN

UN (Special Correspondent): A new U.N. report says that lack of structural reforms was keeping the world’s poorest countries trapped in poverty despite registering strong economic growth. In its annual report on the world’s least developed countries, or LDCs, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said that booming economic growth in the 48 nations on its list was having only minor impacts on living standards and the fight against widespread poverty. The Least Developed Countries Report 2014 argues that LDCs are the battleground on which the UN-led post-2015 development agenda will be won or lost.

The report calls on the international community to learn from the failure of most of the poorest countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) despite registering strong economic growth – a phenomenon it dubs the “LDC paradox”.

This paradox arises from the failure of LDC economies to achieve structural changes despite having grown vigorously as a result of strong export prices and rising aid flows.

According to the UN, from 2002 to 2008, LDC growth exceeded the 7 per cent target agreed by the international community, and even after the 2008 financial crisis they grew faster than other developing countries, at an average of 5.7 per cent per year.

However, only one LDC – the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – is on track to achieve all seven of the MDG targets analyzed in the report, and only four of the 39 LDCs outside South and South-East Asia (Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda) are on track to meet even a majority of these targets.

Under the MDGs, global poverty was halved by rapid progress in the more advanced developing countries, the report says.

But a central goal of the post-2015 development agenda is expected to be the eradication of poverty by 2030. This means reducing it to zero everywhere – and it is in the LDCs that this will be most challenging. Their performance, the report says, will largely determine the success or failure of the whole post-2015 development agenda.

Eradicating poverty in 15 years is a much more ambitious goal than the MDG target of halving it in 25 years. Even China has not achieved this, despite extraordinary economic growth and development for twice as long.

Moreover, prospects for export prices are now much more uncertain following the financial crisis, while aid to LDCs has stopped increasing as donor countries implement austerity policies.

The report highlights three key policy priorities as part of a post-2015 development agenda for LDCs which include mobilizing resources for investment, directing these resources towards transforming economies and establishing macroeconomic policies that promote investment and demand growth. Diversifying rural economies is also critical eradicating poverty.

Donors must fulfil their long-standing commitments and critical to progress are changes in the international financial system and international trade system, and also prompt action to tackle climate change.

Development is not just about economic growth, the report notes. Development requires structural transformation of the economic base in two parallel processes: increasing labour productivity in productive activities and shifting labour from activities with low productivity – such as small-scale agriculture and services outside the formal economy – to more dynamic activities with higher productivity, such as manufacturing and high-value services.

It is not just economic growth that determines LDCs’ performance in meeting the MDGs, but the combination of these two processes of structural transformation. The core of the post-2015 development agenda should be a virtuous circle between economic and human development, reversing the vicious circle currently trapping LDCs, the report says.

Reducing poverty, improving nutrition and health, and boosting education increase people’s productive potential. Forty-eight countries are currently designated by the United Nations as LDCs.

SECP extends Form A filing date

islamabad (Staff Reporter): The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has extended the filing date of Form A and annual audited accounts up to Tuesday, December 2. The decision has been made in order to facilitate companies, which held their annual general meetings on October 30 and 31. The last filing dates for these companies were falling on 29 and 30 November respectively. Considering the fact that last filing dates are falling on a weekend, they have been extended up to Tuesday, December 2. It is pertinent to mention here that all other than listed companies are required to file Form A, within 30 days of holding of their AGMs, while the listed companies are required to file Form A, within 45 days.

Oil prices extend losses

SINGAPORE (AFP): Oil extended losses in Asian trade Friday after the OPEC cartel refused to cut production despite a global glut that has sent prices slumping to four-year lows, with analysts warning of further falls to come. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery was at $68.63 a barrel in late afternoon trade, down 42 cents from its settle price in electronic trading in New York on Thursday. US floor trading was closed due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Brent crude for January fell 66 cents to $71.92. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps out one-third of the world’s oil, opted to stick by its output target, even after prices have plunged by 35 percent since June.

The 12-nation cartel “decided to maintain the production level of 30 million barrels per day” where it has stood for three years, it said in a communique after a meeting Thursday at its headquarters in Vienna.

Oil prices were routed after the decision was announced, with WTI tanking to $67.75, a level last seen since May 2010, while Brent also plunged to a four-year low of $71.25.

“OPEC’s decision to keep output is the main reason for prices to drop quite rapidly,” said Daniel Ang, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore.

“Prices are likely to be going down for the rest of the year,” he told AFP.

Ang, who closely tracks the oil market, said he expects WTI to end 2014 in the “low 60s” and Brent in the “mid-60s”.

At Thursday’s OPEC meeting, the cartel came under pressure from its poorer members, including Venezuela and Ecuador, to trim production as tumbling prices were eating into revenues and raising fears over their economies.

But the group’s powerful Gulf members led by kingpin Saudi Arabia resisted the calls to turn down the taps unless they are guaranteed market share, particularly in the United States, where cheap shale gas has contributed to the global supply glut.

- Energy firms take a hit -

Another member, Kuwait, supported the move with the country’s oil minister Ali Omair saying: “We decided that price will adjust itself based on supply and demand and that OPEC is supposed to safeguard its market share in order not to lose its clients.”

He suggested the United States should also bear responsibility and lower its own output of shale oil.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday he would keep pushing OPEC to slash output.

“We have not succeeded yet, but... we will continue to try until prices return to where they should be, at around $100 per barrel,” he said in a televised address in his country, which depends on crude exports for nearly all of its hard currency revenues.

In Asia, energy stocks took a beating. US markets were closed for Thanksgiving.

Santos, one of Australia’s largest oil and gas producers, slumped 13 percent at the close of trade Friday and BHP Billiton was down 3.37 percent in Sydney, while Hong Kong-listed CNOOC was off 5.5 percent and PetroChina sank 3.33 percent.

However, Asian airlines — whose main cost is fuel — soared. In Hong Kong, Air China jumped 6.44 percent and Cathay Pacific gained 5.04 percent, while Tokyo-listed Japan Airlines added 5.28 percent and rival ANA jumped 7.39 percent.

Qantas gained 6.96 percent in Sydney and Korean Airlines was up 4.74 percent in Seoul. Singapore Airlines closed 2.57 percent.

Malaysian bank CIMB said a further decline in oil prices means Asian governments were unlikely to raise interest rates soon.

“Expectations of monetary policy tightening now gets further behind the line, as global reduction in inflation could only mean the urgency to hike or tighten monetary conditions becomes less of a concern for emerging Asia policy makers,” it said.