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Government has reset its priorities by laying greater focus on improving law and order situation: Prime Minister

Lahore, November 13, 2012 (PPI-OT): The Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that the government has reset its priorities by laying greater focus on improving law and order situation, equitable electricity load-shedding and promotion of private sector.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar presented Address of Welcome. Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo, Federal Secretary Commerce Munir Qureshi, Chairman FBR Ali Arshad Hakeem, Acting Governor Punjab Rana Mohammad Iqbal, LCCI Senior Vice President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Vice President Mian Abuzar Shad, former Presidents Ejaz Butt, Sheikh Saleem Ali, Mian Mohammad Ashraf, Tariq Hameed, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Mian Anjum Nisar, Mian Misbahur Rehman and Irfan Qaiser Sheikh also spoke on the occasion.

The Prime Minister said that the present government is ready to implement all doable energy projects without any let and hindrance because it believes in private sector growth. The government and the private sector are on the same page to rid the country of economic ills being faced today.

The Prime Minister said that the government is working on a number of coal and solar power projects that are not that inexpensive as being portrayed, however, with the passage of time they would be in easy access of the consumers.

He said that on the request of Dr Samar Mubarik Mund, the government gave immediate response to Thar Coal Gasification Projects which are well on way. He, however, made it clear the projects entails a lot many things including power generation stations and transmission lines for their connectivity with the national grid.

Raja Pervez Ashraf said that if the federating units develop a consensus on Kalabagh Dam today, the government would initiate construction of the dam. The Prime Minister said that the government is also focusing on the hydel component of the electricity and has expedited work on all ongoing hydel projects as well as those on the drawing board.

The Prime Minister said that it is not only the Pakistan but many other countries including India, Middle East, Bangladesh, Bhutan and other SAARC countries were also facing the demand and supply issue of the electricity.

The Prime Minister also announced to take LCCI as member in the Energy Crisis Committee under his Chairmanship( Prime Minister). With regards to trade with India, the Prime Minister said that government was committed to facilitate the business community, adding, “We are watching the entire development on the subject and will not compromise on the interest of the Pak business community.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that country’s progress and prosperity hinges on well being of the business community. If the business prospers, the country would automatically grow. “We believe in our people, particularly the businessmen and industrialist that together we will steer the country out of the prevailing challenges,” he maintained.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar said that the biggest problem the business community and generally the whole of Pakistan faces is a severe shortage of energy. The brunt of this crisis is getting worse by the day. He said that we must adopt measures to address this issue urgently as it is crippling national economy.

The LCCI President stressed the need to make a substantial investment in the development of a power sector infrastructure that is capable of meeting our country’s growing energy needs.

The LCCI president urged the government to allocate at the very least Rs. 200 billion per year or 10% of the total budget for energy projects such as Dasu power project, Diamer Bhasha dam, Munda dam, Kohala hydropower project and Kurram Tungi dam, in order to produce cheap energy. He said that none of these projects except Diamer Bhasha dam have a storage capacity for water.

He said that Kalabagh dam is the most viable project to address the energy issue but unfortunately the project has fallen prey to politics. He said that Pakistan is a water stressed country. By 2025, our water storage capacity per capita is expected to drop to 700 cubic meters from the current 1,038 cubic meters and when this happens, we will be a water-scarce country. It is essential to act now to avert such a situation.

Farooq Iftikhar said that the problem of circular debt must also be tackled on sustainable basis. He said that Pakistan has immense potential to produce cheap and reliable electricity through coal and proposed that sizeable funds be allocatedfor the development of Thar Coal project.

Farooq Iftikhar applauded the government’s decision to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) saying that it is expected to allow powerhouses in Pakistan to generate 2,500 MW of electricity initially. He also appreciated plans to cooperate with India in this matter. He proposed that a handsome amount be allocated for construction of an LNG terminal at the port city of Karachi.

He also urged the government to address the law and order situation in Karachi especially, as law and order is a major cause for the decline in local and foreign investment in Pakistan.

The LCCI President also called for cut non-developmental expenditures and adopting stricter financial discipline can decrease this deficit. He said though Pakistani entrepreneurs are ready to compete with Indian products and look forward to gaining access to a very large Indian market but the government would have to ensure that a level playing field be provided as presently there are significant differences between two countries in terms of cost of doing business, bank lending rates, economies of scale etc.

He said that with regard to Pakistan’s trade relations with China, it is suggested that the Pak-China Free Trade agreement which is now moving into the second phase, be revisited in consultation with the business community. Duties on Pakistan’s exports are higher than desired under the current agreement. The rates should be structured in line with the China-ASEAN trade agreement.

The LCCI President said that the survival of the industry in Pakistan is at stake due to multiple reasons. Besides energy issues, availability of cheap smuggled goods is a grave threat. We need to tackle this problem at various ends including reduction in custom duties, tightening the surveillance on borders and enforcement of custom law and regulations at the entry points.

For more information, contact:
Shahid Khalil
Information Department
Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI)
11-Shahrah-e-Aiwan-e-Tijarat,
Lahore -54000, Pakistan
Tel: +9242 111 222 499
Fax: +92 42 636 8854

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