Shehbaz Sharif says consumers using 200 units per month will be exempted n Non-industrial use of land allocated for SEZs will not be tolerated n Pakistan signs framework agreement with Azerbaijan for LNG procurement on flexible terms.
LAHORE/SHEIKHUPURA - Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Monday said that at least 63 percent domestic consumers using up to 200 units per month would be exempted from the recent increase in power tariff. A partial subsidy was also being given to those consuming up to 300 units per month, who were around 31 percent of the total domestic consumers, he added. "Due to the toughest conditions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government had to raise the electricity prices but I stressed that the burden should not be passed on to the protected segments of the society," he said after witnessing the signing of a framework agreement between the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) Trading and the Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL).
The framework agreement was signed by PLL Managing Director Masood Nabi and Chief Executive Officer of SOCAR Trading Mariam Almaszade. Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik, Punjab Governor Baleegh Ur Rehman, diplomats and government officials were also present on the occasion.
Under the framework agreement, the SOCAR Trading has offered supply one cargo per month of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Pakistan on flexible terms and with the credit line for 30 days after delivery of the cargo in one year contract which is extendable by another year.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said it was really a great day as “we are standing here as brothers from two brotherly countries - Pakistan and Azerbaijan”. He expressed good wishes for President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev whom he met in Baku few weeks ago and thanked him for finalizing the agreement.
“We had extremely productive and very fruitful discussion over there as to how to promote economic relations between the two friendly countries,” he said, adding immediately on his return to home, the Government of Pakistan accorded approval to the Azerbaijan Airline to land at Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
“This is a big step forward to promote tourism and investment, and exchange of delegations between the two countries.” The prime minister also appreciated and thanked Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Dr Musadik Malik, secretary petroleum, Pakistan’s ambassador in Azerbaijan, SOCAR Trading CEO, and PLL MD for their efforts to conclude the framework agreement.
The ambassador of Azerbaijan in Islamabad, on the occasion, said the framework agreement would help further strengthen bilateral economic relations.
He said the cooperation between the two countries remained sustainable since the start of diplomatic ties.
He said approval of giving airspace to the Azerbaijan Airline would increase the number of visitors and business delegations between the two counties. A team of horticulture experts from Azerbaijan was arriving in Pakistan to share their first hand experience in the sector with the Pakistani authorities, he added.
‘OMBRE SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONE’
Also, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday said that the utilisation of modern technology and alternative energy by the industrial sector were inevitable to make exports competitive in the international market.
The prime minister, addressing the soft launching of Ombre Special Economic Zone, Sundar Green Special Economic Zone and Smart Special Economic Zone, said owing to surging oil prices, the only option was to exploit the potential of solar, wind and hydel energy for the cost-effectiveness of local products.
He said the issue of circular debt was required to be addressed on a war-footing basis, which was swelling due to wasting billions of rupees annually because of line and transmission losses as well as power theft.
The prime minister appreciated the private sector for chalking out a plan to establish the three special economic zones and assured all-out support from the federal and Punjab governments.
He said the commitment by the private sector to attract investment worth billions of rupees was also laudable, besides their plans to set up a three-megawatt solar power plant and other allied facilities like the vocational training center.
He hoped that the interim government would also take all possible measures to keep the national economy on track of progress, as the incumbent one was already making necessary legislation to pave the way for future course of action.
The prime minister told the gathering that an agreement between Pakistan and Azerbaijan for the import of LNG was signed earlier in the day under which the latter would provide an LNG shipment per month with the former having the option to purchase it or not, in accordance with the needs and without any penalty.
Similarly, he said, the private sector should also sign the deals with Qatar to import LNG for industrial use – not for sale in the market – and assured that the Federal Government would facilitate them at the Karachi Port. Prime Minister Shehbaz also called for spreading the network of SEZs across the country. He said during Nawaz Sharif’s last government, the SEZs were planned across the country under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, but, despite complete mapping and other formalities, all the projects faced unnecessary delay, except Rashakai.
He said the agreement with International Monetary Fund was signed to ebb away the risk of default and put the country on the course toward progress. The prime minister said as far as the SEZs by the public sector were concerned, the government would provide land free of charge to the investors, as it had done for the Bahawalpur Solar Park.
However, he said the use of SEZs’ land for non-industrial use would not be tolerated and recalled similar “misconduct” by some parties in Faisalabad and other SEZs where people had been minting money by selling out the land.