ROME: Italy’s foreign ministry said it had summoned the French Ambassador today, amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries over the handling of a migrant crisis.
On Tuesday French President Emmanuel Macron accused Italy of “irresponsibility” after the Rome government refused to open its ports to an NGO ship carrying hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean.
Relevant pieces published earlier:
i) Amid Italy-Malta standoff, Spain has offered to receive the aid group SOS Mediterranee’s vesselAquariuscarrying 629 migrants onboard (among them 100 children pregnant women and many suffering from hypothermia). While Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat accused Italy of violating international norms governing sea rescues, Italy held that Malta should accept the Aquarius because Malta was the safest, closest port to the ship. Spain’s new Socialist prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, ordered authorities in Valencia to open the port, saying “it’s our duty to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a secure port for these people.” It is not clear whether Aquarius could travel safely to Valencia, 1400 km away, carrying so many people. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff – who happens to be onboard the Aquarius – commenting on the crisis informed that the migrants were stable but the food and water would run out by night. According to MSF staff, some of the passengers are suffering from water in their lungs as well as chemical burns (caused when gasoline mixes with sea water). Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said: “Saving lives is a duty, but transforming Italy into an enormous refugee camp isn’t.” He tweeted: #Chiudiamoiporti. (Published on 11th June 2018)
ii) Italy and Malta faced international pressure today to come to the aid of a rescue ship carrying hundreds of migrants which is stranded in the Mediterranean as the two countries refuse to allow them ashore. A total of 629 people, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by SOS Mediterranee Saturday and are stuck aboard the French charity’s ship Aquarius, which is currently between Malta and Sicily. But Malta and Italy – where the new populist government has vowed a tough new stance on immigration – have both refused to take the migrants in. The UN called on the two nations to immediately allow the boat to dock, describing the situation as “an urgent humanitarian imperative” and suggesting the hundreds of board “are running out of provisions.” The EU and the bloc’s biggest member state Germany Europe made similar pleas. “The priority of both the Italian and Maltese authorities should be ensuring these people receive the care they need,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters, calling for a “swift resolution”. Germany called on “all parties to fulfill their humanitarian responsibility”. Italy’s refusal to take in the migrants is the first evidence of the new government’s hardened stance on immigration. (Published on 11th June 2018)
ADB to provide $7.528 bn to Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has planned to support Pakistan with lending of $7.528 billion for various development projects during the next three years.
In its new Country Operations Business Plan (COBP) for Pakistan 2019-21 revealed on Thursday, the ADB has proposed a sovereign lending program for next three years worth $7.528 billion, consisting of $5.37 billion from regular Ordinary Capital Resource (OCR) lending and $2.158 billion from Concessional COR Lending (COL). COL includes a carryover of $600 million from 2018. The non-lending program for 2019–2021 is $21.7 million, including transaction technical assistance for various pipeline projects. An amount of $2.245 billion in ADB loan financing is allocated for the energy sector, which is 29.8 percent of the total pipeline for 2019–2021.
The pipeline includes a multi-tranche financing facility for Transmission Strengthening (tranche 1) for National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), Hydropower Development Project for Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), and support for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Gas Pipeline Project. For the transport sector, some $1.394 billion of ADB loan financing for the sector (18.5% of the total pipeline) have been allocated for the transport sector. The pipeline includes the Sustainable National Highway Project and the Sindh Hyderabad Southern Bypass Project.
ADB also proposes support for the revitalization of Pakistan Railways to improve transport sector sustainability, including exploring non-conventional financing arrangements. For agriculture, natural resources, and rural development, ADB has allocated $794 million in loan financing to the sector (10.6% of the total pipeline). The pipeline includes the Greater Thal Canal Irrigation Project, the Kurram Tangi Water Resources Project, and the Smaller Cholistan Water Resources Development Project. Similarly, for water and other urban infrastructure and services, the ADB has allocated $470 million in ADB loan financing (6.2% of the total pipeline). The pipeline includes a cross-sector project readiness facility for Punjab and the Punjab Cities Improvement Project. ADB has also allocated $2.4 billion in loan financing to the finance and public sector management sectors (31.9% of the total pipeline).
The COBP, 2019-2021, includes new projects such as trade and competitiveness program (subprogram 1) in 2019; financial markets development in 2020; infrastructure financing and PPPs in 2021; as well as the second phase of support for the Benazir Income Support Program in 2020. The education and health sectors pipeline includes $225 million in loan financing (3.0% of the total pipeline). ADB’s re-engagement in education and health sectors includes $175 million for projects on secondary education in Sindh and improving workforce readiness and skills development in Punjab, and $50 million projects to improve quality of health care services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
ADB will also provide technical assistance across sectors to help project implementation and to generate and disseminate knowledge products to support policy and project development, as well as to enhance project quality and readiness. Pakistan, a group B developing member country, is eligible for regular OCR lending and concessional OCR lending (COL). The indicative resources available during 2019–2021 for sovereign operations amount to $5,712 billion, comprising $4.29 billion for regular OCR lending and $1.422 billion for COL. The final allocation will depend on available resources, project readiness, project performance and debt distress rating of the country among others. ADB’s non-sovereign operations will supplement these resources. ADB will also explore co-financing from other sources and seek financing from the regional pool under concessional resources and regular OCR for regional cooperation and integration.
Improving ease of doing business
ISLAMABAD: PM has today directed Board of Investment (BoI) chairman to present a comprehensive plan, listing all the issues in various sectors and their sub-sectors and how the processes could be streamlined to simplify procedures related to government approvals, addressing taxation issues, dispute resolution and facilitating investors/businesses.
He said this while chairing a high-level meeting to review progress on improving ease of doing business and creating an enabling environment to facilitate the conversion of interest of the local as well foreign investors into actual investments in the country. The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Law Minister Dr. Farogh Naseem, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood, BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif, federal secretaries and senior officials.
BoI Chairman Haroon Sharif while briefing the prime minister about the steps taken so far said the Board would be serving as an agent of change for facilitating business transactions, removing impediments in the way to the materialization of investors’ interest into actual investments and smooth functioning of the businesses in the country. He also briefed about various issues being faced by the business community including taxation, access to finance, regulation and policy issues and red-tapism.
He said the BoI was also actively working with the provinces and relevant ministries for removing barriers in the way of establishing Special Economic Zones. He said special efforts were being made to bridge the gap between private and public sector and to reach out to the private sector to revive their confidence in government policies and put in place a framework that facilitates business community in its business pursuits. The BoI chairman also briefed about Naya Pakistan Diaspora Fund which was being set-up to promote SMEs and rural development in key areas of education, health, and infrastructure development.
He also apprised the prime minister of the investment framework which had been structured for attracting and materializing investment from UAE, KSA, China, Japan, and Malaysia. It was decided during the meeting that the prime minister would chair a review meeting every month on ease of doing business in the country.
Export of surplus wheat from Pakistan!
ISLAMABAD: According to a notification issued by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research modalities had been devised apropos export of surplus wheat from Pakistan.
The notification reads: “In compliance with the ECC Decision…and thereby ratification of the Cabinet Division…regarding Export of Public Sector’s Surplus Wheat/Products, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research devised modalities. In consultation with the Ministries of Finance and Commerce, for the export of 0.5 million tons of surplus wheat/products of the public sector. Details of modalities are given below:
- The Provincial Governments and PASSCO shall process export of wheat by placing the tenders in the tune of 0.5 million tons of wheat with the following break-up:
- PASSCO-0.10 million tons
- Punjab – 0.250 million tons
- Sindh-0.150 million tons.
- PASSCO and Governments of Punjab and Sindh are allowed to export 0.50 million tons of wheat and wheat products [Flour (Aata) Fine Suji and Maida.
- The successful bidder will provide a performance a guarantee of 120% of the amount of difference between the issue price of wheat (to flour mills) and the bid price, which may be released on submission of an export document’s within 90 days.
- The export of wheat and wheat products should be completed before 30th April 2019, while the export process should be completed up to 30th June 2019. In order to facilitate the exporters for completing their codal formalities.
- The freight support for the export of wheat in respect of PASSCO will be paid by the Federal Government, while Government of Punjab and Sindh shall bear freight support charges for their respective exports.