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SC directs AG to conduct forensic audit of Thar Coal PP

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Supreme Court directs to investigate Thar Coal Power Project

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court today has ordered Auditor General of Pakistan Javaid Jahangir to conduct a forensic audit of the Thar Underground Coal Gasification Project and submit a report within 15 days.
The SC bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also directed chief secretary Sindh to seize the project’s belongings.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that the court would like to send this matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for further investigation.
Chief Justice remarked that a lot of noise was created over the project adding that a 100MW project is not even generating 3MW of electricity. “Pakistan is a poor country and how we will waste our money,” CJ said.
Meanwhile, NAB prosecutor Asghar Haider presented a report regarding the project before the court stating that according to the expectation the project had no capacity to generate electricity from underground coal gasification.
Lawyers assigned as assistants to the court, Salman Akram Raja and Shehzad Elahi, also presented their recommendations to the court.
Raja pleaded that this was a failed project and more funds should not be allocated for it. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, however, refuted the recommendation presented to the court by the lawyers and NAB prosecutor said they had no expertise in the case. At this, Chief Justice said that national exchequer suffered a loss of Rs4 billion due to this project which not producing even few megawatt electricity.
The advocate general Sindh then informed the court, “The project was entirely funded by the federal government and only the land belongs to the Sindh government.”
Subsequently, the bench directed the chief secretary of the province to confiscate the assets of the project and to furnish pictures of the machinery deployed at the project site before the bench.

 

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Asia

Tokyo stocks gain on bargain-hunting

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Tokyo stocks close higher with focus on US-China talks

TOKYO: Tokyo stocks gained slightly on Monday as investors bought on dips following a sharp decline late last week, while their focus shifted ahead of a US Federal Reserve meeting.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index, which dropped more than two percent on Friday, rose 0.62 percent or 132.05 points to close at 21,506.88, while the broader Topix index was up 0.13 percent or 2.04 points at 1,594.20. “Buy-back was seen among shares in major companies following a sharp decline on Friday,” Daiwa Securities senior technical analyst Hikaru Sato told AFP. “But the buy-back was not strong enough to boost shares further,” Sato said, adding that it may take more time to improve market sentiment.
Takashi Hiroki, the chief strategist at Monex, said the two-day US Fed meeting that ends on Wednesday is “the most important event this week” and investors are watching for the pace of rate hikes in 2019. “Falls in US shares (last week) is said to be caused by weak economic data in China and Europe, but these are not new factors,” he said in a commentary, adding that current market sentiment is vulnerable to “even the slightest worries given the prevailing uncertainty”.
In Tokyo, SoftBank’s initial public offering on Wednesday will also likely have an impact on the market, analysts said. The dollar fetched 113.51 yen in Asian afternoon trade against 113.29 yen in New York late Friday. Banks were higher, with Mitsubishi UFJ trading up 0.13 percent to 583.9 yen, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial up 0.56 percent at 3,939 yen and Mizuho Financial up 0.22 percent at 179.7 yen. Nissan was down 0.27 percent at 929.9 yen ahead of its board meeting to discuss corporate governance and choosing a replacement for former chairman Carlos Ghosn, after his arrest and dismissal. Rival Toyota was up 0.16 percent at 6,840 yen but Honda was down 0.13 percent at 3,050 yen.

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Economy

‘Digitization provides ecosystem for fin. inclusion’

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LAHORE: Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa has said that digitization provides an ecosystem for financial inclusion which plays a vital role in economic growth.
Talking to media at a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) signing ceremony among Punjab Government, SBP and One-Link here at Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA) office, he appreciated the PRA for the initiative which would empower the commoner and taxpayers.
He also pointed out three priority areas of the economy including agriculture, provision of low-cost housing and SME, besides two cross-cutting areas Islamic Banking and financial inclusion through digitization of payment system.
To a question about declining revenue of provincial revenue authorities, Tariq Bajwa said Supreme Court of Pakistan barred the government from collecting taxes from mobile users which affected it.
He pointed out that it would be resolved soon with some alternate solution.
On this occasion, Punjab Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht said since coming to power, Punjab government had been striving to improve the business environment and provide maximum facilitation to the business sector which was the backbone of the economy. With the introduction of this facility, taxpayers would no longer need to visit banks and stand in queues to deposit their taxes, thus the compliance cost of the taxpayers would be reduced, he added.
The finance minister said the government intended to make the facility available for all provincial taxes. However, the Punjab Revenue Authority had taken the lead in this regard and payment of Sales Tax on Services through alternate delivery channels would be available by the end of December. Subsequently, the facility would be incrementally expanded to cover taxes collected by the Excise and Taxation Department and the Board of Revenue.
He appreciated the PRA for implementing the Punjab government’s vision by making of e-PRA and smart revenue organizations reliant on information technology, where the direct contact between taxpayer and tax collector was minimized. Future projects in the pipeline included pre-populated returns and algorithmic mass audits, he mentioned.
Punjab Chief Secretary Yousef Naseem Khokhar stressed the need for ease of doing business and committed that the provincial government would continue to work towards this direction.

 

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Economy

Rupee to stabilize: SBP governor

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ISLAMABAD: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa Sunday expressed the hope that the slide in rupee value would be stemmed once money flows into the economy.

Bajwa said the dollar rate is dependent on two factors: macroeconomic fundamentals and market sentiments. According to a private news channel, he said “As money [flows into] the economy [through cash injected], Insha’Allah you will see, the market sentiment will improve… the pressure will dissipate from the rupee.” The central bank governor said the Supreme Court’s decision to end the mobile phone tax affected the country’s tax net.

Bajwa added that Finance Minister Asad Umar knew about the spike in the dollar and had already clarified in a statement earlier that the rupee devaluation had been discussed with him. On 30th November, the rupee hit an all-time record low of Rs144 against the US dollar, plunging almost five percent after what appeared to be a sixth devaluation by the State Bank in the past year as the country struggles with an acute balance of payment crisis.

The surge in dollar came owing to the widening current account deficit and the International Monetary Fund’s suggestion to the government to realign the rupee with market fundamentals to access funds. The rupee has depreciated by 36 percent against the dollar over the past 12 months. It has fallen by Rs19.5 against the dollar since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf took the reins of the country following the general election in July this year.

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