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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked Pakistan to increase electricity and gas prices in order to align energy tariffs with cost recovery.

According to the IMF’s staff report released after the Fund’s Executive Board approval of sixth review and $1 billion tranche under $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Pakistan, the Fund staff stressed that the regular implementation of tariff adjustments in line with established formulas was critical to lend credibility to the newly-independent energy regulator, halt the accumulation of arrears and implement the Circular Debt Management Plan (CDMP).

The IMF report says that authorities concur that a subsidy reform is needed to effectively protect the vulnerable, introduce more fairness, and reduce budget costs. Key elements are a smaller group of subsidised consumers and a more progressive tariff structure.
 

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In what appears to be another major development, the federal government allowed export of another 14 items to Afghanistan in rupees via land routes owing to the non-availability of tradable currency through banking channels.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, in the wake of a drastic decline in exports to Afghanistan.

The decision will also help the Taliban-led regime continue import of essential food items from Pakistan until the West recognised their government. The ECC said the decision was taken in view of the food crisis and prevailing situation in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Pakistan has taken several measures, including a drastic reduction in duty on imports of vegetables and fruits from Afghanistan. In this connection, the ECC also exempted 45 per cent duty on import of chilghoza from Afghanistan.
 

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The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet will take up today an 11-point agenda that includes the extension of lease to Chinese contractors of the Saindak copper-gold project and the revival of tax concessions to Chinese power producers as part of the efforts to attract investment to the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

To be presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, the ECC will also consider a payment plan for public-sector power producers on the pattern of independent power producers (IPPs) as part of revised tariff agreements of 2020.

Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and state-owned Saindak Metals Ltd (SML) signed an agreement in 2017 under which the Chinese firm kept on operating the Saindak copper-gold project for five years. The lease is set to expire on Oct 30. The two companies had originally signed in 2002 a 10-year contract, which was extended for five years in 2012. The terms of contract have been kept confidential all along.

MCC is now interested in bidding for Pakistan Steel Mills and is looking for fresh investments in special economic zones (SEZs) that are being set up under CPEC.
 

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Prime Minister Imran Khan recently said that the approval of over 70,000 housing projects worth Rs 1.4 trillion so far will have an overall impact of Rs 7.3 trillion on construction industry besides creating 1.2 million jobs.

It is the government’s huge achievement that out of 80,000 applications, 35,420 applications amounting to Rs 130 billion have so far been approved and a total of Rs 46 billion has been disbursed to 13,407 applicants, he added.

The Prime Minister was chairing a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Housing, Construction and Development here.

The meeting was attended by Federal Ministers Shaukat Tarin, Fawad Chauhdry, Minister of State Farrukh Habib, Special Assistant to PM Dr. Shehbaz Gill, Governor State Bank, Chairman Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority (NAPHDA) Lt. Gen. ® Anwar Ali Haider, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA) Imran Amin, Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Balochistan and other senior officials concerned.
 

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The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has unearthed 29,000 fake invoices issued by the Tier-1 retailers integrated with Point of Sale (POS) during January.

Around 37 million invoices were issued by Tier-1 Retailers which are integrated with the POS System in January 2021 as compared to 33 million in December 2021, registering a steady growth of 4 million. The number of customers has jumped from 10,000 to 27,000 within one month who successfully verified their invoices. However, “29,000 invoices issued by Tier-1 Retailers couldn’t be verified which are presumably fake,” admitted FBR.

The second computerized ballot is to be held on 15th February at FBR Headquarters, Islamabad. The board said that it is reassuring to see that people at large are excited to engage in this exercise.

FBR has already distributed prizes worth Rs. 53 million among the lucky 1007 winners in the first computerized ballot held on 15th January 2022. Around 800 winners have also been transferred prize money into their accounts after the due diligence and required verification. The statement shows that 207 winners could not get their prize money.
 

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The Ministry of Finance has recently informed the Senate Secretariat in a written response that Governor SBP Raza Baqir is receiving a monthly salary of Rs 2.5 million. Also, his salary is increasing by 10% per year.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui had questioned the details of Governor SBP’s remuneration in the Upper House, as well as how long SBP Governor Raza Baqir had been engaged by the IMF as Governor State in Pakistan. What is the salary and benefits received by the bank?

While the Governor SBP is provided with a furnished house or equivalent rent and repair facilities, they are also provided with two vehicles, one of which is for the driver, and 600 gallons of gasoline for vehicle use.

Further, the bank is provided with electricity, gas, water, and generator expenditures, as well as payment of 75% of their children’s fees. The Governor SBP also has free landline, mobile phone, and internet access.
 

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Farzana Zahir, the Maldivian High Commissioner to Pakistan, has recently invited Pakistani businessmen to engage in Maldive’s tourist and hospitality industries, adding that both provide good investment opportunities.

In the tourism and hospitality industries, the Maldives has a 74 percent occupancy, which she stated that it ensures a high return on investment (ROI).
 

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American business magnate and Microsoft owner Bill Gates met Prime Minister Imran Khan among other scheduled commitments as he landed in Pakistan for the first time.

Prime Minister's Office shared the pictures of the meeting on Twitter while the Prime Minister aide on Health Dr Faisal Sultan welcome Gates to Pakistan.

Reports in local media said that the noted philanthropist landed at Nur Khan Air Base in the country’s federal capital and was welcomed by government officials.

During his brief visit, Gates will also meet President Dr. Arif Alvi, and other senior officials. The co-chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major contributor in worldwide polio eradication, will also attend a review on Pakistan's efforts to wipe the virus out of the country.

The fourth richest person also visited a Covid hospital in Chak Shahzad – a modern suburb situated in Islamabad. He will reportedly visit the National Command and Operation Center headquarters later in the day.
 

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In recognition of his support for poverty alleviation and health care, President Dr Arif Alvi Thursday conferred the 'Hilal-e-Pakistan' award on Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates.

According to the details, Bill Gates was honoured with the award during a special investiture ceremony held at Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad today. Federal ministers, senior officials and members of the diplomatic corps were present on the occasion.

His charity organisation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is playing a critical role in the elimination of polio in Pakistan as well as supporting the financial system through various interventions.

Born in 1955 in Seattle Washington, Bill Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest personal-computer software company.

Gates started Microsoft in 1975 with a vision of “a computer on every desktop and in every home” which has now been realized in many parts of the world.
 

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that his government has exempted registered freelancers from all types of taxes.

Addressing the launching ceremony of an e-commerce portal, he said that registered freelancers will pay zero tax on their income.
He said that his government is taking emergency measures to remove the bottlenecks in the IT sector and facilitate the youth.
 

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Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin shared a cost of living index on Sunday, highlighting how Pakistan is the least expensive of the world’s 139 countries.

Tarin took to Twitter to share a cost of living index graph that showed Pakistan as the least expensive country, ranking last out of 139 countries assessed for their living expenses.

The data showed that a four-member family would require Rs171,783 for their living expenses (excluding rent) in Pakistan, which is 71.52 per cent less than what a family would require in the United States.
 

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has inaugurated Pakistan’s first e-commerce web portal, E-Tijarat, to promote trading while it will also help the government to bring transparency in the IT sector.

PM Imran Khan has inaugurated Pakistan’s first e-commerce web portal, E-Tijarat Portal today. He also addressed E-Commerce Pakistan Convention and announced the implementation of a zero-tax policy for the registered freelancers in the country.

“Since coming into power, I’ve had repeated a sentence, Don’t get panicked [Ghabrana nahi hai]. Everyone knows about the crises in the country after our government came to the power as we are going towards bankruptcy.”

“I’ve asked my cabinet not to get panicked and now, I’m telling the opposition not to get panicked.”

PM Imran Khan said that many people associated with the information technology (IT) sector became billionaires and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) paid special attention to the IT sector and youth. The world has entered the digitalisation phase due to the development of IT.
 

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Recently, Pakistan has exempted a regulatory duty on the import of Chilgoza (Pine Nuts) from Afghanistan.

According to sources, the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) has issued a notification of exemption from regulatory duty.

The notification was issued after the approval of the Federal Cabinet. There will be a 45 per cent waiver of regulatory duty on the import of Chilgoza from Afghanistan
 

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The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) froze all bank accounts of the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) over non-payment of Rs23 billion sales tax.

The FBR’s Inland Revenue department attached the accounts of the gas utility for defaulting on sales tax to the tune of Rs23 billion. Of the total tax dues, a sum of Rs312 million has been recovered so far, it said.

“The default amount of Sales Tax has also been confirmed by the Appellate Commissioner (Appeals),” the FBR said in a statement.

“Zone Enforcement-II, LTO, Karachi has made recovery possible through bank accounts attachment u/s 48 of the Sales Tax Act, 1990.”

Last month, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had frozen all bank accounts of cash-strapped Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) over a Rs4.50 billion default. However, the national airline’s accounts were restored after a meeting between FBR Chairman Dr Muhammad Ashfaq and PIA CEO Arshad Malik.
 

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Fintech NayaPay Secures $13M As It Rolls Out Digital Payments In Pakistan

NayaPay, a Pakistan-based fintech platform, has raised $13 million in one of the largest seed rounds in South Asia. Bringing together a diverse mix of leading global institutional and angel investors, the round was led by Zayn Capital, global fund manager MSA Novo and early-stage VC Graph Ventures from Silicon Valley.

Singapore-based Saison Capital, Waleed Saigol’s Maple Leaf Capital, and Warren Hogarth, CEO Empower Finance, also participated in the round, alongside a major investment from the sponsors of the Lakson Group – a Pakistani conglomerate with interests in media, telecom, industrials, financial services as well as controlling stake in Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan and McDonald’s Pakistan.

NayaPay is the first fintech of its kind in Pakistan having recently secured the first E-Money Institution license from the central bank, State Bank of Pakistan. It is on a mission to make financial services simpler and accessible to millions of Pakistani users. NayaPay aims to be at the forefront in the digitization of Pakistan with its two-sided platform for the underbanked.

Pakistan presents a significant market opportunity for NayaPay, where over 50 million adults are unbanked and only 33% of women have a bank account. With 70% of the population under 35 years old, there is a significant mobile-first generation.

Almost $4tn payments are made each year but only 1% of these are made digitally currently. On the merchant side, the majority of SMBs in Pakistan are unregistered, have traditionally dealt primarily in cash, and have very limited access to business banking.

The fintech has launched its chat-led super app targeted primarily at students and freelancers, and is building a SaaS-based platform called NayaPay Arc offering universal payment acceptance and financial management tools for SMBs.

NayaPay’s platform strategy will harness the network effects between consumers and merchants, as seen in platforms such as Square Cash/Square, WeChat Pay, AliPay, and Venmo in their native markets.



NayaPay CEO and Founder, Danish A. Lakhani, commented, “NayaPay is empowering young Pakistani adults starting their financial journey, from students stepping into adulthood to freelancers and entrepreneurs taking an active role in managing their finances. In many senses, it’s a coming-of-age moment for many and our goal is to continue to innovate and build functionality to become a part of their daily lives, for the rest of their lives.”
Danish A. Lakhani added, “Micro, small and medium businesses make up 90% of the merchant base in Pakistan, and yet they are underserved when it comes to access to basic financial services. NayaPay Arc will provide universal payments acceptance and a range of business financial management tools to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

“The tools are intended to give business owners visibility of their cash flows, pay suppliers and grow sales. Our goal is to enable them to focus on growth while we take care of the rest. By helping small businesses harness the power of technology, we believe we can transform the Pakistani economy,” he added.

Faisal Aftab, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Zayn Capital Frontier, said, “We are very bullish on fintech in Pakistan. While just beginning to emerge, Pakistani fintechs have the advantage of learning from peers and placing better informed strategic bets.”

“We were impressed by the completeness of the vision of the founding team at NayaPay, and their differentiated platform-based strategy — first focused on servicing the needs of underbanked consumers and SMBs with specific use cases and building out from there. With a proven ability to execute on the ground, the founder has an impressive track record of building and scaling businesses in Pakistan, including the country’s largest fiber broadband service (StormFiber),” he added.

Omar Siddiqui, General Partner at Graph Ventures, added, “We are excited to partner with Danish and the NayaPay team as they scale their leading digital payments platform for consumers and merchants in Pakistan. We have been early-stage investors in 300+ companies over the past decade in the United States, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, and we are excited to see the mobile and fintech technology trends that have empowered consumers in these markets also emerge in Pakistan.”

“NayaPay already offers the most robust solution for consumers to access next-generation financial conveniences in Pakistan, and we look forward to working with the team as they roll out new products and grow their consumer base,” he further said.

Danish A. Lakhani concluded: “Customer trust is a key pillar of any platform’s success. At NayaPay, we are consumed by our obsession to simplify the lives of both consumers and merchants with our app and NayaPay Arc while supporting our customers with robust and scalable technology and fanatic customer service. We are also partnering with leading banks to provide additional value and convenience to our mutual customers, eventually leading to a full digital banking experience.”

Website:
 

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Rupee Weakens Further Against Dollar

Exchange rate of Pak rupee weakened by 89 paisas against the US dollar in the interbank trading on Wednesday and closed at Rs186.12 against the previous day’s closing of Rs185.23. According to the Forex Association of Pakistan (FAP), the buying and selling rates of dollar in the open market were recorded at Rs186 and Rs187.85 respectively. Similarly, the price of the euro depreciated by 63 paisas and closed at Rs 202.76 against the previous day’s closing of Rs 203.39. The Japanese Yen remained unchanged to close at Rs1.50, whereas an decrease of 10 paisas was witnessed in the exchange rate of British Pound, which was traded at Rs243.23 as compared to its last closing of Rs243.13. The exchange rates of Emirates Dirham and Saudi Riyal increased by 24 paisas to close at Rs50.67 and Rs49.61 respectively.
 
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