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Finance

Government to Address Inflation and Low Domestic Productivity

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Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance & Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has said the government is taking steps to tackle inflation and enhance domestic productivity through greater spending on the social safety net, improving cash transfer programme, ensuring greater ease of doing business and providing subsidized loans, electricity and gas to the exporters.

“The government has worked very hard to pull the economy out of the ICU as it was in 2018, and the stage is now set for greater stabilization and enhanced domestic productivity that would help overcome inflation, boost businesses and create more employment opportunities,” he said while talking to Ambassador of France Dr.

Marc Barety who called on the Adviser at Finance Division today. Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said that the government was focusing on revitalising the agriculture sector and several mega projects had been approved for improving irrigation management, watercourses and construction of water storage facilities at the farm level. These projects are also aimed at productivity enhancement of various crops, oilseeds enhancement, cage culture development, shrimp farming cluster development and water conservation in arid areas.

He said the government had doubled the social safety budget from Rs 100 billion to Rs 190 billion while it had also recently revamped its cash transfer programme by replacing nearly 800,000 people with more deserving people. The government had also recently launched a special food package at a cost of Rs 7 billion to provide essential food items at reduced rates through the utility stores to the poor segment of population adversely affected by the food inflation.

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On the macro front, he said the government had brought down the current account deficit from 20 billion dollars to 13 billion dollars and it would be further reduced to 8 billion dollars this year. Similarly, exports which had remained stagnant for almost five years had shown an upward trend. He said the revenue collection had jumped by 16 per cent and foreign direct investment had gone up by 280 per cent growth in the current financial year.

Similarly, Pakistan’s exchange rate had begun to stabilize due to enhanced external flows while Pakistan Stock Exchange had been declared by Bloomberg as the best performing market in the world. France Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Marc Barety said he was impressed with the good work done by the government in Pakistan to introduce institutional reforms and achieve stability and growth. He said both France and Pakistan enjoyed an excellent relationship and hoped this relationship would further deepen in coming days through greater economic collaborations and business partnerships.

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Economy

Sania Approves Cognitive API Architecture For Ehsaas’ One Window Socioeconomic Registry

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 Islamabad: The Cognitive API architecture for Ehsaas’ National Socio-Economic Registry 2021 is one of the six main pillars of ‘One Window Ehsaas’. With the survey, which is building the registry currently 90.5% complete nationwide, Ehsaas is firming up its plans to open data sharing and data access services for all executing agencies under Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD).

Data sharing will be done through the Cognitive API Architecture approach. The deployment of Ehsaas API architecture for data sharing will allow executing agencies to access data from the unified registry in real-time to validate beneficiary information. This will empower them to ascertain eligibility of potential beneficiaries. The benefits which each family and individual is receiving from each organization will be visible to all agencies across all Ehsaas programs.

There will be two-way data sharing; agencies with whom data will be shared will also be required to update the registry with their own information, hence the registry will become more robust over time. A final presentation was made to Dr. Sania Nishtar who closely oversaw this process. She praised the technical team working on Ehsaas Cognitive API Architecture approach and congratulated them. Later, this service will be extended to provinces and other government agencies implementing Ehsaas programs as well.

The API architecture for data sharing will facilitate adoption of the Ehsaas One Window targeting Policy. The objective of this policy is to make targeting predictable, evidence based, transparent and effective in the Ehsaas ecosystem. Under the same architecture, the Utility Stores Corporation has also been linked with the Ehsaas database, which will underpin execution of a commodity subsidies program. This approach is being adopted for the first time and will usher in transparency. Previously, there was no way of one government agency knowing what support an individual or a family was getting from another government agency.

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Some families with connections and influence were getting multiple benefits and other more deserving ones were getting none. Now, with the data integration, Ehsaas agencies will be able to see what benefits an individual or the households is getting. But more importantly, it will also reflect their entitlement in terms of various Ehsaas programmes and initiatives, because the data sharing is pegged with the Ehsaas One Window targeting Policy.

The integrated registry and the cognitive API Architecture for the registry is one pillar of the One Window Ehsaas, which will be launched this week. It has six main components: one-stop-shop centers; an integrated digital interface facing the office; a digital information and services platform; a mobile app; an integrated database comprising of cognitive API architecture; and the standardized beneficiary targeting policy.

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Economy

Finance Minister for KP and Punjab called on the Minister for Finance and Revenue

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Finance Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) Mr. Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin, at the Finance Division today. SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood and Secretary Finance Division Kamran Ali Afzal were also present during the meeting.

The Provincial Finance Minister from KP briefed the Finance Minister about efforts undertaken by the Provincial government to curtail expenditure and rationalize spending with a key focus on providing maximum relief to the masses amid COVID-19 pandemic. He also outlined measures taken to enhance provincial tax collection by expanding tax base and reducing the number of taxes.

The Provincial Finance Minister KP further apprised about commitment of the KP Government to streamline pay and pension expenditure which takes the biggest chunk of the overall Budget.

In his remarks, the Finance Minister Mr. Shaukat Tarin urged the Provincial administration to adhere to strict financial discipline and work out modalities to rationalize expenditure and divert savings towards socio-economic development in the Province particularly amid COVID-19 and in post COVID-Scenario. He stressed to stimulate economic activity through out-of-box thinking for enhancing revenues, rationalizing workforce and harmonizing tax structure aiming at improving service delivery in the Province.

While discussing Budget proposals, the Federal Finance Minister stressed that Education and Health are the key priority areas and must be given preference during the Budget making exercise. He encouraged consultative process between the Federal Government and Federating units for effective resource mobilization.

Later, Finance Minister for Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht also called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin at the Finance Division.

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The Provincial Finance Minister briefed the Federal Finance Minister about the overall fiscal position and upcoming Budget considerations during the meeting. He highlighted the steps taken by the Punjab Government to provide maximum relief to the vulnerable segments of the society during these testing times. He spelled out the vision and commitment of the Punjab Government to increase revenues, control expenditure, job creation, reduction of poverty and facilitating agriculture, Industrial and service sectors to tap true potential of these sectors for an export-led growth.

In his remarks, the Finance Minister emphasized the need for value-addition in Budget making exercise. He urged the Provincial Finance Minister to rationalize expenditure and harmonize taxation policies for a growth-oriented Budget.

The Finance Minister held meetings with the Provincial Finance Ministers as a part of an overall consultative process with key stakeholders including Provinces to seek valuable inputs for formulation of a people friendly growth-oriented Budget.

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Development

Gov’t releases Rs 533.33 billion for various development projects so far

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Islamabad: The federal government has so far authorized release of Rs 533.33 billion for various ongoing and new social sector uplift projects under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20, as against the total allocation of Rs 701 billion.

Under its development programme, the government has released an amount of Rs 230.3 billion for federal ministries, Rs 175.65 billion for corporations and Rs 43.46 billion for special areas, according to a latest data released by Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform.

Out of these allocations, the government released Rs 38.5 billion for security enhancement in the country for which the government had allocated Rs 53 billion during the year 2019-20.

An amount of Rs 81.37 billion has also been released for the blocks managed by finance division under the government’s 10 years development programme.

Similarly, for Higher Education Commission, the government released an amount of Rs 27.07 billion out of its total allocation of Rs 29 billion while Rs 301.47 million were released for Pakistan Nuclear Energy Authority for which the government had allocated Rs 301.48 million in the development budget.

For National Highway Authority, the government released Rs154.94 billion. Under annual development agenda, the government also released Rs 10.7 billion for Railways Division out of total allocation of Rs16 billion, Rs 7.7 billion for Interior Division, and Rs 8.38 billion for National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination Division.

Revenue Division received Rs 4.3 billion whereas the Cabinet Division also received Rs 30.18 billion for which an amount of Rs 39.986 billion has been allocated for the year 2019-20.

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The government also released Rs 26.9 billion for Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) block and other projects out of its allocations of Rs 27.26 billion and Rs 16.54 billion for Gilgit Baltistan (Block and other projects).

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