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Petrol crisis to hit Pakistan by mid-Feb, refineries warn

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  • Delay in payments of raw materials hamper petrol production.
  • Situation to become critical if remedial measures not taken immediately.
  • Punjab already experiencing unavailability of petrol.

KARACHI: The refineries warned of a looming petrol crisis by mid-February if the government fails to resolve the payments issues of imported raw materials and additives needed by the sector, The News reported Friday. 

The delay in payments of raw materials and additives as well as the dollar shortage hampered the production of petrol massively, the refineries explained. 

“The situation will become extremely critical mid-February 2023, if remedial measures are not taken immediately,” local refineries warned State Minister for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik and Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Dr Jameel Ahmed in separate letters. The letters were jointly written by Pakistan Refinery Limited, National Refinery, Attock Refinery and Cnergyico Refinery.

Difficulties in establishing letters of credit (LCs) for the payment of raw materials and other inputs needed by the refineries have been cited as the major cause of the looming crisis. Punjab has already started experiencing the unavailability of petrol, after alleged hoarding in anticipation of the price hike expected in the next fortnightly review.

The copy of the letter available with The News says that the SBP issued a priority list of essential imports for foreign remittances of critical industries and petroleum products were included in that priority list.

However, imports of essential raw materials and additives mainly N-Methylaniline (NMA — a non-metallic RON booster) against which LCs have already been established were being held by the banks for release of documents and payments. Moreover, the banks are reluctant to establish LCs for NMA imports against which payment for month of February/March 2023 are falling, it stated.

Refineries cautioned that the delay or suspension of foreign payments for imports of such essential raw material/additives including establishing credit letters for the same would seriously hamper the operations of refineries, especially the local production of mogas (petrol).

Refineries noted that maximum production of indigenous petroleum products especially mogas at this critical time was the need of the hour, as oil marketing companies (OMCs) were already finding it difficult to import the fuel due to the foreign exchange liquidity crunch.

They added that the refining sector has been contributing enormously towards the economic development of Pakistan in the shape of revenues/government levies/taxes and more importantly processing of crude oil and substantial savings in precious foreign exchange through import substitution.

The letter said that the sector with such major contributions to foreign exchange savings should not be denied permission to remit a payment/establish credit letters to further its business operations.

Refineries asked the central bank to advise banks to release/establish credit letters for refineries, and remittances against already issued letters without further delay to avoid any unpleasant situation.

PPDA urges probe into shortage

Keeping in view the shortages that have been surfacing in different parts of the country, Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association (PPDA) has asked the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to immediately formulate a committee to find out the reasons behind this shortage. 

The committee should consist of different stakeholders comprising the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA), media teams and district administrations. These combined teams should raid different oil depots, and pumps to find out the reasons behind the current shortage, especially in Punjab.

The association leaders on Thursday held a discussion programme with the Lahore Economic Journalists Association. The office bearers of PPDA said that drafts of around Rs1 billion have been stuck with oil companies, and these 12,000 dealers were not getting supplies from the OMCs.

They said that normally a petrol pump can reserve 30,000 to 50,000 litres of petroleum products and as per OGRA’s instructions, pump owners must keep these reserves for three days. On the other hand, oil depots have much more capacity to reserve oil stocks. The committee should inspect such depots and act according to the law if their involvement in stocking petroleum products is proven, they urged.

The association said that in Lahore, the daily demand for oil products was 4 million litres, whereas currently only a supply of 1.3 million litres was being providedThe pumps have been facing this low supply issue for one month.

“The companies shelve the supply to nearly half twice a month as cartelization has increased in the past six years,” they alleged. The PPDA also termed the recent statement of State Minister for Petroleum Musadaq Malik as “non-serious”, saying such an irresponsible statement could lead to further chaos.

PPDA said that the OMCs were deliberately creating a shortage, and were holding on to hundreds of thousands of liters of oil stocks, which would be released once the government increases prices.

Business

Prior to the budget address, the PSX-100 index rebounds following a continuous fall for 7 straight days.

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The Pakistan Stock Exchange rebounded after a continuous decrease of 7 days and surpassed the threshold of 73,000 points, experiencing a surge of more than 500 points in the benchmark.

The PSX Tuesday experienced a decline of more than 650 points, potentially due to tax measures being considered in the federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25.

The investors are concerned about the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reducing the interest rate, as well as the unresolved circular debt, which has increased to over Rs5.3 trillion.

The KSE-100 index concluded the day with significant losses, at its lowest point.

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Pakistan experiences substantial expansion in the information technology sector.

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Pakistan experienced significant development in the exports of its IT sector, reaching a total of $2.283 billion, as stated in a recent Economic Survey Report.

The increase in exports emphasized the rising global demand for IT services from Pakistan and the sector’s impact on the national economy.

The survey demonstrated that IT freelancers contributed $35 million in remittances, highlighting their significance in the IT industry.

The study data indicates a significant rise in the number of broadband and telecom customers nationwide, with broadband users reaching 135 million and telecom users growing to 194 million.

Earlier this week, the federal government has suggested a substantial 357 percent rise in the budget for the IT sector for the fiscal year 2024-25.

As to reliable sources, the Ministry of IT has been granted a budget of Rs 27.43 billion in the development budget, out of which Rs 6.28 billion has been allotted for the implementation of 15 new projects.

The government has additionally suggested allotting Rs 21.15 billion for projects that are currently in progress, as well as Rs 3.5 billion for the Digital Economy initiative.

Additional noteworthy allocations consist of Rs 1 billion for fostering innovation in the IT sector, Rs 50 million for the digitalization of the national assembly, and Rs 300 million for the implementation of smart office projects in government ministries.

The government has additionally suggested investing Rs 9.92 billion for the Islamabad Technology Development Park and Rs 6.78 billion for the creation of an IT park in Karachi. The budget additionally comprises a proposition for an allocation of Rs 1 billion for the Cybersecurity Fund for the Digital Pakistan initiative.

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Pakistan will unveil its Rs18 trillion budget today.

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The budget will be presented by Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb, the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, on the floor of the National Assembly.

The government sources stated that the budget will focus on alleviating the hardships faced by the people, revitalizing the agriculture sector, advancing information technology (IT), and enhancing exports.

The administration asserted that the budget will encompass not only fiscal management and revenue mobilization, but also measures for economic stabilization and growth, reduction in non-development spending, job creation, and people-friendly policies aimed at achieving socioeconomic prosperity for the country.

The preparations for the announcement of the federal budget for fiscal year 2024-25 are progressing actively and in accordance with the specified dates.

The budget is being formulated through extensive collaboration among all the departments and ministries responsible for budget-related activities, encompassing the presentation of the budget before Parliament and the initiation of the Economic Survey.

It is important to note that the budget is being presented while Pakistan is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a potential package of up to $8 billion.

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb presented the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2023-24 on Tuesday. According to the survey, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 2.38 percent, surpassing the projected objective of 2 percent.

During the launch event of the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2023-24, Federal Minister for Finance Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb stated that despite difficulties, the country has made substantial advancements in attaining macroeconomic stability. Notably, there has been a remarkable 30 percent increase in revenue collection, a decrease in the current account deficit, a reduction in inflation, and a stable currency.

The finance minister stated that this position demonstrated a significant reversal from a fragile economic state, marked by a 0.2% fall in GDP, a 29% devaluation of the rupee, and a reduction in foreign exchange reserves, which had decreased to a level sufficient to cover only two weeks of imports.

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