Pakistan, Russia to sign draft shareholders accord by Feb 15, 2022
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Russia have will sign the draft shareholders agreement of the $2.5 billion worth Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project (PSGP) by February 15, 2022, besides both sides have made major breakthrough, while agreeing upon to opening air corridor, streamlining banking channels and reviewing customs tariff structure.
This was stated by Economic Affairs Minister Omer Ayub Khan, while briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Affairs Division. The committee met with Mir Khan Muhammad Jamali in the chair here on Monday.
The committee was informed that after cold war regime, the Russians had now shown unprecedented interest in making investments in Pakistan by laying Pakistan Stream Pipeline, establishing banking channels to enhance mutual trade, starting direct flights between Russia-Pakistan and increasing scholarships quota for Pakistani students in higher technical courses.
The minister said that both countries have held their 7th session of Joint Inter Governmental Commission last month where some major breakthroughs were made, which would help in confidence building in enhancing bilateral relations. He said that the shareholder agreement draft of PSGP would be finalised by February 15, 2022, after which the project would come into implementation.
The project would be implemented through the Russia-government nominated private entity and government of Pakistan-owned public entity.
The minister said that Russia is using its own banking system, while Pakistan is using the European banking system, however, Pakistan has shown interest in using their system which would help the business community. He further said that Pakistan and Russia have currently no direct flight operations, however now both sides agreed upon to enhance cooperation in this regard. The Russia government has further agreed to increase the number of scholarships from the current 18 to manifold in different field. The minister said that Russia have also shown interest to invest in the Pakistan Railways, which would help the country as Russia have edge over Pakistan in technology.
Khan further said that both sides have also agreed to cooperate on customs tariff structure.
The minister said that due to sanctions on Iran, the economic cost of the gas project with Iran is very high. Due to ongoing situation in Afghanistan, the CASA-1000 project went slow down.
The minister, while briefing the committee on external debt, stated that the previous PML-N government borrowed $23 billion and now they are paying around $9.5 billion of the average $11 billion per annum or 90 percent of the external borrowing to repay the loans and interest.
Replying to a question, the minister said that the recent incident in Sialkot where a Sri Lankan was murdered would have no impact on external inflows, GSP plus or the FATF, but such incidents needs to be stopped in future.
The committee, unanimously, condemns brutal murder incident of Sri Lankan citizen at Sialkot by violent mob. Terming the said act as against humanity, the committee stressed upon stern action against the culprits.
During the course of discussion on ongoing negotiations for economic co-operation with other countries, the committee was told by the EAD that, several projects worth billions of rupees will be carried out as a result of negotiations with European Union (EU), Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Germany, Russia, and Azerbaijan.
The committee was also briefed that with financial assistance by Germany, a Centre of Excellence at Karakoram University, Gilgit, to determine the ratio of glacier melting of Karakoram mountain-range, some low powered hydro-power projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and a low-powered grid station at Chakwal will be established.
Replying to a question regarding the oil facility of Saudi Arabia, the minister said that it is available immediately and the PSO could avail it. He said that oil facility of $100 million per month of $1.2 billion per annum is available.
Further, the ITFC facility of $762 million is also available and around 25 present is being started to utilise.
The committee was also informed that Korean Exim Bank has increased the annual commitment for Pakistan from $500 million to one billion dollar.
The committee; besides appreciating the efforts of the EAD, also expressed concern over non-accomplishment of the projects in time.
The committee directed that the Economic Affairs Division may provide details of agreements signed between the Saudi Government and the incumbent government in the next meeting.
MNA Aliya Hamza Malik recommended the committee bring in the knowledge of European Union about the funds used by Asma Jehangir Foundation, the NGO, which is being used to malign judiciary in from of superior court judge besides a convicted person was invited to address the session organization by the NGO.
Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha recommended the committee not to discuss such matters as it would have repercussion and may annoy EU, while observing it against the freedom of expression. However, the committee deferred the agenda item to the next meeting.
Replying to a question about the new variant and debt suspension, he said that they are in constant contact with the NDMA and the NCOC and would move for financial assistance for vaccination in light of their recommendations.
The meeting was attended among others by Minister for EAD Fakhar Zaman, Ali Zahid, Syed Javed Husnain, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Salahuddin, Muhammad Aslam Khan, Dr Aisha Ghous Pasha, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Shaheen Naz Saifullah, Aliya Hamza Malik, and Dr Seemi Bokhari, MNAs.
The senior officers from the EAD and the Ministry of Interior were also present in the meeting.