Pakistan announces action plan to get off FATF grey list within a year, says Miftah Ismail

Dr. Miftah Ismail. (REUTERS)
Updated 13 April 2018

Pakistan announces action plan to get off FATF grey list within a year, says Miftah Ismail

  • He says the steps they take will address the concerns of the international community
  • Rules out seeking financial assistance from IMF to bridge the current-account deficit

KARACHI: In an attempt to allay the concerns of Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Pakistan has stated that it will have an action plan ready by June this year. The country hopes that as a result it will be off the organization’s grey list within a year.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Dr. Miftah Ismail, the adviser to the prime minister on finance, said that the plan would be formulated and executed within three months to allay the concerns of the international community.
“Yesterday, I talked to the representative of FATF and assured him that we would make an action plan,” he said. “By implementing that action plan, Pakistan will be off the grey list within a year.”
The FATF was established in July 1989 by a Group of Seven summit in Paris. Its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
Pakistan is due to be added to the FATF grey list in June, despite the country’s attempts to reassure the international community.
“During our meetings with the representatives of FATF, Pakistan presented its point of view, but western countries, particularly the United States, were not ready to listen to us,” said Ismail.
A recently announced tax-amnesty scheme had added to FATF concerns about Pakistan, but Ismail said this was being addressed.
“They simply wanted us to give them assurance in writing that we were not violating anti-money laundering laws,” he said. “We have given them assurance in writing that the amnesty scheme is not for criminal offenses, but for tax evasion.”
Ismail said that the addition of Pakistan to the grey list of would only increase the accounting requirements.
The country is facing a burgeoning current-account deficit that has risen to $10.4 billion, mainly due to increased imports and a fall in exports.
However, he said the government saw no need to seek financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, given the recent devaluation of the rupee and signs that exports were starting to rise again.
Ismail ruled out a further devaluation of currency, after the already-completed 10 percent depreciation, saying the market has positively responded to the government’s move.
“People were expecting a 10 percent devaluation of the Pak rupee, which was achieved without increasing the rate of inflation in the country,” he said.
“We feel that there is no need for further devaluation.
“We have twice devalued our currency and our exports increased by 24 percent in March. We think that we are moving on the right path to reduce the current-account deficit. Obviously, remittances are also increasing.”

In addition, he ruled out the possibility of floating bonds/Sukuk on the international market during the current fiscal year.

“If we are elected and form the next government, we will go to the international market in November or December to raise funds,” he said, without giving any further details.
However, Ismail did not rule out the possibility of asking friendly countries for deficit financing, though he added that no such move was under discussion at present.
“We can go to any country,” he said. “For example, if we want to go to Saudi Arabia we will ask them for oil-export credit but no present talks are going on about this.”
Regarding the shifts in economic policy since the departure of former finance minister Ishaq Dar in November 2017, he said the only change was the devaluation of the currency.
“I did what I deemed best in the interests of Pakistan,” he added.
Ismail also addressed the frequent power outages in the port city of Karachi, despite the government’s claim of adding nearly 10,000 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.
“The load shedding in Karachi is the result of a tussle between the Sui Southern Gas Company and K-Electric,” he said.
He added that the government was “trying to resolve the issue as soon as possible.”
Looking ahead to the budget that will be presented on April 27, Ismail confirmed that the duty imposed to discourage imports of finished goods will remain, though it would be abolished for intermediate goods.
“This budget will be appreciated by all political parties,” he said. “The next government can make small changes to it, but 90 percent of the budget will be the one we have at present.”


Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

Marginalization blights lives of French people of Arab origin: Survey

  • An Arab News en Francais/YouGov poll suggests the largest minority group in France suffer from lack of acceptance, even stigmatization
  • More than half the respondents said they adhere to secularism and believe it could help alleviate problems in the Arab world 

DUBAI: As a wave of violence inspired by radical Islam shakes French cities and the culture at large, creating a sense of insecurity and fear, Islamophobia is on the rise. Islamism is not Islam, but for lack of knowledge, conflation of the two is easy.

It is through this wrong prism that French Muslims are viewed, as well as some Jews and Christians due to their Arab origins. INSEE, France’s national statistics bureau, said that by 2019, 55 percent of immigrants (both first and second generation) had come from Arab countries. They are the largest minority group in France and therefore it is not for an extremist minority to represent them.

For the first time in France, a survey was carried out among French people of Arab origin. Arab News en Francais commissioned leading online polling firm YouGov to conduct research on the perception of their life in France and their position in the face of secularism.

Arab News Research and Studies Unit partnered with YouGov for the survey which was carried out between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, and was based on a representative sample of 958 French people from Arab countries, living in France.

The survey confirms their desire to belong to a democratic and secular France. It emerges that all religions are not perceived in the same way by French society, as indicated by the feelings of the French of Arab origin, Muslims and Jews who were interviewed.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those interviewed were found to be educated and employed, while French people of Arab origin are generally familiar with the French system and its history, and adhere to the fundamental values ​​of the French Republic.

The French of Arab origin have largely adapted to the way of life in France, but they do not feel accepted, with many citing a sense of stigmatization. Both religion and their national origin have no impact on their sense of belonging to French society. But the sounding of their name has an impact on their careers.

Half of the people questioned believe that neither their race, nor their origin and their religion had any impact on their feelings of belonging to French society and on their professional careers. Their responses, however, underline a feeling of exclusion which, for 51 percent is not linked to skin color, but rather to the ethnic origin of their name (36 percent), which, on the other hand, has a negative impact on their career prospects.

This feeling of exclusion is exacerbated among women who believe that their country of origin (46 percent against 33 percent of men) as well as their religion (66 percent against 52 percent of men) causes a negative perception among their compatriots.

French people of Arab origin clearly respect French values, such as secularism, and believe that a secular system would be beneficial for their country of origin. Many even claim to be ready to defend this model in their country of origin.

IN NUMBERS

55% French immigrants with roots in Arab countries.

51% Who did not link feeling of exclusion to skin color.

36% Who linked feeling of exclusion to ethnic origin of their name.

In fact, 54 percent of them advocate secularism, which would be, for them, a solution to the problems of the Arab world. The people questioned are reluctant to interfere with religion in politics and appreciate the secular system applied in France, which they even openly defend in their country of origin.

Moreover, the majority is not in favor of regulations on religious clothing, but 45 percent of men, 48 percent of respondents residing in rural France and 50 percent of those aged over 55 support regulatory laws and are in favor of such decisions, against 29 percent of the youngest (18-24 years) interviewees.

The oldest are better integrated than the youngest who were born in France. The younger generations are much less enthusiastic about state institutions and seem to be going back to their parents’ roots, thus reinforcing their sense of otherness.

The survey highlights the widening gap between the generations, insofar as young French people of Arab origin aged 18-24, for whom their religion is perceived positively (53 percent), seem less inclined to respect the regulations and join institutions like the national football team. Thus, 58 percent would support the football team of their country of origin against France, while 58 percent of men aged 35 to 44 and 72 percent of those over 55 would support the French team.

This last point reflects a generational gap and a generational conflict, which represents a major challenge for the future. A significant 49 percent of respondents and 52 percent of 18-34-year-olds believe that education levels are the most important factor in advancing their careers, but that their last name alone has a negative impact on their career, despite their ability to progress and the fact that they give themselves the means to do so.

A better knowledge of French people of Arab origin, peaceful and attached to the values ​​of freedom and secularism, is essential if the fight against extremism and Islamization in France is to be won.