Pakistan PM unveils broader plan to sell most state-owned firms

Pakistan PM unveils broader plan to sell most state-owned firms
People hold a banner as they chant slogans in support of an alliance of civil rights groups protesting in Pakistan-ruled Kashmir, demanding the government give the region a subsidy on electricity and wheat prices in the face of rising inflation, during a demonstration in Karachi, Pakistan May 13, 2024. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
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Updated 14 May 2024
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Pakistan PM unveils broader plan to sell most state-owned firms

Pakistan PM unveils broader plan to sell most state-owned firms
  • Announcement comes amid talks on new IMF loan
  • There can’t be any strategic commercial SOEs, says ex-minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will privatise all state-owned enterprises, with the exception of strategic entities, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday, broadening its initial plans to sell only loss-making state firms to shore up its shaky finances.
The announcement came after Sharif headed a review meeting of the privatization process of loss-making state enterprises (SOEs), according to a statement from his office, which discussed a roadmap for privatization from 2024 to 2029.
“All of the state-owned enterprises will be privatised whether they are in profit or in losses,” Sharif said, adding that offloading the SOEs will save taxpayers’ money.
The statement didn’t clarify which sectors would be deemed strategic and non-strategic.
The announcement came a day after an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission opened talks in Islamabad for a new long-term Extended Fund Facility (EFF), following Pakistan’s completion of a $3 billion standby arrangement last month, which had averted a sovereign debt default last summer.
Privatization of loss-making SOEs has long been on the IMF’s list of recommendations for Pakistan, which is struggling with a high fiscal shortfall and a huge external financing gap. Foreign exchange reserves are hardly enough to meet up to a couple of months of controlled imports.
The IMF says SOEs in Pakistan hold sizable assets inn comparison with most Middle East countries, at 44 percent of GDP in 2019, yet their share of employment in the economy is relatively low. The Fund estimates almost half of the SOEs operated at a loss in 2019.
Patchy success so far
Past privatization drives have been patchy, mainly due to a lack of political will, market watchers say.
Any organization that is involved in purely commercial work can’t be strategic by its very nature, which means there can’t be any strategic commercial SOEs, former Privatization Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad told Reuters on Tuesday.
“So to me there are really no strategic SOEs,” he said.
“The sooner we get rid of them the better. But this isn’t the first time we have heard a PM say this and this may not be the last till these words are translated into a strategic action plan and implemented.”
Islamabad has for years been pumping billions of dollars into cash-bleeding SOEs to keep them afloat, including one of the largest loss-making enterprises
Pakistan International Airline, which is in its final phase of being sold off, with a deadline
later this week to seek expressions of interest from potential buyers.
The pre-qualification process for PIA’s selloff will be completed by end-May, the privatization ministry told Tuesday’s meeting, adding discussions were underway to sell the airline-owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York.
It also said a government-to-government transaction on First Women Bank Ltd. was being discussed with the United Arab Emirates, and added that power distribution companies had also been included in the privatization plan for 2024-2029.
“The loss-making SOEs should be privatised on a priority basis,” Sharif said.


India explores ‘untapped potential’ with UAE as foreign minister visits Abu Dhabi

India explores ‘untapped potential’ with UAE as foreign minister visits Abu Dhabi
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India explores ‘untapped potential’ with UAE as foreign minister visits Abu Dhabi

India explores ‘untapped potential’ with UAE as foreign minister visits Abu Dhabi
  • Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s UAE visit seen as strong indicator of bilateral relations
  • Visit was his first to the Gulf country since his re-appointment earlier this month 

 

NEW DELHI: India is exploring new areas of cooperation with the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday after the foreign minister’s first official trip to Abu Dhabi since his re-appointment.

 

India-UAE relations have grown considerably since 2022, when they signed a landmark comprehensive economic partnership agreement to boost two-way trade and investment.

On Sunday, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar visited Abu Dhabi to meet with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, where they reviewed bilateral relations and discussed new opportunities.

“Both ministers reviewed the multifaceted India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and expressed happiness at the substantive progress in diverse areas of bilateral cooperation,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“They also discussed new areas with untapped potential for further enhancing collaboration.”

Jaishankar’s UAE trip, which came within two weeks of his re-appointment, “signifies the importance India attaches to its relations with the country,” the ministry said.

“The visit marks the continuation of high-level contact between the two countries.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won a historic third term as the country’s prime minister earlier this month, has visited the UAE three times, the ministry said, while UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has visited the South Asian nation twice.

Kabir Taneja, a fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said Jaishankar’s visit indicates the focus of India’s foreign policy in Modi’s new term.

“It is very interesting. The first state visit to India was by the Bangladesh prime minister, and the first visit of the Indian foreign minister was to the UAE. It shows the centrality of the UAE in India’s policy towards West Asia,” he told Arab News, referring to Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina’s trip to New Delhi over the weekend.

“It shows that India has really put the UAE on the mantle so to speak as a strategic partner, trade partner, as an economic partner … I think it’s a very strong positioning of the bilateral (relations) between the two countries.”


Kremlin blames US for ‘barbaric’ missile attack on Crimea

Kremlin blames US for ‘barbaric’ missile attack on Crimea
Updated 24 June 2024
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Kremlin blames US for ‘barbaric’ missile attack on Crimea

Kremlin blames US for ‘barbaric’ missile attack on Crimea

MOSCOW: The Kremlin blamed the United States on Monday for a Ukrainian attack on Crimea with ATACMS missiles that killed at least four people, including two children, and injured 151 more, and said there would be consequences.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the attack “absolutely barbaric” and said Moscow would react to the United States involvement in it.
Peskov suggested that reporters should ask the governments of Europe and the United States why their governments were involved in killing children. 


Russia is revising its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin says

Russia is revising its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin says
Updated 24 June 2024
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Russia is revising its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin says

Russia is revising its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin says
  • Vladimir Putin said last month that Russia might change its official nuclear doctrine setting out the conditions under which such weapons could be used

MOSCOW: Russia, the world’s biggest nuclear power, has started updating its nuclear doctrine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, citing an earlier statement by President Vladimir Putin.
“President Putin has said that work is under way to bring the doctrine into line with current realities,” Peskov told a briefing, without elaborating.
A senior member of the Russian parliament said on Sunday that Moscow could reduce the decision-making time stipulated in official policy for the use of nuclear weapons if it believes that threats are increasing.
Putin said last month that Russia might change its official nuclear doctrine setting out the conditions under which such weapons could be used.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.


Death toll rises to 19 after gunmen attack Russia’s Dagestan

Death toll rises to 19 after gunmen attack Russia’s Dagestan
Updated 24 June 2024
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Death toll rises to 19 after gunmen attack Russia’s Dagestan

Death toll rises to 19 after gunmen attack Russia’s Dagestan
  • Gunmen with automatic weapons burst into an Orthodox church and a synagogue in the ancient city of Derbent on Sunday evening
  • Dagestan is a mainly Muslim republic of Russia’s North Caucasus, a patchwork of ethnic groups, languages and regions

MOSCOW: The death toll from a series of brazen attacks on churches and synagogues in Russia’s mainly Muslim region of Dagestan rose to 19 on Monday after gunmen went on the rampage in coordinated attacks in two of the republic’s most important cities.
Gunmen with automatic weapons burst into an Orthodox church and a synagogue in the ancient city of Derbent on Sunday evening, setting fire to an icon at the church and killing a 66-year-old Orthodox priest, Nikolai Kotelnikov.
In the Caspian city of Makhachkala, About 125 kilometers north, attackers shot at a traffic police post and attacked a church.
Gun battles erupted around the Assumption Cathedral in Makhachkala and heavy automatic gunfire rang out late into the night. Footage showed residents running through the city to seek cover as plumes of smoke rose above Makhachkala.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Russia’s investigative committee said 15 policemen and four civilians were killed. At least five attackers were killed, some were shown by local media shot dead on a pavement.
“This is a day of tragedy for Dagestan and the whole country,” said Sergei Melikov, the head of the Dagestan region.
He said that foreign forces had been involved in preparing the attack, but gave no details.
“This is an attempt to cleave apart our unity.”
Dagestan announced three days of mourning. Pictures of the dead policemen were lined up on the street before red carnations in Dagestan.
President Vladimir Putin, who has long accused the West of trying to stoke separatism in the Caucasus, has yet to comment.
Dagestan is a mainly Muslim republic of Russia’s North Caucasus, a patchwork of ethnic groups, languages and regions that live in the shadow of the Caucasus mountains between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
DAGESTAN
The attack on Christian and Jewish places of worship stoked fears Russia may be facing a renewed militant Islamist threat just three months after a deadly attack in Moscow.
In the Moscow attack, 145 people were killed at the Crocus concert hall. Islamic State claimed that attack.
In October, after the war in Gaza broke out, rioters waving Palestinian flags broke down glass doors and rampaged through Makhachkala airport to look for Jewish passengers on a flight arriving from Tel Aviv.
In Israel, the foreign ministry said the synagogue in Derbent had been burned to the ground and shots had been fired at a second synagogue in Makhachkala. The statement said it was believed there were no worshippers in the synagogue at the time.
Derbent, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, is home to an ancient Jewish community and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Russia’s state media cited law enforcement as saying two sons of the head of central Dagestan’s Sergokala district were among the attackers in Dagestan and had been detained by investigators.
June 24-26 have been declared days of mourning in Dagestan, Melikov said, with flags lowered to half-mast and all entertainment events canceled.
The Russian empire expanded into the Caucasus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but an insurgency after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union led to two wars.
In August 1999, Chechen fighter Shamil Basayev led fighters into Dagestan in a bid to aid Dagestani Wahhabist fundamentalists, triggering a major bombing campaign by the Russian military ahead of the Second Chechen War.


Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates

Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates
Updated 24 June 2024
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Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates

Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates
  • CNN and ABC News will circumvent the Commission on Presidential Debates to host their own one-on-one debates

CHICAGO: Third-party candidates for president, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. Jill Stein, filed federal complaints this week alleging that they were being unfairly excluded from media debates hosted by CNN and ABC News between US President Joe Biden and former president, Donald Trump.

CNN and ABC News will circumvent the Commission on Presidential Debates, which imposes ground rules to ensure debates are conducted fairly for all qualifying candidates, to host their own one-on-one debates. The CNN debate is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, and the ABC debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10.

The presidential election is on Nov. 5, and although Kennedy and Stein are excluded from the media debates, they have filed enough signatures to be accepted on a majority of state ballots and expect to meet upcoming deadlines to file to appear on all 50 state ballots.

Stein filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Election Commission on June 19, while Kennedy filed an FEC complaint on May 28; both arguing no candidates had been certified to be included on any state ballots yet, and that they were victims of partisan political bias.

“The media’s job is to impartially inform the voters about all the choices on their ballot, but what CNN is doing is a coordinated communication and prohibited corporate contribution to benefit two candidates to the exclusion of all others,” Stein said in a statement sent to Arab News.

“The (CNN) debate is far from independent, having been actively negotiated by the Biden Committee, the Trump Committee, and representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties for the purpose of ensuring that all independent and third-party candidates are excluded and denied an opportunity for consideration by the voting public.”

Both Biden and Trump believe Kennedy and other independent candidates could play spoilers in what many believe will be a close contest between the two major party contenders.

The FEC complaint argues CNN, Biden and Trump “flagrantly violated a federal law” that requires media broadcasters to use “pre-established” and “objective” criteria to determine candidate participation in debates. Failure to use objective criteria makes the CNN and ABC debates “campaign contributions,” which are subject to strict financial and cost donation limits, Kennedy said in a statement sent to Arab News.

“Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand,” Kennedy said.

“My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly. Americans want an independent leader who will break apart the two-party duopoly. They want a President who will heal the divide, restore the middle class, unwind the war machine, and end the chronic disease epidemic.”

Kennedy received support from former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who said: “If the American people could hear what all three candidates had to say about the critical issues facing our country, the choice between these three men would be clear.”

Third-party candidates in past elections have been included in presidential debates under the guidelines of the Commission on Presidential Debates, formed in 1987 “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process.”

Third-party candidates could siphon off votes and prevent one or both major party candidates from winning enough votes in many states to become president. A candidate must win a majority of votes in each of the 50 states to take the Electoral College votes in each state, which vary by state population size. A candidate must receive 270 EC votes to win the presidency.

Kennedy argues in his statement that CNN’s published debate criteria requires that “a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 Electoral (Electoral College) Vote threshold. CNN is holding Kennedy to this requirement but is not requiring Presidents Biden and Trump to meet this requirement by claiming they are each the ‘presumptive nominee’ of a political party.”

Kennedy’s campaign claimed that they had satisfied the requirements to appear on the ballot in 22 states, with a combined 310 electoral votes, although it is months away from states confirming any of the candidate’s ballot placement. California, for example, which has 54 EC Votes, will not certify any candidates until Aug. 29, raising questions about the media’s EC Vote rule.

Technically, although Biden and Trump are the presumptive nominees for their political parties, they will not become official candidates on state ballots until after their nominations are confirmed at the conventions. The Republican Convention begins July 18 in Milwaukee and the Democratic Convention begins August 19 in Chicago.

Stein also accused CNN of “collusion” with the Trump and Biden campaigns, arguing the media outlet used biased polling that “intentionally marginalize candidates other than Biden and Trump” by framing the election as an exclusive two-candidate affair and marginalizing her, and others, to prevent them from receiving a minimum 15 percent polling favorability.

“The poll cited by CNN as its standard mentions Trump 169 times and Biden 146 times, but mentions Jill Stein, Kennedy, and Cornel West only once, suppressing support for candidates outside the two-party system by design,” Stein said.

Neither CNN nor ABC News officials organizing the debates responded to requests for comment, but CNN officials were quoted by Associated Press arguing that the Kennedy FEC complaint lacks merit.

Biden and Trump will not have a live audience during their debate on Thursday, and their microphones will be muted when the other speaks to prevent interruptions. Journalists and campaign supporters will be seated in alternative halls.