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Gas crisis to aggravate as supplier refuses to deliver LNG cargo

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  • ENI to not deliver February’s cargo purchased at cost of 12.14%.
  • This will result in reduced supplies to power sector.
  • End consumers to get costly electricity. 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is expected to witness an aggravating gas crisis in February as an Italy-based LNG trading company, ENI, intimated that it will not be able to deliver its term LNG cargo due on February 6-7 by claiming the force majeure, The News reported Monday citing a senior official of the Energy Ministry.

“The gas deficit will soar as imported LNG will reduce to 700mmcfd as only five cargoes, at the price of 13.37% of Brent, and 2 cargoes, at 10.2% of Brent under GtG agreements with Qatar, would be available in February. There will be no LNG cargo from ENI at the cost of 12.14% in the month of February. And this will increase the gas crisis in the country.”

The news has disturbed the top mandarins of the Petroleum Division as the country is already facing an acute gas crisis. The crisis has been affecting domestic users in some main cities, with little to no pressure.  

The government under its gas load management plan promised gas supply to domestic consumers for cooking times in winter — three hours in the morning from 6am to 9am, two hours from 12 noon to 2pm for lunch, and three hours from 6pm to 9pm for dinner. The ground realities speak otherwise.

Relevant authorities say the impact of ENI backing out will come in the shape of reduced supplies to the power sector and the projected supply of 325mmcfd to the sector next month will not be available. 

The reliance on furnace oil-based electricity will increase and end consumers will get costly electricity. The captive power plants will be supplied gas at 50% and supply to fertiliser plants, compressed natural gas (CNG) and local industry shall remain discontinued.

Earlier, the Petroleum Division had claimed that the ENI from January 2023 onward will not default but that is not the case.

When contacted, ENI spokesperson also confirmed the development, saying: “February delivery disruption is beyond the reasonable control of ENI and due to an event of Force Majeure. ENI does not benefit in any way from the situation.”

According to the senior official, ENI defaulted five times in 2022; it failed to provide LNG cargoes in the months of March, May, July, September, and November.

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Despite economic crisis, $1.2bn worth of cars imported in just six months

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  • Pakistanis spent $1.2 billion on import of cars and other related stuff.
  • SBP reserves can only cover three weeks’ of imports. 
  • Huge spending on imports of luxuries calls for shift in govt policy. 

ISLAMABAD: Despite efforts to conserve foreign exchange reserves by restricting imports, Pakistan spent $1.2 billion (or Rs 259 billion) on the import of transportation items, including luxury cars, high-end electric vehicles, and their parts, during the last six months, reported The News.

Pakistan is facing an acute shortage of dollars and has less than $5 billion in its reserves which is hardly sufficient to finance three-week of its imports.

Despite the overall reduction in imports of transportation vehicles and other items compared with last year, the economy was still burdened with heavy outflows for buying expensive luxury vehicles and useless items.

During these six months, the country imported completely built units (CBU), completely knocked down/semi knocked down (CKD/SKD) of $530.5 million equivalent to 118.2 billion.

Since CKD kits are not allowed to be imported, yet multimillions of dollars of these kits are being imported, harming the local industry and their production.

The economy is suffering, but hefty spending on cars and other vehicle imports is raising a lot of questions about the government’s policy of halting imports related to the industrial and commercial sectors.

Road motor vehicles (build units, CKD/SKD), $1.03 billion or Rs230.5 billion were spent during these six months. Last year in the same period, the spending on these vehicles was $1.87 billion, showing a reduction of 63%.

Under the completely built units (CBU) during July-Dec 2022-23 imports of buses, trucks and other heavy vehicles imports were $75 million (Rs16.6bn), motor cars with $32.6 million.

Under the CKD/SKD, imports of buses, trucks, and other heavy vehicles imports were $722.5 million (Rs161 billion), while motor car imports were recorded at $498 million (Rs111 billion). Motorcycle imports also stood at $27.6 million.

Besides, the parts and accessories imports stood at $188.6 million (Rs42 billion). Similarly, $47.7 million were spent on the import of aircraft, ships, and boats.

Only in December, the transport sector’s imports stood at $140.7 million (Rs31.6 billion). Of this, $47.5 million or 11.3 billion rupees were spent on the imports of cars, $27 million on parts and accessories, $3.6 million on motorcycles import, $25 million on buses, trucks, and heavy vehicles, and another $22.4 million on the import of aircraft, ships, and boats.

Reportedly, despite economic crises, the incumbent government has lifted a ban on the import of luxury cars recently. This is one of the major sources of dollar outflow from the economy.

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Textile sector warns of protest on untimely clearance of imported cotton

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  • APTMA chief says textile exports will be limited to $16-17bn this year.
  • He reveals industry exports raw cotton four times compared to imported value.
  • Industry player warns 7m people will be unemployed in January.

LAHORE: As Pakistan struggles to boost depleting foreign exchange reserves, the textile owners threatened the government of staging a protest due to the delay in the clearance of imported cotton containers at Karachi port, The News reported Friday. 

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman Hamid Zaman said: “The textile industry will be forced to protest if the government doesn’t clear the imported cotton coming to Karachi.”  

The textile industry would fail to meet an export target of $25 billion in the current year on the non-availability of raw materials, mainly raw cotton, he said during a programme organised by the Lahore Economic Journalist Association. 

“This year, textile exports will be limited to $16-17 billion,” he predicted. 

The textile industry imports raw cotton and after value addition exports it at four times the imported value. Thus, the government should allow exporters to import 35% of the export value.

The APTMA chief, however, warned that if things are not controlled, seven million people associated with the industry will be unemployed in January.

“The industry was left with 60 days’ of raw materials only and if timely clearance of already arrived cotton will not start from the port, textiles will completely shut down. This will result in unemployment of 25 million people across the country,” he warned.

Zaman informed that almost 30-50% of the textile industry of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh had already been completely or partially closed.

“The textile industry has so far ordered 1.7 million bales of cotton from the US, out of which 0.531 million cotton bales have been dispatched while 100,000 bales have already arrived at Karachi port with a value of more than $300 million.”

APTMA chief urged the government to instruct commercial banks as well as the State Bank of Pakistan to ensure the timely opening of letters of credit for the cotton importers to avoid any export crisis. 

In response to a question, Zaman admitted that some exporters could not bring their export amount back to Pakistan due to the instability of the exchange rate. He also urged the government to take action against those who were hoarding the US dollar, vowing that the APTMA would support the cause.

Zaman further pointed out that demurrages and detention charges on imported goods had exceeded the value of the goods that foreign companies had to pay. 

“So far, Rs2 billion in demurrages and detention charges have been charged, which are increasing with time, and since last few days the traders and banks will be at odds with each other.”

APTMA Senior Vice Chairman Kamran Arshad said a severe shortage of raw cotton was there in the local market as the country had produced only 4.6 million cotton bales. 

He mentioned that 15 million cotton bales were required to achieve $20 billion in exports. 

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President Putin to ‘decide’ on Russian oil price discount for Pakistan

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  • Putin labels Pakistan ‘key partner’ in special message to Shehbaz.
  • Sources say there will be no decision on discount in crude price during ongoing talks.
  • Moscow will announce price of Russian crude once MoU is signed.

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Pakistan could secure crude oil deal with Russia on desired discount rate if Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif contacts Russian President Vladimir Putin, The News reported on Friday citing sources.

Pakistan is interested in buying around 100,000 barrels per day of Russian crude oil and if the country’s refineries get synchronised well with the blended Russian crude oil, then the quantity of crude from Russia would be increased accordingly.

Amid ongoing talks with the Russian Federation, the two sides are working to finalise a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or a protocol that may be signed today at the end of three-day talks.

However, Moscow clearly communicated to Islamabad that it would announce the price of Russian crude for Islamabad once an MoU or a protocol was signed for energy trade (crude oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas), which would show the seriousness of the Government of Pakistan towards the energy trade.

“The experts from Russia also asked Pakistan counterparts not to mention the price cap of $60 per barrel imposed on Russian oil by G7 countries while discussing the crude import,” the officials involved in the talks told The News.

However, sources told the publication that the issue of discount as desired by Pakistan on crude oil would be decided by Russian President Putin if the Pakistan government’s top man contacts him.

It should be noted that the Russian oil price in the international market currently hovers between $70-75 per barrel whereas Brent is priced at $81 per barrel. However, Pakistan hopes that it will get crude oil below $60 per barrel from Russia under the government-to-government mode.

As far as the $3 billion Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) is concerned, Pakistan is of the view that it will erect the pipeline but it is linked with the supply of more LNG and infrastructure at the port. Russia wanted to initiate the project and move forward in finalising the shareholding under the existing intergovernmental agreement. 

But now Pakistan wants it to execute the project on a BOOT (build, own, operate and transfer) basis.

Overall, the officials said that the talks under the inter-governmental commission level are moving forward on a positive trajectory, but after the signing of the MoU for energy trade, Russia will come up with the price for Pakistan. 

Officials said this means there will be no decision on the discount in crude price and life of the government-to-government agreement during the ongoing talks.

However, Pakistan State Oil (PSO) mandarins are engaged on behalf of Pakistan with Russian officials and experts on the issue of import of crude, finished products and LNG issues and officials of Oil and Gas Development Company and Mari Gas Company are in talks on the issue of building LNG storages.

“PARCO can process the Russian blended oil by up to 30%, Pakistan Refinery Limited 50% and the Cynergico Refinery can process the maximum. As for the LNG import, the private companies of Russia have told Pakistan that they can offer it after 2025-26 on a long-term basis,” the sources revealed.

Putin views Pakistan as ‘key partner’

In a separate development, a delegation led by Russian Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov called on PM Shehbaz in Lahore and discussed cooperation in various fields to strengthen Pakistan-Russia relations.

Welcoming the delegation, the prime minister highlighted the importance Pakistan attached to its relations with the Russian Federation.

He recalled his meeting with President Putin in Samarkand in September 2022 and said that the meeting had reached important decisions to strengthen bilateral relations. He further noted with satisfaction the keen desire on both sides to upgrade the bilateral cooperation in trade, investment and economic matters.

The Russian minister reciprocated the PM’s sentiments and delivered a special message of President Putin to his host.

In his message, President Putin, referring to Pakistan as Russia’s important partner in South Asia and the Islamic world, reiterated his strong interest to deepen the bilateral relationship.

Both sides agreed on the importance of the energy sector for the development of bilateral economic and trade relations. In this regard, views were exchanged on supplying oil and gas from Russia to Pakistan on a long-term basis. Matters related to gas pipelines were also reviewed.

PM Shehbaz also provided guidance for the work of the eighth round of the Pakistan-Russia inter-governmental commission meeting, scheduled to be held in Islamabad on January 20.

Federal ministers Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for State for Petroleum Musadik Malik and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatimi were also present.

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