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‘Hard to imagine buying Russian oil’: Miftah Ismail says in CNN interview

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  • Miftah says Russia neither offered oil nor responded to former govt’s requests.
  • Says incumbent govt asked Russia and Ukraine, whoever can, to sell wheat to Pakistan.
  • Says impossible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil at this point.

KARACHI: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Tuesday said that Western sanctions have made importing oil from Moscow impossible despite the Pakistani government’s request to buy wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

“Russia has not offered us any oil either. It is difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil,” Miftah said in a conversation with CNN.

The minister said that as Russia is facing sanctions, it hasn’t responded to the previous government’s letter seeking imports. Regardless of this, the incumbent government has again asked both Moscow and Ukraine, whoever can, to export wheat to Pakistan.

“We would be happy to buy wheat from them,” he added.

Miftah further stated that Pakistan would surely consider if Russia offers oil trade at cheaper rates as there are no restrictions on buying the supply.

He said, however, it would be not possible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil at this point.

Refuting former prime minister Imran Khan’s claims, Ismail said that Russia has not offered a 30% discount on oil or wheat.

“Let’s be clear. I don’t know where Khan gets these numbers from.

“Khan just makes it up as he goes along. He is the guy who was saying we (PDM) were brought in through an American conspiracy. And now he has come up with this new thing. If Russia was selling him cheap wheat and oil then why didn’t he buy it. He did not.”

He pointed out that the incumbent government is “at least” trying to initiate talks for wheat import because food is not under sanctions, unlike oil.

To a query regarding Pakistan’s negotiations with IMF, Ismail said, the government just finished a round of talks with the IMF in Doha.

“In particular, the IMF is looking to the budget I am going to present before the parliament in the early part of June. After that I am hoping we will reach a staff-level agreement,” he added

“What the IMF is looking for us to do is reverse the subsidies on oil, petrol and diesel in particular, that the previous government had given. It’s also looking for me to reverse some power sector or electricity tariff subsidies. These subsidies were introduced by the previous government in contravention with its own agreement with the IMF. I am pretty confident we should be able to sign an agreement with the fund, but there would be some austerity measures and some increase in taxation.”

He said the previous government in its waning days did a few things to violate agreements with the IMF, including giving unsustainably high subsidies on petrol and diesel and also on power.

“Khan knew it could not be sustained. And when we came to power he started going from city to city trying to rally the people and coming up with these theories, conspiracies and all the stuff and building a political pressure on us. That’s why it was difficult, but we finally took the plunge,” Ismail said.

In response to what Miftah said, former Human Rights minister and PTI leader Shireen Mazari said that its only the “fear of US” that is stopping the finance minister from buying Russian oil as there are “no sanctions” on Russian oil import.

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Over 600 points are added by PSX in intraday trading.

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Tuesday’s lunchtime trading on the Pakistan Stock Exchange saw favorable activity.

During intraday trading, the benchmark KSE-100 Index increased by 672.08 points, or 1.11%, and was trading at 61131.82 levels.

The KSE-30 Index was trading at 20,558.31 after adding 211.46 points, or 1.04%.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) had another round of discussions for the establishment of a central government the day before the rally in the local stock exchange.

In the meanwhile, Fitch Ratings has issued a warning, stating that the likelihood of default would rise in the event of a drawn-out discussion or the inability to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the State Bank of Pakistan, which reported net foreign reserves of $8 billion as of February 9, 2024, up from a low of $2.9 billion on February 3, 2023, Pakistan’s external situation has improved recently.

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The smartphone app “Tajir Dost” to tax Pakistani businesses is anticipated to launch on February 22.

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The sources stated that the caretaker administration aims to include 3.5 million shops in the tax net by use of the “Tajir Dost” app.

They said that Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting prime minister, has instructed the relevant authorities to conclude their engagement with the retailing bodies within a few days.

The introduction of the “Tajir Dost” smartphone app to impose taxes on several merchants was authorized earlier this month by the acting federal administration.

The smartphone application, created by Pakistan Revenue Authority Limited (PRAL), a division of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), is intended to serve as a registration tool for shops and dealers throughout the nation.

The app’s database will be updated with the traders’ information who have already registered with the FBR.

Previously, in December 2023, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) made history by collecting Rs1.021 trillion. After deducting refunds of Rs 38 billion that were given out that month, the FBR’s net collection increased to Rs 984 billion.

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SBP confirms the choice to use new currency notes was not influenced by the IMF.

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In response to recent rumours, Saleem Ullah, the deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), said on Thursday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had no influence over the decision to release new currency notes.

Saleem Ullah underlined in an interview that printing new notes is a regular procedure carried out every 15 to 20 years to maintain the currency’s integrity.

He stressed that, in contrast to rumours, the deficit is expected to decline in the next fiscal year, in line with the goals of the new monetary policy.

“Every 15 to 20 years, new notes are printed,” he clarified. The new currency’s goal is to keep the note’s integrity intact.”

The SBP assured the public earlier this week that the current banknote series will continue to be in circulation despite the introduction of new currency notes, which it intended to implement over the course of the next two years.

Regarding the latest series of currency notes, the deputy governor clarified that they were launched in 2005 and were in circulation for three years.

He admitted that the procedure was time-consuming and estimated that because of the careful preparation required, it would take around two years to issue the first note.

In addition, he guaranteed that the new banknotes will have improved security measures because they would be made using contemporary technology. He gave information regarding the SBP’s effort to get public feedback on the new currency notes’ design, highlighting the fact that recommendations were being actively sought from the populace.

“There are three prizes for each denomination, and there are a total of seven denominations, hence 21 prizes,” he disclosed, highlighting the process’ openness. First place is worth Rs 1 million, second place is worth Rs 500,000, and third place is worth Rs 300,000.

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