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World in Focus (Feb – Mar 2018)

 World in Focus ( Nov - Dec 2017 )

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Feb 16: Actor Matloobur Rehman, aka Munna Lahori, who played the beloved genie Zakoota in the famous children’s television show Ainak Wala Jinn, passed away.

Feb 17: An Anti-terrorism court handed down death sentence on four counts to Imran Ali Naqshbandi on the charges of kidnapping, raping and brutal murdering seven-year-old Zainab Amin of Kasur after completing the trial in a record seven-day time.

Feb 17: The PCB Chairman Najam Sethi appointed the world’s fastest bowler Shoaib Akhtar as his advisor on cricket and brand ambassador of the PCB.

Feb 18: Nadir Magsi won the 13th Cholistan Desert Rally in the prepared category for the second time consecutively. He completed the track in 4 hours 32 minutes and 9 seconds. Sahibzada Sultan, who completed the track in 4 hours 37 minutes and 36 seconds, won the second position while Jaffar Magsi with a time of 4 hours 39 minutes and 21 seconds claimed the third position.

In stock category Tushna Patel clinched the first position followed by Asma on the second and Momal Khan third.

Feb 20: Unicef launched its report titled “Every Child Alive: the urgent need to end newborn deaths”. It revealed that Pakistan was the riskiest place in the world to be born in as measured by its newborn mortality rate. For every 1,000 babies born in Pakistan in 2016, 46 died before the end of their first month, a staggering 1 in 22.

Feb 20: The Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme passed through the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, enabling Pakistani exporters to enjoy preferential duties for the next two years.

Feb 21: The Supreme Court declared the controversial amendment to the Elections Act, 2017 which allowed Nawaz Sharif to retake the party leadership after being disqualified as well as all steps, decisions and orders passed by him since his disqualification in July 2017, null and void.

Pakistan’s Never-ending Circular Debt

For the first time in the history of the country, circular debt in the power sector has crossed a staggering figure of Rs977 billion. The current payables stand at Rs542.9 billion and the loans borrowed by the power sector parked in PHPL (Power Holding Private Limited) at Rs434 billion, making the sector extremely unsustainable.

In the wake of highest circular debt, the liquidity issue in the Power Sector has emerged as threat to the sustainable Power Sector despite the substantial improvement in electricity supply side.

Asian Development Bank’s recently published report titled, “Sector Assistance Programme Evaluation (SAPE) for the Pakistan Power Sector” highlights that there has been limited action in addressing the underlying causes of the circular debt, which has kept investments at less than desired levels until 2017.

One underlying factor for the rise in circular debt is a lack of focus on the transmission and distribution aspect of power supply amid the country’s increased focus on adding capacities. The losses in the transmission and distribution system have remained there for a long time.

World in Focus (Feb - Mar 2018)Other causes for the circular debt menace as highlighted by the ADB in its earlier supplementary documents still remain unaddressed at large. These include weak governance, delayed release of Tariff Differential Subsidy by the Finance Ministry, issues in revenue collection by the distribution companies that still remain in some areas, delays in tariff determination by Nepra and liquidity issues due to the fuel-price methodology.

Where the last formula of ad hoc payment to the sector didn’t pan out right, the government has reportedly worked out a new circular debt settlement plan where initially around Rs 80 billion will be cleared by raising funds from commercial banks. Beware, the debt servicing cost is planned to be recovered from the electricity customers.

How far the plan succeeds is what would be interesting especially with the elections around the corner. The ADB has also set the alarm bells ringing with its evaluation of the CPEC energy projects in the wake of increasing circular debt levels.

Feb 21: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) arrested former head of the Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema for his alleged involvement in Lahore’s Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Society scam.

Feb 21: In pursuance of a Supreme Court order, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh governments banned the trade related to Chinese salt commonly known as Ajinomoto due to its hazardous effects on human health.

Did You Know?

1. Ajinomoto, also known as Chinese salt, is an artificial substance that is used to enhance the taste of food.
2. Ajinomoto is a Japanese word which means “Essence of Taste”.
3. A scientific panel of the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) found it hazardous for health. The PFA says it contains Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which can cause headaches, fatigue, palpitations, nausea and vomiting, sweating, flushing and numbness of the face, more so among people who are sensitive to it.
4. It can also cause hypertension and is extremely hazardous for pregnant women.

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