News Buzz

May 2023

NBP continues to support farmers

National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) launched a new low markup rate agricultural loan programme to support the farming industry. With this initiative, farmers can increase their crop yield by availing agriculture loans with swift processing.

In addition, NBP is offering special discounts on the markup rate for women to encourage female participation in the farming industry. The loan can be used to finance a range of agricultural needs, including warehouse, solar tube-well, fisheries, new tractors, agriculture baler, seeds, soil, and pesticides, etc.

“We are proud to launch this new programme to support the farming community in Pakistan,” said Rehmat Ali Hasnie, President and CEO (A) of the National Bank of Pakistan. “Inclusive Development Group of NBP is dedicated for facilitating the farming community in adopting modern agricultural technologies to increase their farm efficiency, productivity and profitability. NBP has wide range of agricultural financing products fulfilling the farmer’s needs”

“Our goal is to uplift the agricultural sector of Pakistan by providing easy access to financing and other resources. We strongly believe that the growth of this sector is closely linked with the growth of Pakistan” said Ms. Naushaba Shahzad, Group Head (A), Inclusive Development Group, NBP.

NBP has a long history of supporting the farming industry in Pakistan and this new program builds on the bank’s commitment to providing innovative financial solutions to its customers. Farmers interested in applying for agricultural loan can contact their nearest NBP branch to learn more about the program.”

IMF Comes to the Rescue

The International Monetary Fund is lending Sri Lanka $3bn (£2.4bn) to help it deal with its worst economic crisis in its history as an independent nation. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is now putting efforts to be able to keep the currency strengthened, eventually reduce interest rates, and continue to see inflation ease.

Sri Lanka has been unable to buy goods it needs from abroad. The island nation started experiencing soaring prices, shortages of essential goods and crippling international debts, economy shrank by record 7.8 percent last year. To make things worse, in May 2022 it failed to make an interest payment on its foreign debt for the first time in its history.

Qatar, UAE to Reopen Embassies

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are working to reopen their long-closed embassies “in the coming weeks”, as a wave of rapprochement sweeps the turbulent Middle East region.

The two countries re-established relations in January 2021, after the UAE took part in a nearly four-year Gulf blockade of Qatar, but despite several meetings they are yet to restore the diplomatic missions.

“Regarding the opening of embassies between the two countries, I think it will be in the coming weeks,” foreign ministry spokesperson Majid Al-Ansari told a briefing.

“The technical committees are now doing their work in this context, and it is expected that there will be exchange visits to consider the procedures we need to reopen embassies.” A UAE official confirmed that the reopening of embassies is “under process”.

Adnan Siddiqui calls out Priyanka Chopra

When it was announced that filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy will be the first person of colour and first woman to direct a Star Wars film, people were over the moon. Many celebrities also expressed their pride in her achievement, including Indian actor Priyanka Chopra.

“First person of colour and first woman to direct a ‘Star Wars’ film…and she’s South Asian!! What a historic moment @sharmeenobaidchinoy. So so proud of you my friend! May the force be with you!” Chopra wrote on her Instagram story.

Pakistani actor Adnan Siddiqui didn’t like how the actor addressed the director as “South Asian” and called her out for it.

He emphasised that she’s Pakistani, calling her out for “flaunting” her Indian nationality whenever she gets the opportunity before claiming to be a South Asian.

Some of Chopra’s fans were quick to react to the tweet and bashed Siddiqui for it.

India becomes the most populous country of the world

India is set to become the world’s most populous country by the end of June, posing huge challenges to a nation with poor infrastructure and insufficient jobs for millions of young people.

The seismic shift will see India’s population hit 1.4286 billion — almost three million more than China’s 1.4257 billion — at mid-year, the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of World Populat­ion 2023 report forecast.

Meanwhile, the latest UN estimates show that Pakistan’s population has reached 240.5 million in 2023, and it has emerged among the eight countries that will account for half the projected growth in global population by 2050.

China has generally been regarded as the world’s most populous country since the fall of the Roman Empire but last year its population shrank for the first time since 1960, while India’s has continued to rise.
According to the Pew Research Centre, the number of people in India has grown by more than one billion since 1950, the year the UN began gathering population data.

Mercedes launched with a price tag of Rs 3.30 crore... only

Mercedes-Benz has launched its most powerful production car ever, the AMG GT 63 S E Performance, in India at a starting price of Rs. 3.30 crore only.

The 4-door coupe is also the luxury automaker’s first plug-in hybrid car, boasting a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 gasoline engine that generates 630 horsepower and a 201 horsepower electric motor. It offers an all-electric range of 13 kilometres and a combined output of 831 horsepower and 1,470 Newton-meters of torque.

HBL signs agreement for Prime Minister’s Youth Business and Agriculture Loan Scheme

Khaqan Muhammad Khan, Global Head Financial Institutions and Remittance Business – HBL, Dr. Sonu Khangharani, CEO – Thardeep Microfinance Foundation and Musharraf Khan, CEO – Damen Support Program signing the agreement.

HBL, Damen Support Program, and Thardeep Microfinance Foundation have joined hands to offer interest-free financing to individuals and small businesses under the Prime Minister’s Youth Business and Agriculture Loan Scheme (PMYB&ALS).

Speaking on the occasion, Khaqan Muhammad Khan, Global Head Financial Institutions and Remittance Business – HBL, said, “The Bank is committed to promoting financial inclusion and poverty alleviation. The partnership between HBL, Damen Support Program, and Thardeep Microfinance Foundation under the PMYB&ALS scheme would play a crucial role in uplifting the lives of thousands of people.”

Dr. Sonu Khangharani, CEO – Thardeep Microfinance Foundation, said, “The partnership with HBL will be instrumental in advancing our mission of promoting financial inclusion and will help individuals from marginalized segments of society to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.”

Musharraf Khan, CEO – Damen Support Program, said, “Amidst inflationary pressures, interest-free financing is a boon that small businesses and individual entrepreneurs could take advantage of. The partnership with HBL had previously delivered successful financial inclusion projects and this scheme would provide another opportunity to support small businesses and entrepreneurs in need of financing.”

Saudi FM meets Assad on first trip to Syria since 2011

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad met Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan in Damascus in April last week, ending more than a decade of diplomatic deep-freeze between the two countries.

The Saudi prince arrived in Damascus on the first visit to Syria’s capital by a Saudi official since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011. Assad has been politically isolated in the region since the conflict began, but a flurry of diplomatic activity has been underway in the past week as regional relations shift following a decision by Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume ties.

The trip comes less than a week after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad visited Saudi Arabia, also on the first such visit since the conflict began. In April, diplomats from nine Arab countries met in Jeddah to discuss ending Syria’s long spell in the diplomatic wilderness and its possible return to the 22-member Arab League after Damascus was suspended in 2011. Saudi Arabia severed ties with Assad’s government in 2012 and Riyadh had long openly championed Assad’s ouster, backing Syrian rebels in earlier stages of the war. Several other Arab countries also cut ties with Syria as some powers bet on Assad’s demise.

Ramazan and Eid Boost Pakistan’s Remittances

Pakistan’s remittances from overseas Pakistanis surged to a seven-month high of $2.5 billion in March, which is an increase of 27% from February, as per the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). However, the figure was down 11% compared to March 2022. The rise in remittances is attributed to Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr, as well as the use of legal channels by non-resident Pakistanis to send money to their families due to the closing gap between interbank and open market rates. Historically, prior to the annual Eid holidays, Pakistanis living abroad send record-high remittances. Experts predict that the inflows will continue to be elevated due to the forthcoming Eid-ul-Adha.

Bangladesh swears in new president

M ohammed Shahabuddin, a former judge and an official of the ruling party Awami League, was sworn in as the president of Bangladesh in April last week. Shahabuddin replaces Abdul Hamid, a former speaker and Awami League stalwart, whose second term expired in April.

Shahabuddin, 73, was an anti-corruption commissioner as well as a Mukti Bahini activist, was sworn in as the 22nd president of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh today,” the presidential palace said. He was elected by lawmakers in February after the ruling party nominated him instead of the speaker of parliament, who had been seen as the favourite. According to the Xinhua, China’s official news agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations to Shahabuddin.

Foreign Ministers Hold Talks

Foreign Ministers from China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran recently held talks with regard to several issues in the region. The meeting was chaired by Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang. During the second formal meeting, the countries came to several agreements, including calling for the U.S. to lift its unilateral sanctions against Afghanistan and appealing to the Afghan authorities to build an inclusive government that protects the interests of all people, including women, children and ethnic minorities.

Foreign minister Qin commended China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran’s joint efforts to ensure the smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan. He further said that China recently released “The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper” and “China’s Position on the Afghan Issue,” which advocate a spirit of solidarity to adapt to the profoundly adjusted international landscape, a win-win mindset to deal with the complex and intertwined security challenges, and reaffirms a political approach to promote the resolution of international regional hotspot issues such as Afghanistan.

The meeting emphasis on China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran should unite and cooperate to encourage the international community to pay more attention to the security issues related to terrorism in Afghanistan.

Nepal to grant voting rights to
Nepalis living abroad

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’ has said that his government will make necessary arrangements to grant voting rights to Nepali citizens living abroad. Over 65,0000 Nepalis have migrated overseas in 2021 seeking employment, the country’s Department of Foreign Employment said.

Arrangements will be made to allow Nepalis living abroad to cast their votes, Prime Minister Prachanda said while addressing a virtual event of the CPN (Maoist Centre) Migration Coordination. He said lakhs of migrant Nepalis will benefit from this move and enable them to exercise their franchise. The Prime Minister said remittances sent by Nepalis living abroad have boosted the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

Remittances account for about a quarter of the country’s national income. Over the past few years, migration and remittances have played a significant role in the socio-economic development of Nepal.