In the midst of bad situations, we love to hear bad news. Even in good times, bad news is close to our hearts.
So, when the TV ticker started scrolling round and round announcing the closure of Shell business in Pakistan, I started receiving text messages and saw round of discussion in WhatsApp groups about the development.
I was in no position to either confirm or deny the reports. So I called Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
He is the busiest man on the earth nowadays given the budget sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate. He called me late night denying reports that Shell is closing down its business in Pakistan.
So, what are these all about?
He clarified Shell is only selling its shares in Pakistan to another international investor. “This is a pure administrative issue of the Shell management as it has nothing to do with the current economic or political situation of Pakistan,” he went on to say.
Shell is also reorganising its business in several European countries.
Dar said that Shell is not taking any money out of Pakistan by selling its shares. The company is bound to implement the government’s decisions, whatever they may be.
“There is no need to worry about the future of Shell’s employees in Pakistan and the company is only selling its shares, and this does not mean that the company is in trouble.”
Mr Dar also discussed several other things, which now the media is also selling. He said that Pakistan has made arrangements to repay its loan of $1 billion to China. He said that there is a penalty for making early payments, but the Ministry of Finance has contacted the Chinese bank and they have agreed to waive the penalty. The government has also made arrangements to receive $300 million from China soon. The payment will be made through fast track, and the money will return to Pakistan in three or four days.
Dar’s statement has come as a relief to many of us who were worried about the future of Shell Pakistan. Shell is one of the largest foreign investors in Pakistan, and its closure would have had a major impact on the Pakistani economy.
Regardless Shell sells its shares in Pakistan or not, there are signs of the challenges facing our economy. The country is facing a number of economic problems, including high inflation, a large budget deficit, and a declining rupee. These problems have made it difficult for foreign investors to do business in Pakistan.
Despite these challenges, Mr. Dar’s team is working to improve the business environment in the country. The finance minister has taken a number of steps to attract foreign investment, including reducing taxes, simplifying regulations, and improving infrastructure.
I got a wonderful feedback from several activists of PPP who appreciated our editorial published on Saturday on the rise of PPP in Karachi. Now, we hear that the party is confident of winning 20 seats in Karachi in the upcoming general election.
Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani says that the acceptance for the PPP in Karachi is increasing. The party already has five members of the National Assembly (MNAs) from Karachi, and that their number will increase in the next election.
No doubt the PPP has been working hard to improve the lives of the people of Karachi. Recently, it launched a Peoples Bus Service. It has spent Rs82 billion on the health infrastructure of Karachi, and that it has also increased the salaries of sweepers by 35%. The government built or repaired roads, provided clean water to many areas, and improved city’s sewerage system.
The fact is the PPP has not won a majority of seats in Karachi in any general election since 1988. We will see if the party win a majority of seats in Karachi in the next election.
The PPP’s claim to win 20 seats in Karachi is ambitious, but it is not impossible. The people of Karachi will have a tough choice to make in the next election. Contestants PPP, PTI, JI and MQM-P have a lot to offer, and it will be up to the voters to decide which party they believe is best for the city.