Friday April 12, 2024

China’s $2bn loan rolled over, Dar tells Senate

Ishaq Dar said in the Senate that China’s $2 billion loan to Pakistan had been rolled over on March 23

By Mumtaz Alvi
April 01, 2023
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (right) speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on February 10, 2023. — AFP
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (right) speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on February 10, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister and Senator Ishaq Dar said Friday in the Senate that China’s $2 billion loan to Pakistan had been rolled over on March 23, and reports in a section of the press in this regard were misleading. 

Responding to Senator Raza Rabbani’s point of view in the House here, the Leader of the House in the Senate, Ishaq Dar, explained that the news in a section of the press about the rollover of Pakistan’s debt from China was misleading.

The minister noted that Pakistan’s $2 billion loan from China had been rolled over and Pakistan had transactions with the Bank of China and other private banks in China. Dar said: “I am happy to confirm that this amount was rolled over on March 23.” He said that all relevant documents had been completed. However, he added, for the last many years, there was perhaps a part of an understanding between Pakistan and China that on such matters, press releases would not be issued.

“But this is the privilege of this House to ask, and I share with the House that the rollover has been made on March 23. The news agency that ran a story contrary to it is expected to issue a clarification,” he maintained.

On a point of public importance, Senator Raza Rabbani had raised this matter, citing a news report that claimed that China was still working on the matter and that so far it had not rolled over the $2 billion. He said the rollover was more important for Pakistan in the backdrop of signing a staff-level agreement with the IMF, as the lending agency wanted confirmation from the countries that had made commitments to Pakistan.

“China has supported Pakistan in every difficult time, and China is our iron friend and brother. If such a piece of news emerges from the Ministry of Finance, then it will not be good,” he noted.

He also shared with the House that his private members’ bill, The Members of Parliament Privileges Act, barring the arrest of legislators during the pendency of a session, had been passed by the National Assembly as well, and now it would be sent to the president for his assent.

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Senator Sherry Rehman said during the Question-Hour that due to rising temperatures, glaciers in Pakistan’s northern mountain ranges, the Himalayan-Karakoram-Hindukush (HKH), were melting rapidly, and a total of 3,044 glacial lakes had developed in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

Of these, she explained, 33 glacial lakes have been assessed as being prone to hazardous glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF), which are sudden events that can release millions of cubic meters of water and debris, leading to the loss of lives, property, and livelihoods amongst remote and impoverished mountain communities. Over 7.1 million people in GB and KP are vulnerable.

“With 7,253 known glaciers, there is more glacial ice in Pakistan than anywhere on the earth outside the polar regions, according to various studies. The Scaling-up of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods Risk Reduction in Northern Pakistan (GLOF-II) project, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP with support from the Green Climate Fund, has been under implementation since 2017. The total budget given by GCF is US$36,900,000, with an in-kind contribution of US$500,000 from the government of Gilgit-Baltistan. It aims at enhancing the resilience of people to the impacts of climate change-induced disasters in the glaciated areas of northern Pakistan. It is operating across 24 valleys in 10 districts of GB and eight districts of KP,” she noted.

The minister said that it is a fact that the usage of plastic bags and related plastic items has generally increased throughout Pakistan, including in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). However, the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) has taken several actions, including an extensive awareness campaign and the enforcement of the ban on polythene bags by confiscating 4,000 kg of them and imposing fines to the tune of Rs 3 million.

Due to the dependency of the ministry in this exercise on other departments, including ICT Administration and Capital Development Authority (CDA)/Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI), no definite deadline can be given for the complete eradication of plastic bags and related items in the short term, she said.

“The ministry is undertaking an all-out effort for the eradication of polythene bags despite challenges in the field. All the big retail stores, supermarkets, bakeries, and other clothing brand stores, etc. have complied by utilising alternate bags made of cotton, jute, paper, and other permissible materials. Still, there is a significant gap between reduction and zero use, which cannot be quantified in absolute terms due to the non-availability of credible data about plastics.”

She emphasised the need for cooperation from the public to effectively discourage the use of plastic bags, as the total mass of plastic waste generated so far in Pakistan is equal to the size of two K-2 mountains.

Later, some senators belonging to the Balochistan Awami Party, the National Party, and JUIF urged for an extension of at least one month to the ongoing digital census in Balochistan. The chair agreed to it and asked the Senate secretary to write to the government accordingly.

“I will talk to the prime minister if a one-month extension is needed for the digital census,” Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani assured the senators.

The National Party’s Senator Tahir Bizenjo rose to speak on the issue first and claimed that the census was going on in the province at a very slow pace and that difficulties were being confronted due to the digital system and long distances. “In some areas, work on blocks has been halted, while in other areas, so far just 20 to 25 percent has been done. At least one month of extension is needed to the census, and this is a demand by all senators from Balochistan,” he said.

Maulana Faiz Muhammad of the JUIF also called for an extension of one month, and this was backed by BAP Senator Sarfraz Bugti, who also urged the chair to use his influence for an extension, as the ethnic division in the province was an extremely sensitive issue.