Local Chinese governments up to ‘little tricks’ on PPP projects: People’s Daily  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS AND THE PEOPLE’S DAILY)

Local Chinese governments up to ‘little tricks’ on PPP projects: People’s Daily

Checks on some private-partnership projects (PPP) and government investment platforms in China have found that some local authorities are still up to “little tricks” and borrowing more debt than needed, the People’s Daily newspaper said.

One local authority department, for example, was found to have launched a PPP project to build a much bigger-than-required office building when it only had six staffers, the state-run newspaper reported on Monday citing an unnamed official at a city’s finance bureau.

Some governments were also shelving all risk for PPP projects by guaranteeing losses, or providing commitments to persuade financial institutions to dole out financing, the newspaper said.

“These actions disrupt the market order and also exacerbate financing risks. These loopholes must be closed in order to eliminate hidden dangers,” it said.

The Ministry of Finance with other relevant departments were taking action to implement clear policies to govern such behavior.

China has been encouraging the use of PPP to alleviate the debt burdens of its local authorities, who in the past have used debt to finance projects such as bridges and municipal works with less-than-robust analysis on future returns.

It has also launched a market in asset-backed securities (ABS), a financing instrument via which a wide range of assets such as loans, real estate, toll ways and scenic parks have been converted into tradable bond-like securities.

China’s growing debt has been singled out by analysts and policy makers as one of the biggest risks to its economy, prompting authorities to tighten regulations over the past year to curb risky and speculative forms of lending.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Agree to Build New Causeway

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain Agree to Build New Causeway

Saudi

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain agreed on a plan to build a new road and rail causeway between the two countries and they hope private firms and the state can share the costs, risks and profits.

The new connection will help ease congestion on the existing link and will seek funding from the private sector, a document about the project showed.

The King Hamad Causeway is expected to cost $4 billion to $5 billion, according to sources who attended an industry consultation event in Manama.

The existing 25 km (16 mile) King Fahd causeway between the two countries has been open since 1986 and had average daily traffic of 31,000 passengers in 2016. But that is expected to double by 2030, the document distributed at the meeting showed.

Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia have historically financed infrastructure projects but while they still help with the cost of some, the oil price slump has forced them to slash spending and to consider bringing in private investment.

The meeting in Manama was attended by officials from the transportation ministries in the two countries and more than 150 companies that are expected to build the project using the public private partnership (PPP) model.

Besides a new four-lane road causeway running parallel to the existing one, there will be a new 70 km railway connecting a passenger terminal in Salmabad and freight facilities at Khalifa bin Salman port in Bahrain to the Saudi railway system.

Eight million passengers per year are expected to use the rail link by 2050 and some 600,000 containers and 13 million tonnes of bulk freight are expected to be transported by the railway, which could be developed under a design, build transfer, or design, build, maintain and transfer basis.

While the project’s technical details were clearly described in the document, key details of the PPP structure were still preliminary, said one of the sources.

The project is expected to be owned by the private sector through a new company with a 25-30-year PPP arrangement.

Private sector developers, co-investors, contractors and lenders should express their interest in the project by June 29, the document said. Advisers will be appointed in the first quarter of 2018 and pre-qualification requests are due to be issued in the second quarter of next year.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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Pakistan will change legal team that lost Round 1 to India at ICJ

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Kulbhushan Jadhav case: Pakistan will change legal team that lost Round 1 to India at ICJ

The Hague-based court had on Thursday stayed the execution of Jadhav, 46, considered to be a spy by Pakistan.

WORLD Updated: May 19, 2017 23:09 IST

Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Kulbhushan Jadhav

A boy watches as television channels that show news about International Court of Justice hearing the case of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav.(AP Photo)

Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz has said a new team of lawyers will be formed to present the case against Kulbhushan Jadhav at the International Court of Justice even as opposition parties blasted the government for its handling of the matter.The current legal team was widely criticised after the ICJ ordered Pakistan on Thursday to stay Jadhav’s execution till its final decision on India’s petition to annul his death sentence. Opposition parties sought the team’s immediate removal.

Aziz said a new team of lawyers will be constituted to “present Pakistan’s stance vigorously” at the ICJ. “Pakistan’s security is so important and we have to maintain our fundamental sovereign right,” he told Samaa news channel.

He also defended the existing legal team, saying it had “courageously presented Pakistan’s stance”.

Some senior lawyers said authorities had started sending out feelers about setting up the new legal team. “Some law firms have been approached by the ministry of law to discuss such a possibility,” said a law ministry official in Islamabad.

There was also discussion about hiring a foreign law firm with a record of handling cases at The Hague-based ICJ.

“The consensus emerging in Pakistan is that while the country has a case, it was the legal team that let us down,” said leading analyst Zahid Hussain.

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Some of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s detractors accused him of “selling out” to the Indian side and opposition parties described the ICJ’s decision as a “setback for Pakistan”.

Some opposition leaders alleged the ICJ’s order was the result of a “covert deal”. They linked it to Sharif’s recent meeting in Murree with Indian steel tycoon Sajjan Jindal.

Shafqat Mehmood, a spokesman for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, demanded that Sharif disclose all details of his “covert meeting” with Jindal. In a statement, he raised critical questions on the matter and sought an explanation from the premier.

Mehmood asked Sharif to come to the National Assembly and explain why Pakistan did not appoint an ad hoc judge at the ICJ because it had a right to do so, and why the Foreign Office did not take legal advice before initiating correspondence on the issue.

There was considerable debate on the performance of Khawar Qureshi, Pakistan’s lead lawyer, at the ICJ hearing on Monday. Qureshi, part of the London-based law firm Serle Court, became the youngest advocate to appear at the ICJ in 1993.

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But opposition leaders questioned why the government had selected a lawyer who had not handled a single international law case at the UK Supreme Court, and why authorities had sent a first year associate from the attorney general’s office to the ICJ instead of the attorney general himself.

The Pakistan People’s Party said the case at the ICJ had been mishandled and demanded the government convene a meeting of the national security committee on the issue of Jadhav.

PPP vice president Sherry Rehman told reporters that Pakistan had failed to plead its case and the counsel completed his arguments within 50 minutes, as against the allocated time of 90 minutes.

Rehman, a former minister, said Pakistan should have appointed an ad hoc judge under the ICJ’s rules as an Indian judge was part of the tribunal. She said the opportunity to do this was available till May 10 but was missed out. She added that Jadhav’s issue should have also been raised at the UN General Assembly.

But Aziz told the media the ICJ’s order would not have any bearing on the legal process currently underway in Pakistan against Jadhav. “A stay is granted automatically even in our courts when you file an appeal. But it doesn’t mean that you have lost the case,” he said on Thursday.

The ICJ is yet to adjudicate on the merits of Jadhav’s case, he said. “When that stage comes, Pakistan will forcefully present its case,” he added.

Pakistan: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Win Try To Become PM In 2018

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has announced that he will contest elections from his mother’s constituency Larkana and aims to become the prime minister of Pakistan in 2018, according to media reports on Saturday.Bilawal, the only son of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has said earlier he will contest by-elections or general elections – whichever come first.

At a Foundation Day gathering in Lahore on Saturday, Bilawal targeted Nawaz Sharif, saying that the prime minister did not know how to rule the country. “The time will come when PPP’s flag will hoist on houses of all chief ministers, the prime minister and the president of Pakistan.”

“With your support, I will become Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018,” the 28-year-old said.

Bilawal, who is the nominal chief of the PPP — although his father Asif Ali Zardari wields real influence in the party — became eligible to stand for elections only three years ago when he turned 25.