Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) has invited bids to build a sewage treatment plant at Mauripur by 4 April. Part of the Karachi sewerage project, it is financed by a loan from the Asian Development Bank. The job will involve civil, mechanical and electrical works for a 54 million-gallon- a-day lagoon treatment near Karachi harbour. It will include building culverts and channels, excavation and landfill work, installing pumping stations and stand-by generators, erecting administrative buildings and workshops, and infrastructure work.

The local Frontier Works Organisation has a $33 million contract to build subsurface drainage works in Khushab, Punjab province. The project, financed by the Asian Development Bank, is aimed at controlling the soil salinity level and reclaiming waterlogged land in the Khushab area.

The local ICC has a $25.2 million contract to install overhead lines in Karachi as part of Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation’s fifth power project. The project is funded by a World Bank loan.

The local Jafri & Associates has a $1 million contract to carry out survey, engineering and supervision work for a rural electrification project. The project, managed by the Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA), is financed by the World Bank.

The government’s attempt to curb the central bank’s independence has brought about its first defeat in parliament. By 28 to 11 votes, the senate passed an opposition bill on 1 February to quash a government ordinance aimed at making the central bank governor more answerable to the government (MEED 14:1:94). The government could sponsor a new bill in the lower house to endorse its ordinance, senior officials say. However, they warn a protracted controversy would damage Pakistan’s image in the eyes of the local and international business community. The ordinance overturns a decision by the former caretaker government to give the central bank discretion in setting monetary policy and a ceiling on lending to the government. It also reduces the central bank governor’s tenure to three from five years, making him more vulnerable to political pressure. Senior bank officials and former caretaker prime minister Moeen Qureshi had criticised the ordinance, saying it would create problems in the government’s negotiations with the IMF.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has agreed to the controversial agricultural tax ordered by the former caretaker government. The tax is vital for winning the IMF’s support for a structural adjustment programme to be ratified later in February. The government’s decision follows the recommendation by a task force set up to investigate the tax. The task force also recommends offsetting the effect of tax by raising the state-set support prices paid to farmers to bring them closer to market prices. Between 10,000-12,000 landlords owning more than 20.2 hectares each will be brought into the tax net.