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Old Sunday, May 24, 2009
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42 percent decline in services sector deficit in 10 months


KARACHI (May 24 2009)

Services sector trade deficit shrank by 42 percent during the current fiscal year mainly due to rising exports and low imports. Although the services sector has posted a deficit of over 3 billion dollars during ten months (July-April) of current fiscal year, the overall services sector performance improved as imports and deficit had been on decline and exports increased gradually.

The deficit amounted to 3.22 billion dollars in services trade during the period under review due to high payments on account of transportation, travel and government service. However, the deficit amounted to 2.27 billion dollars, or 42 percent, less than 5.49 billion dollars of same period of last fiscal year.

Economists said that declining services sector deficit would help to further curtail the current account deficit, which has been a major challenge for the policy markers and compelled Pakistan to re-join International Monetary Fund program.

"Overall performance of services during the current fiscal has been better than previous years and country's ailing economy needs such trend," they said. The State Bank on Saturday said that the country's services sector exports had surged by 9.13 percent to 2.915 billion dollars during July-April as compared to 2.671 billion dollars of last year.

In another major achievement the services sector imports plunged by 25 percent, to 6.137 billion dollars in ten months as against 8.165 billion dollars of last year. Deficit of transport sector largely contributed to overall deficit, which stood at 1.95 billion dollars as part of 3.22 billion dollars of the current fiscal year.

Rising imports of transportation were major cause of high deficit in this sector, as exports stood at one billion dollars against imports of 2.95 billion dollars. Services deficit in April 2009 stood at 256.634 million dollars with 288.337 million dollars exports and 544.971 million dollars imports.

The country earned 186 million dollars on account of travel services against payments of 906 million dollars. Communication sector exports stood at 110 million dollars against imports of 115 million dollars. Exports of insurance sector reached 48 million dollars against imports of 110 million dollars. Earning from financial sector stood at 57 million dollars against payments of 151 million dollars.

Royalties and licence fee payments reached 80 million dollars against earnings of 12 million dollars, and government services exports stood at 927 million dollars against imports of 283 million dollars during the period under review.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

War on terror costs Pakistan $35 billion: reports


LAHORE (May 24 2009)

Various government and non-governmental organisations, commercial and industrial chambers and experts have prepared reports about socio-economic costs of Pakistan's fight against terrorism during the past five years. According to the Pak-US Business Council report (2009), Pakistan is the prime victim of Afghanistan's instability, and its economy has so far suffered directly or indirectly a huge loss of 35 billion dollars.

"Moreover, due to widespread unrest and political uncertainty in Afghanistan, a large quantity of Pakistani food items/commodities is smuggled to Afghanistan, which ultimately leads to acute foodgrain scarcity within the country," said report.

According to the Finance Ministry, Pakistan suffered directly or indirectly the loss of Rs 2,080 billion in the war against terror from 2004-05 to 2008-09. It was around Rs 484 billion during the 2007-08 financial year, which badly affected the country's socio-economic development.

It is estimated that it would increase to Rs 678 billion during 2008-09 financial year. The cost includes both direct and indirect on account of loss of exports, foreign investment, privatisation, industrial output, soft image and tax collection. The report further indicates that the expected direct cost of war on terror will reach Rs 114.03 billion in 2008-09 from Rs l08.527 billion last year.

The indirect cost will increase to Rs 563.760 billion from Rs 375.840 billion. According to the report, the anti-terrorism campaign overstrained Pakistan's budget, as allocation for the law-enforcement agencies had to be increased significantly, curtailing the funding for development projects since 9/11.

In its poverty reduction strategy papers-II, the Finance Ministry revealed that Pakistan's participation in the anti-terrorism campaign had led to massive unemployment in the affected regions, which had ultimately increased rural poverty too. It had reached 37.5 percent from 23.9 percent in 2007-08, said the report.

In a well-researched report, former senior Vice-President of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Sohail Lashari of SOZO parks said that the Swat war had displaced two million residents, increased unemployment manifold, discontinued education of youth, badly damaged infrastructure, finished tourism - the main source of income generation of the area - sparked violence in other parts of the country, and stopped supply of essential raw materials from Swat like marble, gem and jewellery and furniture industries, besides fresh fruits, vegetables and other hilly food items to other parts of the country.

Lashari said that frequent bombings, deteriorating law and order situation and displacement of the local population, had taken a toll on the socio-economic fabric of the country, especially the embattled Northern areas. Due to deteriorating law and order situation and high political risk, the World Bank had blocked lending for two key loans, of at least 834 million dollars, market-based loans, which might increase serious economic problems for the country, he said.

Meanwhile, the experts say that since the start of the anti-terror campaign, an overall sense of uncertainty has prevailed in the country and it is at its peak in NWFP and Fata. It has contributed to capital flight and slowed down economic activities, making foreign investors jittery.

The foreign direct investment (FDI) has been adversely affected by the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign in Fata and other areas of the NWFP. Pakistan's participation in the international campaign has led to an excessive increase in the country's credit risk, due to which recently, the World Bank has lowered our credit rating, say the experts.

The former LCCI Senior President said that the business activity in NWFP was at its lowest ebbs and the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) had requested government to declare the province a war-affected zone. The SCCI chief said 3,500 industrial units were functioning in the province in 1995, while the number had shrunk to 600 in 2009, and that the terrorist activities had halted commercial activities.

Meanwhile, a Harvard study (December 2008) states that higher levels of terrorism risk are associated with lower levels of net FDI and Pakistan is not any exemption. In an integrated world economy, where investors are able to diversify their investments, terrorism may induce large movements of capital across countries.

According to the statistics of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), net foreign investment has declined by 13 percent during the first seven months of the current fiscal year, mainly due to massive outflow from portfolio investment due to of poor law and order situation and political instability in the country.

Net foreign investment has registered a decline of some 324 million dollars during the first seven months (July-January) of 2009 fiscal year. Massive outflow of 25.058 million dollars of foreign portfolio investment from the country's equity market was witnessed during the week ended on January 10, 2009. According to National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited (NCCPL) data, the cumulative outflow of this mode of investment had increased to 49.557 million dollars from January 1 to date.

The foreign portfolio investment has been witnessing a declining trend since the beginning of 2008, as a cumulative figure of this mode of investment has recorded negative 432.458 million dollars from January 1, 2008 to January 9, 2009.

It may be added that the government is engaged in a fierce war to regain the state's effective writ over thousands of kilometres area of Mingora, Buner, Charsadda, Bannu, Peshawar, Hangu, Mardan, Upper Dir, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat. The tribal agencies, Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan have also been under attacks during 2008.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

Markets forcibly closed

KARACHI (May 24 2009)

City's all markets were forcibly closed on Saturday allegedly by ethnic/political parties to make the strike a success. Several groups of armed persons were reportedly forcing shopkeepers to shut their businesses even in small residential areas. Later in the day all major markets gave a deserted look, particularly during noon hours.

Fear of also violence confined the citizens to their homes as private TV channels aired reports of terrorist incidents. The Chairman of Alliance Markets Association (AMA), Muhammad Atiq, told Business Recorder that armed persons had started forcing traders on Friday evening to shut businesses which left the markets without business the whole day.

He said that traders had, however, rejected the strike call, but fears of terror made them refrain from activity since early morning on Saturday. "People are terrified by the continued battles of the political parties in Karachi due to which any news on street riots makes them review their decision to open business amid strike, and today's situation reflects their fears about law and order situation that abandon trade and commercial activities," he said.

He expressed apprehensions over trade losses because of tense environment in Karachi, saying that about two billion rupees losses had been added to the country's ailing economy. He appealed to the leaders of all political parties to spare the trade and commercial activities from their strikes.

Atiq said that the daily wagers were major victims of these strikes, and the situation was likely to give rise to crimes and increasing unemployment in the city. The Chairman of Karachi Wholesalers Grocers Association, Anis Majeed, told Business Recorder that trade activity could not be resumed in the country's biggest grain market--Jodia Bazaar--as the situation become tense since Friday evening.

Fears of terrorist activities basically kept the traders away from resuming businesses, he said. A number of trucks loaded with grains reached the market but could not unload the commodities because the market was completely shut, and had to be stationed at nearby safe areas, he said, and added that grain supply to the city and upcountry also remained suspended.

The President of All Pakistan Organisation of Small Traders and Cottage Industry, Mehmood Hamid, told Business Recorder that since April 28, for about 11 days, the markets have remained closed because of strikes and holidays, which has caused huge losses.

He said that the country's exchequer also suffered billions of rupees of losses for bad law and order situation in Karachi. He condemned the forced closures of markets by unidentified armed persons. He said that cottage industry also suffered closures because of strikes and load shedding.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009
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BUDGET 2009-10: Rs 2.48 trillion outlay envisages 85 percent raise in development expenditure

ISLAMABAD (June 14 2009)

The Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, on Saturday unveiled the Federal Budget for 2009-10, according to which total outlay for the next fiscal year will be Rs 2.482 trillion, which is 23.5 percent higher than the budget estimates of 2008-09.

Rs 646 billion allocated for PSDP Rs 722.7 billion gap to be financed with Rs 264.9 billion foreign loan and Rs 457 billion domestic borrowing Rs 660 billion to go to debt servicing Rs 175 billion administrative expense

-- Reckons IMF conditionalities

-- Targets 4.9 percent fiscal deficit

-- Shows relatively moderate burden of new taxes

-- Seeks industry''s revival

The consolidated budget of the federal and provincial governments has been estimated at Rs 2.897 trillion, whereas total resources are estimated at Rs 2.174.9 trillion, with a consolidated budget deficit of Rs 722.7 billion, or 4.9 percent of GDP, which is 1.5 percent higher than what was agreed in the Letter of Intent (LoI) agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in March 2009.

This deficit will be financed by Rs 264.9 billion foreign and Rs 457.6 billion domestic loans. Analysts are of the view that the government may have agreed with the IMF team to slash the development program by the end of the year to meet the agreed target of budget deficit or may later renegotiate the target based on global economic performance.

Total resource availability during 2009-10 has been estimated at Rs 2.318 trillion, against Rs 1.836 trillion in the budget estimates of 2008-09. According to official budget documents, net revenue receipts for 2009-10 have been estimated at Rs 1.372 trillion, indicating an increase of 23.3 percent over the budget estimates of 2008-09.

The provincial share in federal revenue receipts is estimated at Rs 655 billion during 2009-10, which is 15.3 percent higher than the budget estimates for 2008-09. The capital receipts (net) for 2009-10 have been estimated at Rs 191 billion, against Rs 221 billion budget estimates of 2008-09.

The external receipts in 2009-10 are estimated at Rs 510 billion, which shows an increase of 70 percent over the budget estimates of 2008-09. The overall expenditure during 2009-10 has been estimated at Rs 2482 billion, of which the current expenditure is Rs 1699 billion, and development expenditure at Rs 803 billion.

Current expenditure shows an increase of 3.5 percent over the revised estimates of 2008-09, while development expenditure will increase by 68.1 percent in 2009-10 over the revised estimates of 2008-09. The share of current expenditure in total budgetary outlay for 2009-10 is 68.5 percent, as compared to 79 percent in the revised estimates for 2008-09.

The expenditure on General Public Services (inclusive of debt servicing transfer payments and superannuation allowance) is estimated at Rs 1189 billion, which is 70 percent of the current expenditure. The size of Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for 2009-10 is Rs 646 billion, while for other development expenditures an amount of Rs 157 billion has been allocated.

The PSDP shows an increase of 54 percent over the revised estimates 2008-09, which were mercilessly slashed during the current year to meet the budget deficit target agreed with the IMF. The provinces have been allocated an amount of Rs 200 billion for budget estimates 2009-10 in their PSDP.

An amount of Rs 25 billion has been allocated for Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) in the PSDP 2009-10. However, there are no foreign loans expected for this purpose in 2009-10. The budget for fiscal year 2008-09 was estimated a total of 31250 million rupees but the revised estimates gave a zero figure. It is not clear whether this is indicative of the donors'' backing out of their commitments.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009
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Default IMF distances itself from carbon tax

DAWN June 23, 2009 Tuesday
IMF distances itself from carbon tax
ISLAMABAD, June 22: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has got nothing to do with the imposition of carbon tax in the budget, a representative of the Fund said on Monday.
Terming it an internal decision, he said Pakistan’s economic team saw it as an easy revenue source, generating more than Rs 130 billion.

“We cannot dictate Pakistan to impose tax on any sector. However, revenue generation in Pakistan is by all standards very low,”said IMF’s Resident Representative to Pakistan Paul Ross.

Talking to newsmen after speaking at the Business School of National University of Science and Technology (NUST) on the role of the IMF, Mr Ross said tax-to-GDP ratio in Pakistan was around nine per cent, which was negligible among growing economies.

He said the IMF was focusing on tax administration reforms. He said that only one per cent of population was paying taxes in Pakistan.

The question of providing additional assistance of $4 billion would be decided by the fund’s board, Mr Ross said. He, however, added that donors had already pledged more than $5 billion in Tokyo for the next two years to revive growth.

He said Pakistan was facing serious balance of payments problems because of massive external shocks in terms of rise in oil and food prices, worsening security environment and policy inaction in the early part of this government.

Highlighting features of IMF's stabilisation programme, he said it yielded positive results, expecially in bringing down inflation to 14 per cent from 25 per cent.

Speaking to students of the business school, Mr Ross mentioned several challenges that Pakistan would have to confront, which would require a strong commitment from the country's political leadership.

One of the challenges, he said, was governance. "For maintaining strong economic growth, good governance will be critical."

islamabad, june 22: the international monetary fund (imf) has got nothing to do with the imposition of carbon tax in the budget, a repre- sentative of the fund said on monday. terming it an internal decision, he said pakis- tan’s economic team saw it as an easy revenue source, generating more than rs 130 billion. “we cannot dictate pakistan to impose tax on any sector. however, revenue generation in pakistan is by all standards very low,”said imf’s resident representative to pakistan paul ross. talking to newsmen after speaking at the business school of national university of science and technology (nust) on the role of the imf, mr ross said tax-to-gdp ratio in pakistan was around nine per cent, which was negligible among growing economies. he said the imf was focusing on tax administra- tion reforms. he said that only one per cent of pop- ulation was paying taxes in pakistan. the question of providing additional assistance of $4 billion would be decided by the fund’s board, mr ross said. he, however, added that donors had already pledged more than $5 billion in tokyo for the next two years to revive growth. he said pakistan was facing serious balance of payments problems because of massive external shocks in terms of rise in oil and food prices, wor- sening security environment and policy inaction in the early part of this government. highlighting features of imf's stabilisation pro- gramme, he said it yielded positive results, expe- cially in bringing down inflation to 14 per cent from 25 per cent. speaking to students of the business school, mr ross mentioned several challenges that pakistan would have to confront, which would require a strong commitment from the country's political leadership.
one of the challenges, he said, was governance. "for maintaining strong economic growth, good governance will be critical."
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Default Economic challenges facing pakistan

There is almost a consensus that the major economic challenges facing
Pakistan are rising poverty and unemployment, heavy external and domestic
indebtedness, high fiscal deficit and low investment. The debate has so therefore
focussed on the means to face these challenges and particularly on the ways to bring
about economic recovery.
The current debate about economic recovery in Pakistan has surprisingly
boiled down to a number of simplified observations. A group of commentators place
the blame squarely at the doors of the IMF and World Bank and this Government’s
sense of docility, submissiveness and helplessness against this powerful instrument
of Western (read: American) domination. Another group of ever dissatisfied and
perpetually critical writers who find every Government to be inept, attribute
malafide motives and lack of decisiveness in taking bold measures. A third group of
well-intentioned and economically literate observers, provide partial solutions
which make perfect sense if each is taken in isolation but can break the back of the
proverbial camel if they are lumped together. I would submit that there are no easy
solutions and the decisions made in choosing any one of the possible options involve
trade offs and choices, which in turn will create a different set of winners and losers.
I will like to focus today on a question which is uppermost on every body’s
mind: why have not things improved during the last 15 months according to
popular expectations?
First the decade of 1990s was a lost decade as far as Pakistan’s economic
development was concerned. Frequent political changes and lack of continuity in
policies, poor governance and the last May 1998 developments had together created
very difficult economic conditions in the country by October, 1999. Per Capita
economic growth rates had slided to 1 – 1.5 percent Investment rates had declined
from 20 to 15 percent of GDP, poverty had doubled from 17 to 34 percent, external
debt had doubled from $ 18 billion to $ 36 billion, debt servicing had risen to a level
where it claimed 56 percent of revenues, fiscal deficits were averaging about 6
percent of GDP, Development expenditures, particularly on education and health,
were curtailed by one half from 6 percent of GDP to 3 percent. In 1996 Pakistan
was declared the second most corrupt nation in the world. The challenge of
averting this slide and move the economy out of such critical conditions therefore
was extremely daunting. The task was made even more difficult by the initial
reaction of the international community to the change in the government and the
conflicting demands of various segments of population. Accountability, whereby all
those found guilty of corruption and malpractices in the past, was one of the major
demands articulated by the public at large and the media. But this created a
tension with the objective of economic revival as the businessmen and bankers felt
threatened by such moves.
The lingering dispute with Hubco had during the preceding three years,
damaged the investor friendly image of Pakistan. Foreign currency deposits of nonresident
Pakistanis had been frozen in May, 1998 and had antagonized this
important class of investor. Thus investor sentiment did not take a turn for better
and domestic and foreign investment which are key for economic revival did not
flow in to the levels we had expected.
Second, we have to decide as to whose expectations we are talking about.
Pakistan’s credibility was quite low both externally and particularly among the
International Financial Institutions and also domestically with the general public.
This Government had to make a policy decision whether it will seek assistance from
the International Financial Institutions or not. Until June 2000, the country was
able to manage its finances without any recourse to International Financial
Institutions. We serviced our debt and external obligations on time. We liberalized
our foreign exchange regime and restored the conditions prevailing before May
1998 without receiving any assistance from abroad. The exchange rate remained
stable without any major volatility. Interest rates were lowered by 4 percentage
points. Despite this, domestic investors remained shy, private sector demand for
credit was insignificant and the overall pace of economic activity did not pick up to
make any dent in unemployment which had risen during the last three to four years.
The most difficult challenge faced by the country today in the short term is
external liquidity problem i.e., the ability to meet its current obligations such as
imports of goods and services and meet all debt service obligations at the same time.
There is a gap between external receipts and external payments of about $ 2.5-3
billion annually for the next few years. To meet this gap Pakistan has to reschedule
its debt service obligations and find ways to obtain new concessional loans after
curtailing its expenditures and maximizing its revenues.
Those who accuse the present economic managers of toeing the lines of the
IMF, being totally submissive to their dictates and (in the eyes of some) acting as
agents of these institutions forget a simple fact : Pakistan has had more than half-a
dozen economic managers during the past 10 years, and some of them were
popularly elected politicians, others were technocrats or former bureaucrats who
had no past relationship whatsoever with the IMF or the World Bank.
Unfortunately they had to enter into as many as 11 agreements with IMF during
past 10 years, had to follow the same course of action and the same policy
prescriptions, even at the time when we did not have the urgent need to reschedule
Pakistan’s external debt. These managers also had the luxury of using foreign
currency deposits of residents and non-residents to finance the external deficit. They
borrowed short-term commercial loans to build up reserves. I am not trying to be
defensive but am laying out the facts that since May, 1998, the country has lost one
important source of external liquidity i.e., foreign currency deposits. This
Government has decided not to borrow short-term commercial debt for building up
reserves. Home remittances through official channels are down by $ 500 million
annually compared to the pre-May 1998 period. Foreign investment flows are down
to less than $ 400 million compared to average flows of $ 1 billion. Oil import prices
have shot up from $ 14-15 barrel to $ 28-$ 30 barrel and the oil import bill has
doubled from $ 1.3 billion to $ 2.6 billion in just one year. During the first half of
the current fiscal year, we have already imported oil worth $ 1.7 billion. Despite the
15-20 per cent increase in volume of our textile exports, the unit value of our
exports are down by 7-10 per cent on average. In this scenario, how can any one
keep the wheel of the economy moving in an orderly manner without recourse to
relief or injection by the International Financial Institutions. Japan and other
bilateral donors have also not come to our help as they had before May 1998.
No economic manager worth his grain will like to have his hands tied down
by external agencies, while he has to deliver according to the expectations of
domestic constituents. The sooner we are able to ween ourselves off the IMF
programmes the more liberated will be the economic managers of this country in
pursuing an independent course of action, which balances the interests of the
common man, the requirements of the global economy and, at the same time,
follow a prudent growth – oriented set of policies. It is not that we are not
committed to macro economic stabilization or removal of distortions from the
economy. But we need the flexibility to do so. I can assure this audience that the
present global environment in which we are expected to produce instantaneous
results is highly constrained and does not allow much room for maneuver.
As the debt rescheduling period was coming to an end in December 2000,
and the Government’s capacity to fully service its external debt had not improved
during the last 2 1/2 years period there were two options available – unilateral
moratorium or further rescheduling. The option of unilateral repudiation or
moratorium would have caused such enormous hardships for the country that it
would have been simply unbearable. How many of us could have tolerated the
prospect of PIA planes being seized at international airports, the requirement that
all our imports must be paid for in cash and the inflation rates running at 30-40
percent with scarcities and rationing all around. I do not think any Government
would like its citizens to go through this scenario. We therefore rejected this option
as we came to the conclusion that the situation would have been far worse and the
overall suffering to the population would have been more severe.
The second option of approaching the IMF has been severely criticised.
Many learned commentators have questioned why the economic team had to yield
to all the conditionalities imposed by the IMF. Why did not the country negotiate
softer conditions? As I mentioned our only motivation for entering into an
agreement with the IMF was to secure rescheduling of Pakistan’s external debt.
To retain its reputation as a vigilant watch dog, the IMF insisted, before
reaching an agreement, on tougher measures and upfront actions from the
government as we had displayed a poor track record in the past. Their management
was of the view that Pakistan had very low credibility as successive governments
had agreed on a number of conditions but these were either not fulfilled or partially
fulfilled. They wanted the present government to implement all those conditions as
prior actions before they could take the loan proposal to their Board. These prior
actions consisted of the free float of rupee, (without intervention by the State Bank
of Pakistan), agriculture income tax, GST on retail trade, GST on services,
deregulation of petroleum imports, linking domestic POL prices to international
prices, increase in consumer prices of gas, adjustment in electricity prices, widening
of the tax base, removal of the subsidies. Naturally the Government had little
choice – if it did not take these actions an agreement with the IMF could not be
reached and thus rescheduling would not have been possible. In other words, we
had to make up for our past lapses – all in one go. There are many on-going time
bound conditions that have to be met during the next 9 months, which are structural
in nature such as privatisation, restructuring of public corporations, financial
sector reforms and civil service reforms. While the fulfilment of these prior
conditions and conclusion of agreement with the IMF has restored the credibility of
Pakistan vis-a-vis International Financial Institutions, Paris Club and G-7
Governments and improved the market sentiment among credit rating agencies and
fund managers abroad, I must confess that it has not been widely welcomed
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Cool Economic Indicators (2008-2009)

Pakistan Economy
Economic Indicators (2008-2009)
Indicators 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 (Jul-Sept)
(Billion $) 9.13 11.16 12.31 14.39 16.47 17.01 19.22 1.49
(Jul 09)
(Billion $) 10.34 12.22 15.59 20.6 28.58 30.54 39.96 2.64
(Jul 09)
Trade Balance
(Billion $) (1.20) (1.06) (3.28) (6.21) (6.21) (6.21) (6.21) (1.15)
(Billion $) 484.7 798 949.4 1,524 3,521 5,125 5,152.80 0.46
Foreign Investment
(Billion $) 475 820 922 1,677 3,872 8,417 5,193.00 0.67
(Million $)
(FDI+Public &
Private Portfolio)
Workers Remittances 2.39 4.24 3.872 4.17 4.6 5.49 6.5 2.33
(Billion $)
Forex Reserves
(Billion $) 6.43 10.72 12.33 12.61 13.14 15.18 10.83
(24th July) 14.75
(12 Oct 09)
Exchange Rate
(Rs./ US$) 61 57.7 57.92 59.66 60.16 60.5 71 83.3
(19 Oct 09)
Stock Exchange Index 1,520 3,402 5,279 7,450 9,989 13,772 12,289.03
(June) 7872.23
(Aug 10-15, 2009)
GDP Growth 3.60% 5.10% 6.40% 8.40% 6.60% 7.00% 5.80% 2.00%
Inflation 3.40% 3.30% 3.90% 9.30% 8% 7.90% 10.30% 21%
Source: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)
Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS)
Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)
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Smile Banking on the banks

Banking on the banks
Oct 15th 2009
From The Economist print edition

The rescued may turn out to be rescuers

Illustration by S. KambayashiTHERE can be few more extraordinary sights than politicians indulging in a fit of tightfistedness ahead of an election. Normally party leaders compete to bribe voters with their own money. But the British party-conference season, the last before polls expected to take place in May or June, was dominated by a series of pledges to cut government spending.

The public has not driven this shift in tone. An Ipsos Mori poll in September found that only a quarter of Britons thought spending cuts were necessary. In America, where “tea party” anti-tax demonstrators have captured media attention, only 3% of respondents to a CBS News poll this month thought the deficit was the most important issue facing the country. Nor have markets forced politicians to put on their hair shirts. Governments are able to sell bonds yielding just 3-4%. Rather it is the sheer scale of government deficits that seems to have triggered the change. Both Britain and America have shortfalls of more than 10% of GDP, a level seen only during world wars.

Beyond saying that such a deficit is unsustainable, however, it is not obvious when a crisis point will be reached. How about a total government-debt level of 100% of GDP? Measured by gross financial liabilities (excluding the assets that governments might own) that level has already been surpassed by five OECD countries—Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Italy and Japan. Iceland aside, economic life in those countries seems to carry on.

There are three main fears about excessive government deficits. First, that the need to divert savings into buying public-sector debt will “crowd out” private-sector investment. Second, that servicing the debt will be a burden on future generations. And third, that governments will therefore be tempted into inflation or devaluation as a way of softening the blow.

The final two concerns mainly preoccupy countries that owe their debt to foreigners. To the extent that domestic borrowers are paying interest to domestic creditors, these problems should be manageable. Foreign debt is a much bigger headache, as the example of Iceland, a small country which assumed the foreign-currency debts of its banks, shows. Unlike Belgium, Greece and Italy, it does not have the shelter of euro membership. Unlike America it does not have the luxury of its debt being denominated purely in its own currency.

Eventually, of course, the high levels of British and American public debt will create problems with both countries’ creditors. But it is very hard to say when.

Worrying about a debt catastrophe may also draw attention away from the “crowding out” issue. This too is not a problem in the short term. A big reason why many economies have just experienced a recession is that the private sector has been unwilling (or unable) to borrow.

But in the medium term the British and American public sectors will still have big deficits to finance and may not want to depend on the kindness of sovereign-wealth managers. The temptation will be to lean on the banks. Proposed regulations (such as Britain’s new liquidity rules, unveiled earlier this month) will require banks to hold more government bonds. And one reason why central banks have kept interest rates so low is that it allows the banks to earn more money and rebuild capital by borrowing short term and investing the proceeds in higher-yielding longer-dated government bonds. The same trick was used by the Federal Reserve in the 1990s.

These tactics help the weekly government-debt auctions go with a swing. Barclays Capital estimates that banks in Britain and America have each bought around $240 billion of government debt over the past year. In Japan this trend is long-established. Morgan Stanley calculates that financial institutions (other than the Bank of Japan) bought ¥224 trillion ($2 trillion) of the ¥383 trillion of Japanese government bonds issued in the decade to 2008.

Like two drunks leaning against each other to stay upright, this leads to an odd symbiotic relationship in which governments have stepped in to rescue the banks, only for the banks in turn to finance the government. In the long run the danger is that this cosy relationship means lending is diverted away from productive private-sector projects and into government spending. Economic growth will be slower as a result.

A debt crisis, with Western governments defaulting or devaluing, is only one possible outcome. Japan shows another: a long period of stagnation in which debt constantly gnaws away at the economy like the eagle on Prometheus’s liver.
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Pakistan and Turkey to increase bilateral trade to $2 billion

ISLAMABAD (November 03 2009)

Pakistan and Turkey have agreed in principle to increase the level of bilateral trade to $2 billion from existing $700 million in a year. The understanding was reached during a meeting between the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Turkish counterpart Professor Dr Ahmet Davutoglu, held on the sidelines of D-8 Council of Ministers held in Kuala Lumpur, says a message issued here by Pakistan's High Commission in Malaysia.

Both sides also agreed to move forward on timeline basis for signing of Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and abolition of visa for businessmen between the two countries. Talking to the Turkish Foreign Minister, Qureshi expressed the confidence that the high-level consultative council established during the recent visit of Turkish Prime Minister, would function under the patronage of the two prime ministers.

Turkish Foreign Minister said that Turkey has been co-operating with certain other countries on the same lines and model. Qureshi requested the Turkish Foreign Minister to provide Pakistan with the successful model of cooperation, which Turkey consider successful for intensive co-operation with other countries. The framework for co-operation would be identified for future meetings of the ministers, which will precede before the Prime Ministers' meeting to finalise the areas of co-operation identified by the concerned ministers.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2009

vernment accords high priority to Fata uplift: Prime Minister

ISLAMABAD (November 03 2009)

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has said that government accords high priority to the development of Fata and ensured to increase funds for better health and education facilities besides infrastructure development. The Prime Minister said this while talking to a delegation of Fata MNAs led by their parliamentary leader Munir Khan Orakzai, which called on him at his Parliament House Chamber here on Monday.

The Prime Minister said the Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar has been already directed to oversee and monitor the implementation of the developmental work in Fata and to ensure better co-ordination, hold monthly meetings with the Fata Parliamentarians.-PR

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Pakistan pressing US for direct market access: Tarin
KARACHI (November 14 2009)

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said on Friday that Pakistan has been pressing hard on United States to provide a direct market access to its products in the shape of Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"We have talked to General Metthew John (US Assistant to Deputy Under Secretary) and categorically stated that we want direct market access along with the progress on the reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZs)", he said while talking to newsmen at Jinnah Terminal of Karachi Airport after seeing off the high powered US delegation led by Deputy Under Secretary for US Defence, Paul A. Brinkley.

Tarin said that he had told General John during the meeting today (Friday) that United States has signed FTA with 16 countries which are not that much strategic partners of US as Pakistan is. They included Jordan, Oman, Egypt, he added. He said that Pakistan was also seeking ROZs as well as GSP Plus from European Union, but at the same time we want FTA with US.

To a question the Federal Finance Minister said that the US had bogged down Pakistan in Bilateral Investment Treaty during the previous regime. Both the countries could have signed FTA had Pakistan been pressing for duty free access at that time, he noted.

"Now we are pressing very hard for direct market access so that our factories are run and employment is generated in the country", he said and added that it seems they (US) have now started understanding our point of view. "I have told them that Pakistani textile entrepreneurs might shift to Oman because US has provided them a duty free access. Oman is a country with a per capita income of $15,000 while Pakistan has a per capita of $1000 and there is no justification in depriving Pakistan of FTA." Shaukat Tarin noted that although it is a difficult job but we are focussing on FTA and trying aggressively for this access.

Responding to a question, the minister said that Pakistan would get $2 billion from Friends of Demoractic Pakistan (FoDP) this year. "We have already received commitments for $1.8 billion from FoDP which included $950 million from US, $380 million from Saudi Arabia, $300 million from Japan, $250 million from ADB", he added.

The Finance Minister said that there was no need to worry as Pakistan will have sufficient funds from its friends and this is the reason why Pakistan does not need a stand-by arrangement from IMF. Replying to another question, Tarin said that the back log of coalition support fund (CSF) has surged to $1.4 billion and Pakistan is expecting to get a tranche of $521 million in the next few days.

However, Pakistan is pressing to get $1.1 billion under coalition support fund this fiscal year, he maintained. Tarin said that war on terror was a priority and the government is committed to meet all its expenses.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2009

Government working on nine-point economic reforms agenda: Khar
ISLAMABAD (November 14 2009)

State Minister for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar on Friday informed the National Assembly that the government is working on nine-point economic reforms agenda to bring economy back on track for achieving GDP growth, which has been targeted at 3.3 percent during the current financial year.

Responding to questions raised by different members, she said that this policy framework encompasses long-term macro-economic stability with desired increase in productivity, besides doing away with the energy crisis and removing infrastructure bottlenecks through public-private partnership.

The government, she told the house, is working on a plan to convert the national savings into an independent organisation to make it more attractive by increasing return on deposits and to enlarge its resource base. She further said that 58,077 defaulters of House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC), with the default amounting Rs 6.4 billion, is adversely affecting the advancing of further loans to the poor masses living without shelter.

Responding to a query, she said that the government collected over Rs 112 billion on account of petroleum development levy during the last financial year. And the amount is mainly being used to make billions of rupees pending payments to oil companies as the commodity was subsidised for the benefit of the public.

Commerce Minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim informed the house that country's exports in the last three months have stood at $4.4 billion against the imports of $7.5 billion in the same period.

He said that the government has announced various initiatives in the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) to boost exports by exploring non-traditional areas. He said that the Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has allowed import of 600,000 tons of urea fertiliser, adding it has also been decided to give subsidy and sell at Rs 750 per 50 kg bag to the growers.

On the occasion, Privatisation Minister, Naveed Qamar informed the house that Benazir Employment Stocks Option (BESO) scheme is being implemented in all government owned organisations under which 12 percent shares are being transferred to the employees of the institutions.

Replying to questions about BlackWater in the country, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that there is no presence of BlackWater, saying Pakistan would not allow any foreign troops to launch any operation against terrorist groups inside Pakistan as its own forces are strong enough to deal with this menace effectively.

However, he said that some personnel of a US security company Dynacop are going to Afghanistan via Pakistan as the company is working in Kabul for security purposes. Moreover, he said these personnel are escorted by security agencies of Pakistan up to Afghan border and they are not allowed to stay in Pakistan. He assured the house that no foreigner would be allowed to carry and display unlicensed weapons, moreover, security agencies have been instructed to take strict action against those foreigners found violating the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

Balochistan package: minister appreciates government decision
LAHORE (November 14 2009)

Punjab Finance Minister Tanvir Ashraf Kaira has said that the government's decision to take political leadership in confidence on Balochistan package is a positive step. While talking to media here on Friday, the minister said this step would boost harmony in all circles of Balochistan.

"It would not only promote political reconciliation but also highlight the major issues faced by the people in the province. "The meeting between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and PML-N leader Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is a positive step and it would strengthen political system. I hope that the contact between the two major parties would continue in future. "All political forces are united in stabilising democratic institutions," he added.

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Malaysia, Pakistan to enhance investment opportunities
ISLAMABAD (November 19 2009)

Malaysia and Pakistan have agreed to explore and enhance mutual investment opportunities through an interactive co-ordination between the Pakistan Board of Investment and the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida).

According to an official statement, Secretary Ministry of Investment, Board of Investment (BoI), Tariq Iqbal Puri during his recent official visit to Malaysia along with a high level delegation both the brethren counties were agreed to explore investment opportunities and areas of mutual co-ordination.

The statement added that during a meeting between Tariq Iqbal Puri and Dato Wahab Hamid, Deputy Director General Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida), it was decided to share investment intelligence and encourage cross border investors and intend technical co-operation between the two sister organisations.

The Secretary appreciated the role played by the Mida in the economic stability of Malaysia and told his counterpart that BoI will also consider seriously to follow the steps taken by Mida in regard to promote investment.

One striking feature that has helped the improved effectiveness of Mda is "One Window Operation," which ensures close co-ordination among Immigration, Environment, Telecom, Customs, Labour and Power departments with a change mode from regulation to facilitation.

Investment Counsellor, Dato Muhood. Salim Bin Fateh Din hosted the investor roundtable meeting in his office. Courtesy Pakistan HIC and Pakistan Commercial Counsellors, Pakistan Mission Kuala Lumpur the meeting was attended by prominent business houses like DRB-HICOM Berhad, Renexus (M) Sdn Bhd, MMC Corporation Berhad, Pollution Engineering Sdn Bhd, Bina puri Holdings Bhd, Tenaga National Berhad (TNB), MayBank, Padibernas Nasional Berhad (Bernas).

The Secretary, Ministry of Investment explained the purpose of his visit and methodology, which is to be adopted during the interactive session. Thereafter, leading entrepreneurs in Agriculture, Energy, Housing & Construction, Oil & Gas and Financial sectors were taken up individually and an extremely candid approach was adopted to explain investment potentials, incentives and functional modalities of each sector.

During a visit to Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) the General Manager explained the organisational and working modalities of the Port. The facility is based on integrated concept of port cum free industrial zone. Being in close proximity to Kuala Lumpur one could envisage its viability in the area of commerce, trade and industrial activity.

In spite of being quite young among its competitors it is ranked 16th in the container intensity. Later in the day, the delegation proceeded to Meat Value Addition Unit and Abattoir to benefit from their working experience in Hilal Food, since Malaysia is a big name in the region.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

Foreign investment declines

KARACHI (November 19 2009)

The foreign direct investment (FDI) is continuously on the decline for last few months and it posted a decline of 53 percent during the first four months of the current fiscal year. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Wednesday said that FDI at 621.8 million dollars during the first four months (July-October) of current fiscal year 2009-10, registered a decline of 707.7 million dollars, or 53.2 percent from 1.329 billion dollars in the same period of last fiscal year 2008-09.

However, portfolio investment during this period posted a surge of 266 percent due to some improvement in the equity market. Portfolio investment surged to 288.4 million dollars in July-October of fiscal year 2009-10 against a negative position of 173.9 million dollars in corresponding period of fiscal year 2008-09. Net foreign investment, comprising foreign direct investment and portfolio investment registered a decline of 21.2 percent to 910.1 million dollars during the first four months of fiscal year 2010.

Including privatisation: proceeds, total private investment posted a decline of 19.8 percent to 940.4 million dollars in July-October of 2009 previously stood at 1.172 billion dollar in same period of 2008. Economists said that the country has failed to capitalise on the improvement of economic and political side in attracting more foreign investment as war in the Northern areas badly damaged the country's image.

"Domestic shocks like power shortage, worst law and order situation and uncertainty on the political front have largely hurt the foreign direct investment," they added. They said that after the financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), investors had rejoined Pakistan's equity market by investing their capital. Therefore, some increase was witnessed in portfolio investment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

Minister directs industrialists to pay Site Limited dues
KARACHI (November 19 2009)

Provincial Minister for Industries and Commerce, Rauf Siddiqui has warned industrialists to pay Site Ltd dues otherwise NOC for industrial units transfer letters and new connection of utilities such as power and gas would not be issued.

Talking to newsmen after meeting with Site Association of Industry (SAI) on Wednesday, he said, that Site Ltd have been facing serious financial problems and these problems may have negative impact on the ongoing development work in Site industrial area, Site Super Highway and Korti industrial areas.

He said that around Rs 600 million are due from industrialists of Site industrial area and added that if Site Ltd gets these dues it would continue its development work smoothly. He said that it is also under consideration that Site Ltd should abolish subsiding water supply provided to site industrial area to ease its financial crises.

Speaking at the meeting he was of the view that the industrialists are not interested to get their problems resolved. He stressed that they must start taking interest to get their problems resolved. He advised industrialists to make efforts to remove encroachment in their areas.

He said that laying a bigger pipeline needs around Rs one arab and hoped that its PC-1 would be prepared soon. Chairman, Site Association, Saleem Parikh said that industries are facing serious water shortage which ultimately has negative impact on production.

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Punjab Investment Gala: PBIT invites Karachi businessmen
LAHORE (November 22 2009

Consultant to Chief Minister Punjab on Economic Affairs and Vice Chairman Punjab Board of Investment and Trade (PBIT) Pir Saad Ahsanuddin has formally invited leading Karachi businessmen on behalf of the Chief Minster Punjab to Punjab Investment Conference to be held in January next year.

This invitation was extended to businessmen from Karachi Stock market, Presidents of multinational private sector organisations, heads of business forums and leading traders in Karachi, including Syed Salim Raza, Governor State Bank, Arif Habib (Arif Habib Group), Arif Bokhari (UBL) and Shehzad Naqvi (RBS) and other notable during Pir Saad's meetings with them, says a hand out issued here on Saturday.

The vice-chairman PBIT apprised the Karachi investors that Punjab had a necessary infrastructure for local and foreign investment. Above all, business-friendly policies had been introduced to expedite the pace of economic growth under the leadership of Punjab Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif.

He further said that the PBIT had outreached local and foreign investors to identify areas of facilitation they require from the Punjab government. The PBIT was providing one-window operation to the investors and businessmen to initiate fresh projects in the province, he said. -PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2009

Foreign debt, liabilities touch new peak
KARACHI (November 22 2009)

The country's external debts and liabilities have posted a raise of some three billion dollars to a new peak of 55.2 billion dollars by end of September 2009 mainly due to International Monetary Fund's (IMF) standby loan package to avert balance of payments crisis.

The State Bank of Pakistan on Saturday said that the country's external debt and liabilities had been consistently climbing for past few years and overall an increase of 2.888 billion dollars was registered in external debts and liabilities during the first quarter (July-Sep) of current fiscal year. After the current upsurge, overall external debts and liabilities reached new high at 55.216 billion dollars as on September 30, 2009, against 52.333billion dollars at the end of last fiscal year.

"As per Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, 2005, the government has to reduce its foreign debt by 2.5 percent of GDP every year. However, during last two years, due to the global economic meltdown, slow foreign investment and poor economic activities on domestic front the government failed to reduce the foreign debts," economists said.

On the one hand Pakistan is facing problems for reimbursement payments from the US, while on the other the current account deficit is on the rise, which compelled the government for fresh borrowings, they said. The country's external debts registered an increase of 3.03 billion dollars, to 53.794 billion dollars from 50.759 billion dollars during first three months of current fiscal year.

Foreign exchange liabilities depicted a slight decrease, of 152 million dollars, during the first quarter of current fiscal year. Foreign liabilities decreased to 1.422 billion dollars by the end of September 2009 as against 1.574 billion dollars as on June 30, 2009.

Foreign debts, as per ratio, also rose to 33 percent of overall GDP during July-Sep of fiscal year 2009, as at present GDP size is about 162.5 billion dollars. Major increase has been witnessed in the medium and long term debts, which posted an increase of 1.79 billion dollars, to 43.168 billion dollars from 41.459 billion dollars by the end of September 2009.

Similarly, during the same period with an increase of 2.13 billion dollars, the country's overall foreign exchange reserves stood at 11.221 billion dollars, up from 9.118 billion dollars. The major surge was witnessed after standby loan agreement with IMF and so far Pakistan has received some 4 billion dollars of 7.6 billion dollars program, while another payment of fourth tranche worth of 1.2 billion dollars is expected by the end of November 2009.

Economists said that rising current account deficit had compelled the government to go for fresh borrowings from internal and external sources. Therefore, overall debt burden is increasing gradually. The country has already requested for another loan of 4 billion dollars, which has also been approved by the IMF board in its recent meeting. Therefore, it is expected that during the current fiscal year the country's debt would show further increase.

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