Chinese bank deposits another $500m to Pakistan
- Ishaq Dar says SBP received the amount in its account.
- Second disbursement part of $1.3 billion facility.
- Finance czar hopes $500m will shore up forex reserves.
Pakistan on Friday received $500 million — the second disbursement of the $1.3 billion facility — from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).
Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Senator Ishaq Dar announced the development on his Twitter handle.
He wrote: “State Bank of Pakistan has received today in its account from Chinese Bank ICBC $500 million. It will shore up the forex reserves of Pakistan. AlhamdoLilah!”
The second critical disbursement from the Chinese bank came after Pakistan completed the necessary documentation.
Earlier this month, the Chinese lender had approved a rollover of a $1.3 billion loan for Pakistan.
Following the announcement, the Chinese bank deposited $500 million — the first disbursement — on March 4 which helped the foreign exchange reserves surpass the $4 billion mark.
The cash-strapped country has faced growing economic challenges, with high inflation, sliding forex reserves, a widening current account deficit and a depreciating currency.
Earlier, Dar — who took charge of the finance ministry in September last year — said that Pakistan has made payments of around $5.5 billion (excluding the $1 billion sukuk payment). These include $2 billion to China Development Bank and ICBC and $3.5 billion have been given to banks in other countries.
“Debt is usually rolled over but the debt stock does not reduce. We are reducing debt stock,” he had said. “Formalities with ICBC were completed last night. We returned $1.3 billion to it and this facility has been renewed and we will receive the amount back in three tranches.”
“We paid back $1.3 billion in three tranches — $500 million, $500 million and $300 million. We will receive it back the same way. Pakistan will get $500 million in two-three days. We might receive it on Monday. Then we will get an additional $500 million in 10 days.”
Foreign exchange reserves were at $4.3 billion as of March 10, just enough for less than a month of imports. While the liquid foreign exchange reserves stand at around $9.8 billion which includes $5.5 billion in net reserves held by commercial banks.
A report published in The News stated that a Chinese bank has given assurances it will provide another refinanced $500 million loan within the next few days, bringing the total of commercial loans up to $1.7 billion out of the total committed amount of $2 billion.
The Pakistani authorities are running from pillar to post to get 100% confirmation from friendly donor countries and multilateral creditors before moving toward striking a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It was the unwritten condition of the IMF that Pakistan must secure the refinancing of commercial loans as well as a rollover on deposits from China during the programme period, which is scheduled to expire in June 2023.
“Another $500 million commercial loan is coming from a Chinese bank,” a top official of the Finance Division confirmed on Wednesday and added that it would be done soon.
Chinese banks have already provided re-financing of $1.2 billion in commercial loans in the past few weeks, and now Beijing has given an assurance on another $500 million in loan re-financing in the next few days.
It is relevant to mention that Pakistan had also requested to grant rollover on the Chinese SAFE deposit of $2 billion within the ongoing month.
All these, the refinancing of commercial loans and rollovers on SAFE deposits, are pre-requisite for moving towards the signing of a staff-level agreement between the IMF and Pakistani side.
Now Pakistani authorities are anxiously waiting for confirmation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, as well as from the World Bank and the AIIB, for fulfilling their external financing needs of $6 billion until the end of June 2023.
Gold rate declines for second consecutive day
- Rate of gold reaches Rs232,800 per tola.
- International rate up by $11 per ounce.
- The silver price remains unchanged.
Despite an increase in the international rate, gold’s value declined in Pakistan for the second consecutive day Tuesday.
Data provided by the All Pakistan Sarafa Gems and Jewellers Association (APSGJA) showed the price of gold (24 carats) decreased by Rs1,700 per tola and Rs1,458 per 10 grams to reach Rs232,800 and Rs199,588, respectively.
The gold rate cumulatively lost Rs1,100 per tola last week, and a further Rs1,700 on the opening day this week.
Meanwhile, the international price went up $11 to settle at $1,956 per ounce.
The safe-haven bullion’s value has remained volatile in the international market recently. However, it bounced back from its lowest level in over two months Tuesday after the US dollar’s value declined from a high and investors remained anxious about negotiations on the US debt ceiling.
If the debt ceiling — which is currently capped at $31.4 trillion — is not raised in the next few days, it would trigger the first-ever US default.
Investors also remained wary about a possible hike in the interest rate, which would negatively affect gold’s value.
Meanwhile, the gold rate has been volatile in Pakistan recently amid continued political and economic uncertainty, high inflation, and currency depreciation. People prefer to buy the yellow metal in such times as a safe investment and a hedge.
The rupee gained Re0.07 or 0.02% against the US dollar in the interbank market Tuesday, closing at Rs285.35, according to State Bank of Pakistan data.
Data shared by the jeweller’s body showed that the rate of silver remained unchanged at Rs2,850 per tola and Rs2,443.41 per 20 grams, respectively.
France launching electric car battery factory to dent Chinese dominance
Under a plan of reindustrialisation by President Emmanuel Macron, France is to inaugurate a factory for manufacturing batteries for electric cars Tuesday in Billy-Berclau — the first of its kind — challenging the Chinese dominance in the industry, according to an AFP report.
Battery industry buildup is a component of the plan by Macron with a clutch of factories set to emerge in the north of the country over the next three years.
The “gigafactory” is owned by Automotive Cells Company, a partnership between French energy giant TotalEnergies, Germany’s Mercedes-Benz and US-European automaker Stellantis, which produces a range of brands including Peugeot, Fiat and Chrysler.
The inauguration will be attended by French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and the country’s energy transition and industry ministers along with German and Italian officials.
The heads of Mercedes, Stellantis and TotalEnergies will also be at the event.
The factory is as large as football pitches in which production will commence this summer.
Elected officials and business leaders intend to turn the Hauts-de-France region into “Battery Valley” — the electric car industry’s answer to Silicon Valley.
AESC-Envision — a Sino-Japanese group — is building a plant near the city of Douai which will supply French automaker Renault from early 2025.
French startup Verkor is scheduled to begin production at a facility in Dunkirk from mid-2025 while Taiwan’s ProLogium has also chosen the coastal city for its first European factory, with output to start in 2026.
Competition between US and China
As European Union (EU) has marked a deadline of 2035 to phase out fossil fuel-run cars, the countries are racing to step up the production of batteries and electric vehicles to meet the target of electric vehicles within the deadline.
In recent years, around 50 battery factory projects have been announced in the EU and the French government has set a target of producing two million electric vehicles per year by 2030, as per the economy ministry.
The ministry said that “the ACC plant will supply 500,000 vehicles per year by then.”
China is the world leader in electric car battery production and also dominates the production of the raw materials needed to make them.
Europe also faces stiff competition from the United States, which is heavily subsidising the sector through the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $370 billion in clean energy incentives.
Govt mulls slashing duty on mobile phones in budget
ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is mulling options to reduce the duty on mobile phones in the federal budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 — which is expected to be unveiled on June 9 — keeping in view the suggestions of Pakistan Mobile Phone Traders, The News reported Monday.
Previously, the government was obliged to raise the duty on mobile phones by 100% to 150%, and resultantly, only Rs5 billion to Rs10 billion were being deposited in the national exchequer instead of Rs85 billion.
The number of mobile phone users in Pakistan has exceeded 186.9 million.
In order to cope with the financial crisis of the current financial year, in the new budget, a proposal for a conspicuous reduction in the rates of duties on cellular phones is under consideration, which is about 100% to 150% at present on small and big mobile phones.
The mobile industry is on the brink of collapse due to an increase in taxes. It not only affected traders but also made the life of millions of people difficult to earn a livelihood.
It has been learnt that a delegation of the Mobile Phones Traders Association has given recommendations to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and other senior officials.
The delegation ensured that efforts would be made to include the recommendations in the budget. These proposals and recommendations are being reviewed to make them a part of the new budget.
It has been learnt that a 75% duty was imposed on cellular phones in Pakistan as compared to other countries of the region like Singapore, Bangladesh and Turkey where it is not at that level. That is the reason people are using smartphones without paying duties in connivance with FBR.
The additional 100% to 150% duty on cell phones has made it out of reach of the poor, labourers, daily wagers, students, professionals, the lawyer community, and civil society.
All Pakistan Mobile Phones Traders Association General Secretary Munir Beg Mirza said that due to the ban on the import of used mobile phones, smuggling has increased to give favour to a few companies.
Also, people are using smartphones illegally without paying heavy taxes to enjoy all functions of smartphones, which is inflicting a loss on the national kitty.
He said that not only every consumer would pay tax but also the government would get Rs100 billion instead of Rs5 billion on phones if an appropriate duty was imposed in the new financial year.
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