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High food, petrol prices can trigger protests in Pakistan, warns IMF

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  • IMF releases executive summary of seventh and eighth reviews.
  • “High food, fuel prices could prompt social protest, instability.”
  • IMF says PTI’s subsidy package led to missing end-June fiscal target.

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned against protests and instability in Pakistan amid rising inflation — which just hit a 47-year-high in August.

Pakistan’s inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) has hit a 47-year high, accelerating to 27.3% in August 2022, the level last seen in May 1975. The full impact of massive flooding on the prices of food items and other commodities is yet to come.

“High food and fuel prices could prompt social protest and instability,” the IMF said, in an executive summary of the seventh and eighth reviews, released under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

The IMF Executive Board earlier this week approved the seventh and eighth review of the stalled $6 billion Pakistan programme, and two days later on Wednesday, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) received the much-needed $1.16 billion deposit.

The funds were received after Pakistan caved to several demands of the IMF for fiscal tightening. The Fund has also asked the country to ensure several measures after receiving the loan.

The report said that risks to the outlook and programme implementation remain high and tilted to the downside given the very complex domestic and external environment.

It said that the spillovers from the war in Ukraine through high food and fuel prices, and tighter global financial conditions will continue to weigh on Pakistan’s economy, pressuring the exchange rate and external stability.

The report further said that policy slippages remain a risk, as evident in FY22, amplified by weak capacity and powerful vested interests, with the timing of elections uncertain given the complex political setting.

Apart from the risks of protests, socio-political pressures are expected to remain high and could also weigh on policy and reform implementation, especially given the tenuous political coalition and their slim majority in Parliament, the report said.

“All this could affect policy decisions and undermine the program’s fiscal adjustment strategy, jeopardising macro-financial and external stability and debt sustainability,” it said.

Moreover, elevated near-term domestic financing needs may overstretch the financial sector’s absorption capacity and cause market disruption.

The IMF said substantial risks stem from higher interest rates, a larger-than-expected growth slowdown, pressures on the exchange rate, renewed policy reversals, weaker medium-term growth, and contingent liabilities related to state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“Further delays on structural reforms, especially those related to the financial sector (resolving undercapitalised banks and winding down SBPs involvement in the refinancing schemes), could hamper financial sector stability and reduce the effectiveness of the monetary policy. Finally, climate change risks are mounting, including a tendency for more frequent climate-related disasters.”

‘Significant fiscal slippages’

The report also mentioned that the former government of PTI granted a four-month “relief package” in late February that reversed commitments to fiscal discipline made earlier in the year.

The largely untargeted package reduced petrol and diesel prices (through a generous general subsidy and setting fuel taxes at zero taxation); lowered electricity tariffs by Rs5/kwh for almost all households and commercial consumers; and provided tax exemptions and a tax amnesty.

“These measures were accompanied by the deferral of regular electricity tariff increases, as well as increases in the minimum wage and public wages and pensions, and additional food subsidies,” it said.

The retention of these measures, as well as additional slippages in the third and fourth quarters, widened the FY22 fiscal deficit by more than one-and-a-half percent of GDP — missing the end-June fiscal target by a wide margin, the IMF report said.

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Tourism boom: During Eidul Azha, more than 400,000 people travel to KP

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Over 400,000 people travelled to several beautiful locations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between June 17 and June 19, celebrating the recently ended Eidul Azha festivities.

With over 174,000 visitors in one day, Naran Kaghan emerged as the most popular location. Visitors looking for a getaway from the city are still drawn to Naran Kaghan’s calm scenery and charming valleys.

A total of 162,000 visitors to Galiyat took in the city’s rich history at its cultural institutions and historical landmarks. In addition, more than 46,000 people visited Malam Jabba in Swat, and 23,000 people visited Upper Dir to take in its stunning surroundings.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is becoming a popular domestic vacation destination due to its unique combination of natural beauty, cultural legacy, and adventure options, as seen by the rise in visitor numbers.

Businesses and local government agencies have been collaborating to make sure tourists have an unforgettable time while appropriately handling the inflow.

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Pakistan currently has $14.41 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

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In a statement, the central bank stated that as of June 14, 2024, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stood at $9.135 billion, following the increase.

The announcement also stated, “SBP reserves increased by US$ 31 million to US$ 9,134.7 million during the week ended on June 14, 2024.”

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stated that the nation had $14.415 billion in total liquid foreign reserves. Commercial banks own $5.28 billion of the total in net foreign reserves.

It was announced earlier on June 13 that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves reached US$14.38 billion, up US$168 million in the first week of June.

Pakistan’s reserves held by commercial banks rose by US$174 million to $5.28 billion for the week that ended on June 7, according to a statement released by the central bank.

The SBP now has US$9.10 billion in reserves, down US$6.2 million from before. The central bank did not provide an explanation for why its reserves fell.

“SBP reserves decreased by US$ 6 million to US$ 9,103.3 million during the week ended on July 7, 2024,” the SBP said in a statement.

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In a first for history, PSX crosses the 77,000 milestone.

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At 77,213.31, the benchmark KSE-100 hit an all-time high, up 1,005.15, or 1.32%, from the previous close of 76,208.16.

The government’s readiness to seal an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following the budget was cited by analysts as the reason for the upward trend.

Experts anticipate that in an attempt to bolster its position for a fresh bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the budget for the fiscal year ending in June 2025 would set aggressive fiscal goals.

Budget for Pakistan, 2024–2025
Pakistan’s budget for the fiscal year 2024–25, with a total expenditure of Rs18.877 trillion, was presented on Wednesday by Minister of Finance and Revenue Muhammad Aurangzeb.

The Finance Minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, outlined the budget highlights. He stated that the GDP growth target for the fiscal year 2024–25 is set at 3.6 percent, while the inflation rate is anticipated to stay at 12 percent.

He stated that while the primary surplus is anticipated to be 1.0 percent of GDP during the review period, the budget deficit to GDP is forecast to be 6.9 percent over the period under review.

According to the minister, tax income collection increased by 38% in the current fiscal year, and the province will receive Rs7,438 billion. The Federal Board of income expects to earn Rs12,970 billion in revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.

In contrast to the federal government’s projected net income of Rs9,119 billion, he stated that the federation’s non-tax revenue projections are set at Rs3,587 billion.

The federal government’s total outlays are projected to be Rs18,877 billion, with interest payments accounting for the remaining Rs9,775 billion.

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