IMF cuts Pakistan’s GDP growth rate to 0.5% for FY23
- IMF says CAD to clock in at 2.3% in FY23 and 2.4% in FY24.
- Close to 90% of advanced economies will experience slowing growth.
- Most countries will avoid a recession in current fiscal year.
As the economic situation remains gloomy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed Pakistan’s real GDP growth rate projection from 2% to 0.5% for the current fiscal year.
In the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released on Tuesday, the IMF forecast that the country’s GDP growth rate would be 3.5% in fiscal year 2024. In its last report issued in January, the lender had downgraded the growth projection to 2% from 3.5%.
The IMF report forecast that inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), would be recorded around 27.1% in FY23 and fall to 21.9% in FY24.
Meanwhile, the current account deficit (CAD) was forecast to clock in at 2.3% and 2.4% in FY23 and FY24, respectively.
The IMF’s downgrading comes days after the World Bank and Asian Development Bank lowered Pakistan’s growth rate projections to 0.4% and 0.6%, respectively.
The country’s economy has been struggling to recover, with inflation at a decades-high level and several companies shutting down or reducing operations citing the economic situation. The delay in the release of an economic bailout by the IMF is adding to the uncertain situation.
The international lender lowered its outlook for the global economy as well, while predicting that most countries would avoid a recession this year despite economic and geopolitical concerns.
The IMF predicted the global economy would grow by 2.8% this year and 3% in 2024, a decline of 0.1% from its previous forecasts in January.
“The global economy is recovering from the shocks of the last few years, and particularly of course the pandemic, but also the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said in a press briefing ahead of the report’s release.
The leadership of the World Bank and IMF hope to use this year’s spring meetings to promote an ambitious reform and fundraising agenda.
But their efforts will likely be overshadowed by concerns among member states over high inflation, rising geopolitical tension, and financial stability.
Advanced economies drag down growth
The overall picture painted by the WEO is a gloomy one, with global growth forecast to slow in both the short and medium terms.
Close to 90% of advanced economies will experience slowing growth this year, while Asia’s emerging markets are expected to see a substantial rise in economic output — with India and China predicted to account for half of all growth, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva said last week.
Low-income countries, meanwhile, are expected to suffer a double shock from higher borrowing costs due to high-interest rates, and a decline in demand for their exports, Georgieva said. This could worsen poverty and hunger.
The IMF expects global inflation to slow to 7% this year, down from 8.7% last year, according to the WEO forecasts.
This figure remains significantly above the 2% target set by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world, suggesting monetary policymakers have a long way to go before inflation is brought back under control.
The IMF’s baseline forecasts assume that the financial instability sparked by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank last month has been broadly contained by the “forceful actions” of regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, Gourinchas told reporters.
But he added that central banks and policymakers have an important role to play to buttress financial stability going forward.
Poor productivity weighs on medium-term outlook
Looking forward, the IMF forecasts that global growth will fall to 3% in 2028, its lowest medium-term forecast since the 1990s.
Slowing population growth and the end of the era of economic catch-up by several countries including China and South Korea are a large part of the expected slowdown, as are concerns about low productivity in many countries, according to Daniel Leigh, who heads the World Economic Studies division in the IMF’s Research Department.
“A lot of the low-hanging fruit was picked,” he told reporters ahead of the publication of the World Economic Outlook.
“On top of that now, with the geopolitical tensions and fragmentation, this is going to also weigh on growth,” he said.
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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