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IMF ‘not interested’ in releasing loan money to Pakistan: Miftah Ismail

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  • Ishaq Dar has “sabotaged IMF agreement”, says ex-finance czar.
  • Miftah Ismail also claims IMF doesn’t trust Pakistan now.
  • “If Pakistan defaults it will be a grave situation.” 

As Pakistan continues to woo the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure the much-needed bailout from the global lender, former finance minister Miftah Ismail claimed that the Washington-based lender is “not interested” in giving money to the cash-strapped nation.

Pakistan is now the only South Asian country that’s yet to secure a bailout from the multilateral lender as Sri Lanka clinched financing this week and Bangladesh pushes on with carrying out IMF-mandated reforms.

Pakistan has taken tough measures including increasing taxes and energy prices, and allowing its currency to weaken to restart a $6.5 billion IMF loan package. The funds will offer some relief to a nation still reeling from a dollar shortage that has raised the probability of the economy slipping into a recession ahead of elections this year.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Miftah, while speaking during a session titled ‘Pakistan in the midst of crisis’ organised by a private university in Karachi, said that when he was heading the Ministry of Finance, he spoke to the IMF officials and assured them that Pakistan would not make false statements or violate the agreement; however, when Ishar Dar was sworn in “he sabotaged the agreement”.

He recalled that Pakistan has three times made sovereign commitments and has then gone back on them.

“Now the IMF is not interested in giving money to Pakistan,” he said, emphasising that the Washington-based lender doesn’t trust the government in Islamabad. 

‘Petrol subsidy formula not effective’

Regarding the petrol relief subsidy announced by the government on Sunday, Miftah said that he believes this formula would not be effective.

“We provide subsidies on petrol by taking loans,” he said. Since the government announced the petroleum subsidy — which initially amounted to Rs50 per litre amount and was later increased to Rs100 per litre — several red flags were raised as analysts and economic experts have been criticising the move as it may jeopardise the ongoing struggle to convince the IMF board.

IMF’s resident representative for Pakistan Esther Perez Ruiz had also clarified that said the Washington-based lender wasn’t consulted on the government’s plan to raise fuel prices for wealthier motorists to finance a subsidy for lower-income people.

“Fund staff are seeking greater details on the scheme in terms of its operation, cost, targeting, protections against fraud and abuse, and offsetting measures, and will carefully discuss these elements with the authorities,” she said.

This is not the first time petrol price subsidies have been a sticking point for the IMF. The previous government led by former premier Imran Khan had given out petrol subsidies, which stalled the IMF programme last year.

Warning of the risks, Miftah mentioned that if Pakistan defaults it will be a grave situation for the country as people belonging to the rich segment will bear the brunt but the poor people won’t be able to make ends meet.

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Gold rate declines for second consecutive day

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  • 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. 

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France launching electric car battery factory to dent Chinese dominance

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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.

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Govt mulls slashing duty on mobile phones in budget

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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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