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Monetary policy: SBP jacks up interest rate to 15% — highest since November 2008

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  • SBP has cumulatively increased the rate by 800 basis points since Sept 2021 to control inflation.
  • MPC to meet next on August 22; will carefully monitor developments affecting prospects for inflation.
  • Central bank expects rate hike to help prevent de-anchoring of inflation expectations, provide support to rupee.

KARACHI: In line with the market expectation, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Thursday aggressively raised the benchmark interest rate by a massive 125 basis points to 15% — the highest since November 2008.

The rate hike came as the coalition government is trying hard to revive the much-awaited International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of a $6-billion loan programme that had been stalled since early April.

The central bank has cumulatively increased the rate by 800 basis points since September 2021 to control inflation and narrow the current account deficit.

During today’s meeting, under the chair of Acting Governor Dr Murtaza Syed, it was decided that the interest rates on export finance scheme (EFS) and long-term financing facility (LTFF) loans are now being linked to the policy rate to strengthen monetary policy transmission while continuing to incentivise exports by presently offering a discount of 500 basis points relative to the policy rate.

According to a statement issued by the central bank, this combined action continues the monetary tightening underway since last September, “which is aimed at ensuring a soft landing of the economy amid an exceptionally challenging and uncertain global environment.”

“It should help cool economic activity, prevent a de-anchoring of inflation expectations and provide support to the rupee in the wake of multi-year high inflation and record imports,” the statement read.

Three major developments since May

The central bank noted that since the last meeting, the Monetary Policy Committee noted “three encouraging developments”.

  • The unsustainable energy subsidy package was reversed and an FY23 budget centered on strong fiscal consolidation was passed which has paved the way for completion of the on-going review of IMF programme
  • A $2.3 billion commercial loan from China helped provide support to foreign exchange reserves, which had been falling since January due to current account pressures, external debt repayments and paucity of fresh foreign inflows
  • Economic activity remained robust, with the momentum of the last two years of near 6% growth carrying into the start of FY23.

However, the MPC noted that several adverse developments overshadowed this aforementioned positive news.

It stated that globally, inflation is at multi-decade highs in most countries and central banks are responding aggressively, leading to depreciation pressure on most emerging market currencies. While domestically, as energy subsidies were reversed, both headline and core inflation increased significantly in June, rising to a 14-year high.

‘Pakistan facing large negative income shock’

“Against this challenging backdrop, the MPC noted the importance of strong, timely and credible policy actions to moderate domestic demand, prevent a compounding of inflationary pressures and reduce risks to external stability,” the statement read.

The MPC members stated that like most of the world, “Pakistan is facing a large negative income shock from high inflation and necessary but difficult increases in utility prices and taxes.”

The central bank believes that without decisive macroeconomic adjustments, there is a significant risk of substantially worse outcomes that would compromise price stability, financial stability and growth.

Hinting at further monetary policy tightening in the next meeting scheduled to be held on August 22, the MPC noted that the runaway inflation and foreign exchange reserves depletion would require sudden and aggressive tightening actions later that would be significant “more disruptive for economic activity and employment.”

“Adjustment is difficult but necessary in Pakistan, as it is all over the world. However, in the interest of social stability, the burden of this adjustment must be shared equitably across the population, by ensuring that the relatively well-off absorb most of the increase in utility prices and taxes while well-targeted and adequate assistance is provided to the more vulnerable,” it stated.

“The MPC will continue to carefully monitor developments affecting medium-term prospects for inflation, financial stability, and growth and will take appropriate action to safeguard them,” the central bank said.

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Pakistan’s gold price increases by an additional Rs. 800 per tola.

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The price of yellow metal in the local market hit Rs247,300 on the first working day of the week, following a rise of Rs800 in a single day.

The cost of ten grams of 24-karat gold increased by Rs686 on Monday, making the current price Rs212,020.

In addition, the cost of 10 grams of 22-karat gold increased significantly, trading at Rs194,351.

These fluctuations are strongly correlated with shifts in the US dollar’s value, demonstrating the tight connection between gold prices and exchange rates. This emphasizes how local gold markets are impacted by variables related to the global economy.

The price of the precious metal dropped $16 on the international market on Monday, hitting $2,348 per ounce.

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A delegation from Pakistan travels to the US to bargain with the IMF for a new loan.

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The Pakistani delegation consists of the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, the Secretary of Finance, the Additional Secretary, and other individuals.

The Finance Minister was greeted at the airport by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Masood Khan, and Embassy staff.

The Finance Minister will meet with representatives of the World Bank and IMF while he is in the US.

The IMF and Pakistan are expected to negotiate next week, according to sources.

Sources claim that Islamabad will apply for a new credit package from the IMF.

The Finance Minister’s itinerary also includes meetings with members of think tanks and the world press.

Last month, Pakistan and the IMF came to a staff-level agreement over the third and final review of the $3 billion stand-by arrangement. Should the board of the global lender approve this deal, Pakistan will get approximately $1.1 billion.

Although a specific date has not been determined, the IMF board is anticipated to evaluate the case in late April, according to a spokeswoman.

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Pakistan’s petrol prices are anticipated to rise.

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The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) will not disclose the anticipated increase in fuel prices until its work is finished, according to sources.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will receive the summary of the petrol price, and sources further stated that the new pricing will be revealed following his approval today.

Noteworthy to highlight is that Pakistan was previously ordered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to impose an 18% General Sales Tax (GST) on gasoline.

Details indicate that Pakistan was requested by the Monetary Fund to stop reducing sales tax on all goods, including gasoline.

To boost tax revenue, Pakistan’s recently elected government should impose a sales tax on petroleum items in addition to a Rs 60 charge.

High-speed diesel (HSD) was reduced by Rs3.32 per litre on March 31 but petrol prices increased by Rs9.66 per litre by the government.

In contrast to the reduction in the price of high-speed diesel (HSD) to Rs282.24 from Rs278.92, the price of gasoline jumped to Rs289.41 per litre.

The adjustments were brought about by a commensurate increase in the price of gasoline and a decline in the price of HSD on the global market, according to a statement released by the Finance Ministry.

According to the statement, the adjustment was made in accordance with government policy, which transfers pricing differences from the foreign market to the home market.

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