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Pakistan may face shortage of x-ray films, warns importer

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  • Forex crisis worsens in Pakistan.
  • X-ray films importer says banks not opening LCs.
  • Industry has only 20-30 days of stock x-ray films.

KARACHI: A healthcare crisis may take ground in Pakistan as commercial banks are unable to open the letters of credit (LCs) for the import of x-ray films in future — which are used on a daily basis for nearly every medical diagnosis — The News reported on Thursday, quoting an industry insider.

Limited stock of the remaining films strengthens the assumption of a healthcare crisis looming in the near future as these are used for computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, according to an official from Fujifilm Pakistan, a major supplier of medical x-ray films in the country

“The industry has only 20-30 days of stocks and after that, hospitals will run short of films and diagnoses will be impossible then,” he said.

“Around a month’s stock was stuck at the ports or high seas, which should be cleared at the earliest,” he added.

The official also explained that “medical x-ray films have a yearly import requirement of $20 million or $1.6 million in a month, and urged the government to take measures before the situation gets worst.”

He further mentioned: “Govt hospitals are now asking for the supply of stocks. Our suppliers are ready with the stocks but waiting for LCs to ship the orders.”

While expressing his serious concern over the possible shortages, he said “the situation could lead to smuggling that would rob the government of taxes.” 

“The government is losing revenue of approximately $550,000 per month,” he was quoted as saying. 

The source maintained that a “minimum of $1 million in LCs was required every month to keep the hospitals running.”

X-ray films are used in pinpointing physical injuries among other important diagnoses and such as bone fractures, and chest x-rays for pneumonia or COVID. In operation theatres, the films are used to determine the scope of an operation.

The estimated size of the x-ray market is around 3,500,000 square meters, which translates to almost 100,000 exposures in a day in hospitals across the country.

There are approximately 7,500 govt and private hospitals and clinics in Pakistan, and the entire requirement of medical x-ray films is imported from Europe, Japan, the USA, and China.

The current economic condition of Pakistan, marred by drying foreign reserves, forced banks to be selective in opening LCs even for sectors such as healthcare.

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“Ready to work with Pakistan’s new government,” the IMF said.

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In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

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In a new IMF agreement, Pakistan would “raise” the FBR tax-to-GDP ratio to 15%.

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The state bank reserves will be maintained at a level equivalent to three months’ worth of import bills, according to sources in the Finance Ministry.

According to sources, the ministry has also set a goal to maintain the primary balance surplus and reduce the current account deficit.

The ministry insisted that once the existing agreement expires, a new one would be negotiated with the IMF, and that the IMF will also be guaranteed that the requirements will be implemented prior to the agreement being finalised.

The founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) demanded that an audit of the election results be conducted before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved any additional loans for Islamabad. However, the IMF showed earlier today that it was eager to cooperate with the new administration in Pakistan by disregarding the demand.

According to Bloomberg News yesterday, Pakistan is to apply for a fresh $6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to assist the next government in paying off billions of dollars in debt that comes due this year.

According to the article, the nation would attempt to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, and it was anticipated that discussions with the international lender would begin in March or April.

Thanks to a short-term IMF bailout, Pakistan avoided defaulting last summer. However, the plan expires next month, and the next administration will need to negotiate a long-term deal to keep the $350 billion economy steady.

The IMF forced the South Asian country to enact a number of reforms prior to the rescue, including raising its benchmark interest rate, changing its budget, and raising the cost of natural gas and electricity.

According to a fund spokeswoman, the IMF staff is still in communication with authorities on the necessary longer-term reform initiatives. The fund is also prepared to assist the post-election government in addressing Pakistan’s ongoing issues by means of a new arrangement, should that request be made.

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39% increase in IT exports in January: Dr. Umar Saif

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According to Dr. Umar Saif, the acting minister for information technology and telecommunication, IT exports increased by 39.4% to $265 million in January of this year from $190 million in the same month the previous fiscal year.

The IT sector in Pakistan is expanding and breaking records. The minister wrote on X that “IT exports in January are up by 39.4% to $265 million, compared to $190 million in the same month in 2023.”

The minister also revealed that IT exports to the United States over the first seven months of the current fiscal year (July–January) were $1.7 billion, up 13 percent from $1.5 billion in the same time previous year.

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