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Rupee sinks further, falls to new low against US dollar

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  • Local unit closes at 287.29 against the US dollar.
  • Rupee down 2.25 against greenback in interbank market.
  • Importers have resumed the panic buying of US dollars.

Pakistani rupee touched a record low on Tuesday as the country struggles to unlock critical International Monetary Fund (IMF) funding while dwindling foreign exchange reserves become another source of concern for investors.

The local unit, in the interbank market, closed at 287.29 against the US dollar, 0.78%, or Rs2.25, down from Monday’s close of 285.04.

Last month, the rupee hit a record low, closing at Rs285.09 per US dollar on March 2, 2023, the data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) showed. 

A trend curve of rupee-dollar parity. — Arif Habib Limited
A trend curve of rupee-dollar parity. — Arif Habib Limited

Financial pundits believe that importers have resumed the panic buying of US dollars, while the supply of foreign currency remained low in the interbank market.

Pakistan’s loan programme is yet to materialise months after it raised taxes and energy prices and allowed the currency to depreciate to meet IMF’s conditions. The nation has missed multiple deadlines to resume its bailout. 

The cash-strapped nation secured a $6 billion IMF bailout in 2019. It was topped up with another $1 billion last year to help the country following devastating floods, but the IMF then suspended disbursements in November due to Pakistan’s failure to make more progress on fiscal consolidation.

After months-long unfruitful talks, the Washington-based lender has asked Pakistan to seek commitments for new loans from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before it revives the bailout.

The IMF’s resident representative for Pakistan said the country has a few more tasks to complete to meet requirements for a $6.5 billion bailout. The lender approved a $3 billion loan program for Sri Lanka last month to ease its economic crisis.

“Uncertainty on IMF and friendly countries inflow affecting rupee,” said Mohammad Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities. 

“Some of the ruling coalition partners are due to visit Saudi Arabia next week and it is a key event to watch,” it added. 

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will be leading a high-powered delegation to the US which will attend the upcoming annual spring meeting of the Bretton Woods Institutions, known as the IMF and World Bank, from April 10 to 16.

Moreover, the country’s foreign exchange reserves have also declined in recent weeks, which is another source of concern for investors. The forex reserves held by the central bank stand at a critical level of only $4.24 billion (as of March 24, 2023).

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have initiated discussions at the policy level.

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan will commence policy-level discussions today (Monday), as financially-strained Islamabad aims to secure another agreement with the Washington-based lender while satisfying all the stringent requirements associated with it.

The negotiations will primarily focus on deciding the magnitude of the upcoming IMF programme, establishing the corresponding terms and conditions, and defining the objectives and aims for the next budget.

Simultaneously, both parties will establish the macroeconomic objectives for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. The IMF is determined to enforce policies such as monetary tightening (raising interest rates), increasing energy tariffs, adopting a market-based exchange rate, and implementing privatisation.

The expectation is that both parties will conclude the negotiations during the current week and finalise a staff-level agreement, which will then be subject to the ultimate approval of the IMF Executive Board.

A significant number of experts argue that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed a misguided policy of increasing interest rates, which has severely damaged the economy of the country. Consequently, it is imperative for the State Bank of Pakistan to promptly initiate a cycle of reducing interest rates.

They believe that the existing monetary policy will result in an overwhelming accumulation of debt and taxes, which will hinder the revival of economic activity and investment. This outcome has already been evident to all.

Despite the prevailing cost of living crisis in Pakistan, the IMF is insisting on raising the minimum energy bill, citing its necessity in managing the escalating circular debt.

However, due to the stringent conditions imposed by the IMF and Pakistan’s inability to address the issues in the energy sector, as well as the nature of agreements made with independent power producers (IPPs), the country is unable to benefit from the decline in global prices of solar panels and related equipment.

Further information: Should I choose solar power or not? The inefficiency of the energy sector provides a compelling reason to reconsider the solar energy policy.

Pakistan and the MF initiated discussions on both the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and climate funding. Pakistan is seeking a larger and more extensive bailout package to stabilise and revitalise its economy.

According to sources, it has been stated that the two parties have reached an agreement on the significant objectives outlined for the forthcoming budget, which encompass the punctual settlement of foreign debt obligations.

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Pakistan’s gold prices are still declining; see the most recent

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The price of 10-gram gold reduced by Rs943 to settle at Rs207,733, while the price of gold dropped by Rs1200 to close at Rs242,300 a tola, according to the Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association.

In the global market, the price of the precious metal fell by $10 to $2,349 per ounce, resulting in losses.

At 04:48 GMT, the spot price of gold had dropped by 0.2% to $2,354.77 per ounce. In the previous session, prices reached a two-week high.

American gold futures dropped 0.6% to $2,361.

Spot silver decreased by 0.4% to $28.03 per ounce, while palladium remained steady at $978.03 and platinum decreased by 0.1% to $992.89.

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Pakistan and the IMF begin talks for a new loan.

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Pakistan is requesting a $6 to $8 billion bailout package from the international lender over the next three to four years to address its financial troubles.

A mission team led by Nathan Porter, the IMF’s Mission Chief in Pakistan, is meeting with a Pakistani delegation led by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Islamabad may face more difficult options, such as raising power and gas bills.

Mr. Aurganzeb informed the IMF team that the country’s economy has improved as a result of the IMF loan package, and Islamabad is ready to sign a new loan programme to further develop.

The IMF mission expressed satisfaction with Islamabad’s efforts to revive the country’s struggling economy.

The IMF praised Pakistan’s economic growth in its staff report earlier this week, but warned that the outlook remains challenging, with very high downside risks.

The country nearly avoided collapse last summer, and its $350 billion economy has stabilized since the end of the last IMF program, with inflation falling to roughly 17% in April from a record high of 38% last May.

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