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WB cuts Pakistan’s GDP forecast on rising rates, limited fiscal space

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  • World Bank expects economy to grow 0.4% in current year.
  • Bleaker forecast assumes agreement is reached with IMF.
  • World  Bank lowers regional growth forecast to 5.6%.

The World Bank sharply lowered Pakistan’s current-year growth forecast, saying the country’s economic growth prospects have weakened due to tighter financial conditions and limited fiscal space.

The World Bank now expects Pakistan’s economy to grow 0.4% in the current year, from its October forecast of 2% growth. The bleaker forecast assumes an agreement is reached with the International Monetary Fund for bailout funds, it said.

Pakistan’s fiscal year starts in July and runs through June. Pakistan expects its economy to grow 2% in FY23, however, the country’s central bank chief said in January the growth forecast could face downward pressure.

The South Asian nation has been in economic turmoil for months with an acute balance of payments crisis while talks with the IMF to secure $1.1 billion in funding as part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed upon in 2019 have not yet yielded fruit.

Lower economic output and high prices in Pakistan have led to stampedes and looting at flour distribution centres set up across the country.

“Elevated global and domestic food prices are contributing to greater food insecurity for South Asia’s poor who spend a larger share of income on food,” the bank said.

The World Bank lowered its 2023 regional growth forecast to 5.6% from 6.1% in October.

“Rising interest rates and uncertainty in financial markets are putting downward pressure on the region’s economies,” the report said.

Most countries have raised interest rates at a rapid pace since the war in Ukraine last year led to choking supply chains and stoked inflation globally.

The World Bank forecast Sri Lanka’s economy will contract by 4.3% this year, reflecting the lasting impact of the macro debt crisis, with future growth prospects heavily dependent on debt restructuring and structural reforms.

Sri Lanka follows the calendar year. In January, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka’s economy could contract by 3.5% or 4.0% in 2023 after shrinking by 11% last year.

Inflation in South Asia is set to fall to 8.9% this year, and to below 7% in 2024, the World Bank said.

The World Bank also lowered its forecast for India’s economic growth in the current fiscal year that started on April 1 to 6.3% from 6.6% as it expects higher borrowing costs to hurt consumption.

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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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