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Illegal channels: Pakistan’s remittances fall 19% to $2bn in Dec

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  • Remittances decline 11% to $14.052 billion in first half of FY23.
  • Fall recorded mainly owing to mushrooming of grey transactions.
  • Inflows from Saudi Arabia fall 18% to $516.3 million in December.

KARACHI: Overseas workers’ remittances flowing into Pakistan dropped 19% in December to $2 billion from $2.52 billion recorded in the same month 2021, the central bank said on Friday, mainly owing to mushrooming of the grey transactions.

The remittances received during the July-December period of FY23 fell 11% to $14.052 billion from $15.807 billion in the first half of FY22, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said.

Month-on-month, the inflows sent home by the Pakistani diaspora working abroad decreased by 3.2% to $ 2.108 billion in November 2022. 

Arif Habib Limited (AHL), in a recent note, said a key risk that had emerged in the current account in recent months was the deteriorating trend in remittances.

The brokerage said that a sizeable gap (10-12%) between the official and unofficial exchange rates amid administrative measures undertaken by the SBP was the major reason for the declining official remittances trend, with rising flows via unofficial channels. 

“We believe such a large gap between the two rates is unsustainable and counterproductive to the successful negotiations on the 9th review, which is a likely catalyst for things to normalize in the exchange markets.”

The AHL report added that this trend was also evident from the sharp decline in official remittances. “We estimate, the country losing around USD 150-200mn monthly flows due to the artificial gap in official and unofficial rates,” the brokerage said. 

Remittances from Saudi Arabia, despite being the largest contributor, fell 18% to $516.3 million in December 2022 compared to $626.8 million sent in the same month of the previous year. 

Inflows from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declined 27% to $328.7 million from $453.2 million in December 2021, according to the central bank.

Pakistan’s central bank forex reserves have plunged to the lowest level since February 2014 after a decline of 22.11%, posing a serious challenge for the country in financing imports.

The announcement came at a time when the country is in dire need of foreign aid to reduce its current account deficit as well as ensure enough reserves to meet its debt obligations.

Coupled with another $5.8 billion held by commercial banks, the nation has $10.2 billion in reserves — which barely covers three weeks of imports.

Illegal channels: Pakistans remittances fall 19% to $2bn in Dec

During the week ended on January 6, the central bank’s forex reserves fell $1,233 million, or 22.12% to $4,343.2 million, a statement from the central bank said, down from last week’s reserves of $5,576.5 million.

Pakistan’s economy has crumbled alongside a simmering political crisis, with the rupee plummeting and inflation at decades-high levels, but devastating floods and a global energy crisis have worsened the situation.

Despite recent compression measures by the government, Pakistan’s import bill for goods was $5.1 billion per month in both November and December, according to the country’s statistics bureau. Its main imports are critical energy-related fuels.

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Significant surge in the price of gold in Pakistan

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On Friday, the price of gold in Pakistan continued to increase.

According to the All-Pakistan Gems and Jewellers Sarafa Association, the price of 24-karat gold per tola has risen by Rs2,200, reaching Rs249,000.

The price of 10-gram 24-karat gold increased by Rs1,886, reaching a total of Rs213,477. On Thursday, the cost of 10 grammes of 22-karat gold was Rs195,687.

The global gold market likewise had a rising trajectory. As per APGJSA, the worldwide rate was $2,404 per ounce, showing a decline of $24 during the course of the trading day.

The local market witnessed constant silver prices at Rs2,900 per tola.

Market observers attribute the increase in gold prices to other variables, such as volatility in the global market, currency exchange rates, and economic conditions. The ongoing surge in gold prices is likely to impact investment choices and consumer behaviour in the near future.

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Gold prices in Pakistan have risen by Rs 1,200 per tola.

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The price of one tola of 24 carat gold rose by Rs1,200 and reached Rs246,800 on Thursday, compared to its previous sale price of Rs245,600 on the last trading day.

According to the All Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association, the cost of 10 grammes of 24 karat gold rose by Rs1,029 to reach Rs211,591, compared to the previous price of Rs210,562. Similarly, the price of 10 grammes of 22 carat gold jumped from Rs193,016 to Rs193,959.

The price of silver remained unchanged at Rs2,900 per tola and Rs2,486.28 per ten grammes.

According to the association, the international market price of gold rose by $10, reaching $2,382 from $2,372.

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The federal government has declared wage and pension increments for its employees.

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The Ministry of Finance has formally declared a rise in the remuneration and retirement benefits of personnel working for the federal government, offering substantial economic alleviation.

According to the notification, personnel in grades 1 to 16 will experience a 25% increment in their salaries, while officials in grades 17 to 22 will be granted a 20% rise. The implementation of this modification will commence on July 1, 2024, and will be applicable to the employees’ fundamental remuneration.

In addition, retired federal government employees would receive a 15% rise in their pension payments. This increase is applicable to retirees from both the civilian and military sectors. It is important to mention that employees who retire on or after July 1, 2024, will also qualify for this pension rise.

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The 15% increase in pension will be computed based on the amount of pension received by retired employees after deductions. Nevertheless, the letter specifies that ad hoc aid will not be factored into the calculations for pension and gratuity.

Moreover, this increment will have no effect on the calculation of housing rent allowances for employees.

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