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Is govt weighing new laws to crack whip on currency hoarders, tax violators?

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ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to turn up the legislative heat on the hoarders of foreign currencies — especially dollars — through penalties like heavy fines and imprisonment to discourage negative market forces from manipulating the exchange rate to their advantage, sources said Friday.

The new laws will be applicable to the exchange companies and the individuals found guilty of illegally stashing foreign currency in the country.

With few hours left to the unveiling of the budget 2023-24, sources told Geo News that the government was mulling raising the limit of the foreign currency allowed to be brought in from abroad up to $100,000 in a year. No questions would be asked regarding the source of the funds if the amount is less or equal to the aforementioned figure.

Currently, an amount of foreign currency equivalent to Rs5 million can be brought into the country without raising any flags.

The sources said that a proposal to impose penalties on non-filers has also been submitted according to which a maximum of 25% fine will be slapped on violators.

Under Section 165 of the Tax Ordinance, an Rs2,000 fine will be imposed on all those who don’t file their withholding tax statement.

On the other hand, the tax defaulters will face an additional Rs200 per day fine.

The recent development is seen as a hurried regulatory response to the US dollar’s record-breaking surge, reaching an unprecedented level of over Rs300.

The government has spun into action to put brakes on the “undesirable” outflow of foreign currency from Pakistan and promote transparency in foreign currency transactions conducted by exchange companies.

Amidst negotiations to revive a $6.7 billion bailout programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Pakistan is not expected to devalue its currency further, as the pressure on the rupee has subsided, Bloomberg quoted Fitch Ratings as saying.

“We currently do not expect a large further devaluation of the Pakistan rupee,” Krisjanis Krustins, a Hong Kong-based director at Fitch, said in an emailed response to questions Friday.

“Although the currency has been very stable over the past few months, pressure on the reserves of the State Bank of Pakistan has also been contained, which suggests minimal interventions to support the currency,” Krustins said.

The IMF has stated that it is collaborating with Pakistani authorities to address concerns related to the country’s currency market and other matters before resuming the ongoing bailout programme, which is scheduled to conclude this month.

Following a currency devaluation in January, the rupee has depreciated by over 20% this year, rendering it one of the weakest performers globally.

The nation’s dollar stockpile has remained stable at about $4 billion since late February, after falling more than 50% in the past 12 months. Funds will be crucial to prop up the economy beset by supply shortages and avert a sovereign default, with billions of dollars of debt payments approaching.

“We continue to assume that the IMF and Pakistan will conclude the ongoing programme review, likely after the IMF has clarity on the upcoming budget,” Krustins said. “However, the window for this is rapidly closing, with the programme originally set to expire in June, and substantive progress unlikely in the immediate run up to elections due by October.”

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April FDI in Pakistan increased to $358.8 million, according to SBP

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The inflow for April was $358.8 million, up 177% from $132 million in April FY23. Still, that was 39% more than the $258 million from March.

China was the largest investor, with $439.3 million in FDI from the nation between July and April of FY24—the greatest amount—as opposed to $604 million during the same period of FY23. In April, China accounted for $177 million of the total investment.

With $51.93 and 51.89 million invested in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Canada came in second and third, respectively.

The power industry was the main draw for foreign investors in FY24, which ran from July to April. This period’s FDI in the power industry was $637.5 million, compared to $776.2 million the previous year. From $338 million to $460 million this year, Hydel Power garnered more attention.

Continue reading: In FY23–24, Pakistan’s per capita income increased to $1680.

According to a separate data released on Wednesday, Pakistanis’ per capita income increased to $1680 in FY2023–2024.

The size of the national economy grew from $341 billion to $375 billion in the current fiscal year, according to figures made public by PBS.

Throughout this fiscal year, Pakistanis’ yearly per capita income increased by Rs 90,534; the monthly rise was Rs 7,544.

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OGRA forbids the purchase or sale of inferior LPG cylinders.

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The 313 LPG marketing and 19 cylinder-producing companies received notices from the OGRA, which described the act of refilling inferior LPGO cylinders as harmful.

Avoid supplying LPG to unlicensed distributors, the OGRA has cautioned LPG marketing companies. Only approved distributors will be able to sell and buy LPG going forward, per the notification, which states that new SOPs have been developed for the LPG industry.

Additionally, the warning said that the decision was made in an effort to preserve both lives and the business in response to an increase in cylinder blast occurrences.

Price reductions of Rs 20 per kilogramme for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) were implemented in Quetta on May 3.

There is a reduction of Rs 20 on LPG prices, which means that the price per kilogramme drops from Rs 280 to Rs 260.

The costs of LPG were reduced by Rs 20 per kilogramme earlier, bringing the total decrease to Rs 40 per kilogramme over a few weeks. This is something worth noticing.

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PIA announces a significant student discount.

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According to an airline spokesman, the national flag carrier has recently raised the baggage allowance to 60 kg.

Currently, PIA flies one flight per week on Sundays between Islamabad and Beijing.

The discount may be useful to students who intend to spend their summer vacations in Pakistan or who wish to return home after earning their degrees.

Before, students who wanted to visit China could now receive a 27% reduction on their fares through PIA.

On Eid ul Fitr, the national flag airline also reduced the cost of domestic flights by 20% for both economy and executive economy classes.

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