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Pakistan’s remittances fall 9.5% to $2bn in February

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  • Workers’ remittances increase by 4.9% month-on-month.
  • Remittances for July-Feb FY2023 drop 10.8% to $17.99bn.
  • Highest remittance inflows sent by Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia. 

Remittances sent home by overseas workers dropped 9.5% to $2 billion in February 2023, year-on-year, as exchange rate fluctuations, economic uncertainties, and lack of trust in the system continued to encourage the use of illegal channels.

According to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday, remittances stood at $2.2 billion in the same month of the previous year.

On the other hand, month-on-month, these inflows increased by 4.9% compared to $1.9 billion recorded in January 2023.

Remittances for the first eight months (July-February) of the fiscal year 2022-23 were recorded at $17.99 billion, showing a fall of 10.8% compared to $20.18 billion in the same period of FY2022.

A breakdown shows the highest amount of remittances during February 2023 was mainly sent home from Saudi Arabia ($454.6 million), followed by the United Arab Emirates ($324.0 million), the United Kingdom ($317.0 million) and the United States of America ($219.4 million).

The SBP-held foreign exchange reserves rose above the $4 billion mark after the cash-strapped nation received a $500 million loan from a Chinese bank.

The central bank, in its weekly bulletin, said that its foreign exchange reserves have increased by $487 million to $4,301 million as of the week ended March 3, which will provide an import cover of around a month.

The SBP received $500 million last week from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) as part of the institution’s $1.3 billion facility, just days after it had received $700 million from the China Development Bank.

Remittances have been thinning out steadily and the trend is likely to press ahead of Ramazan, the holy month of fasting, and Eid-ul-Fitr — the most difficult times for inflation-ravaged citizens — when overseas workers remit large amounts to Pakistan to support their loved ones.

There has been an improvement in dollar supply, but the country needs more liquidity to cope with the demand for imports.

Moreover, closing the gap between the open market and the interbank market is imperative to discourage the wholesale use of unofficial channels. 

Given its bare minimum foreign exchange reserves, Pakistan direly required dollar inflows that have not been very steady. 

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday Pakistan was “very close” to signing a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would offer a critical lifeline for taming a balance of payment crisis.

An agreement would release $1.1 billion to the cash-strapped South Asian economy.

“We seem to be very close to signing the staff level agreement, hopefully, God willing, in the next few days,” Dar said at a seminar in Islamabad.

“I and my team are absolutely committed to complete this program to the best of our ability,” he said, adding: “We have been in the review and I think it has taken longer than it should have in my opinion.”

Islamabad has been hosting an IMF mission since early February to negotiate the terms of a deal, including the adoption of policy measures to manage its fiscal deficit ahead of the annual budget due around June.

The funds are part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which analysts say is critical if Pakistan is to avoid defaulting on external debt obligations.

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The inaugural flight of Azerbaijan Airlines is between Baku and Karachi.

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The national airline of Azerbaijan launched direct flights from Baku to Karachi today. There will be two weekly flights on this route, on Thursdays and Sundays.

The first flight will land in Karachi, and Azerbaijan’s ambassador, Khazar Farhadov, will be there to greet it.

This evening also marks the departure of the inaugural flight from Karachi to Baku, in addition to the arrival of the flight from Baku.

Azerbaijan Airlines said last month that it would be growing its network and flight operations in Pakistan.

Aviation insiders have verified that Azerbaijan Airlines is preparing to launch service to Karachi in the coming month of April.

In addition to its current services in Islamabad and Lahore, the airline plans to launch its Karachi route on April 18, with the inaugural flight anticipated to depart on that date.

Azerbaijan Airlines has been given permission to operate flights on the Karachi route, according to sources within the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Following a bilateral agreement between the two nations, Azerbaijan Airlines has been given permission to extend its operations in Pakistan.

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Fly Jinnah opens a new route internationally.

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Two weekly flights will be the starting frequency of the new route, which will connect the two cities.

According to a representative for Fly Jinnah, the company is pleased to announce the opening of a third international route from Islamabad to Muscat, the capital city of Oman, marking another significant milestone after the successful debut of flights from Islamabad and Lahore to Sharjah.

According to him, this development is in line with our goal of giving our clients more options for reasonably priced, value-driven local and international air travel.

The airline serves five main cities in Pakistan: Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Quetta. Its fleet consists of five Airbus A320 aircraft, all of which are contemporary.

In addition to the current flight path to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, this new route expands Fly Jinnah’s network of foreign destinations.

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Tajir Dost app: traders don’t seem interested in registering

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To tax retailers in Pakistan, the Tajir Dost app was released. The sources stated that the government hopes to tax 3.5 million merchants through the app.

Ajmal Baloch, the president of All-Pakistan Anjuman-e-Tajran, stated that he made reservations with FBR on the SRO within a week.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), according to him, cannot be a “Tajir Dost” because of its unethical actions.

Baloch believed that since electricity bills allow traders to pay a predetermined advance income tax, further taxes are unnecessary.

The trader, according to him, is already paying thirteen different kinds of taxes on the commercial meter. “A trader already pays between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 in taxes annually, but you are requesting Rs. 1,200 per month in taxes.”

Mr. Ajmal summoned representatives of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to a meeting with the trade associations to talk about the indirect taxes that the merchants are paying.

Additionally, he claimed that FBR officers are charging the traders, the majority of whom are less educated, “monthly charges.”

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