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Rupee continues to strengthen against dollar as Dar takes charge of finance ministry

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  • Rupee continues gaining ground against dollar.
  • Rupee gains 1.76, closes at 232.12 per dollar.
  • Analysts cite return of Dar as reason behind increase.

KARACHI: The Pakistani rupee continued Wednesday to gain ground for the fourth consecutive session as the dollar’s slide persisted after federal minister Senator Ishaq Dar took charge of the finance ministry.

In the interbank market, the rupee gained 1.79 to close at 232.12 per dollar, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) after it increased its value by 7.53 in the ongoing week.

Currency dealers and analysts have cited that the return of Dar — a close aide of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — to Pakistan to take charge as the finance minister has helped improve sentiment and the fall in international commodity prices boosted the rupee’s rise.

The current account deficit — fortunately — will likely remain in check on account of declining international commodity prices and administrative measures taken by the government.

Inflation, too, has most likely peaked and is expected to come down over the coming months, The News reported.

Talking to Geo.tv, economist and former adviser to the federal ministry of finance Dr Khaqan Hassan Najeeb said the first aspect is a change in market sentiment driven by a leadership change at the finance ministry.

“The new team is regarded to be more conscious of rupee movement and thus leaning to more orderly movement,” the former adviser said.

Secondly, he noted that some fundamentals have improved, especially a decline in oil prices as well as other key commodity prices, which may help reduce the quantum of imports.

“Thirdly, the confirmation by multilateral lenders to extend flood support is a market supporting development,” Dr Najeeb said.

Lastly, a bit farfetched but the possibility of reconsideration and leniency in some conditions by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to flood impact is driving a positive sentiment toward the rupee, Najeeb added.

Alfalah’s head of research Fahad Irfan said Dar would not have the kind of free hand he had in his previous term.

“The IMF, in general, has been much stricter in terms of policy implementation. Most importantly, Pakistan now has a free exchange rate regime, even otherwise, the country has record low forex reserves with no room to burn them to control the exchange rate,” he said.

“However, administrative curbs and stronger checks on manipulation and the smuggling of dollars out of Pakistan are still possible,” Irfan added.

He said the rupee was expected to regain some lost ground. However, with the fear of Dar, the pace of appreciation has accelerated.

He noted that changes in key positions, at times of catastrophic floods and an extremely fragile economic environment, might help Dar regain some lost popularity; however, this might slow down policymaking.

Dar maintained the rupee at a parity of 100 per dollar for his entire term (2013-2017) and kept the policy rate at its historic low of 5.75% from May 2016 to December 2017.

This lethal combo was the main reason why Pakistan posted a historic high current account deficit of $19.2 billion or 6.3% of the gross domestic product in FY2018 and eroded foreign exchange reserves to just 2 months of import cover, according to Irfan.

Dar seeks ‘time’ to stabilise Pakistan’s economy

Senator Dar has defended former finance minister Miftah Ismail’s policies as he sought time to stabilise Pakistan’s economy.

In a press conference outside an accountability court, Dar said Miftah is part of the government’s team and his efforts helped save the country from a looming default threat.

“Miftah put in all his efforts and through them, he saved Pakistan from default. The mess that was made in the last three to four years could not be cleared in four months,” he said.

Miftah had to take unpopular decisions, including raising power tariffs and rates of petroleum products, to restart the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

The belt-tightening measures invited criticism from the coalition rulers and Miftah received flak from his party as well.

In a separate conversation with journalists upon his arrival Dar said that he needed time to fix Pakistan’s economy. 

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Pakistan receives a $2 billion loan from China, according to the finance minister

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The $2 billion loan was one year ahead of schedule and became due in March. According to reports, Beijing had informed Islamabad of the decision.

The International Monetary Fund granted Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy a $3 billion standby arrangement last summer, but the country is still battling to recover from the financial crisis.

According to ratings firm Fitch, one of the top concerns confronting the next administration would be obtaining funding from bilateral and multilateral partners due to Pakistan’s precarious foreign situation, as was stated last week.

This event occurs one month after Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting prime minister, asked for a $2 billion loan to be rolled over for a year in a letter to his Chinese counterpart.

In his letter, Kakar also expressed gratitude for China’s efforts to lessen Pakistan’s load

of foreign payments.

It is to be noted that Pakistan acquired safe deposits of $4 billion from China to address the balance of payments issue.

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“Ready to work with Pakistan’s new government,” the IMF said.

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In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

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In a new IMF agreement, Pakistan would “raise” the FBR tax-to-GDP ratio to 15%.

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The state bank reserves will be maintained at a level equivalent to three months’ worth of import bills, according to sources in the Finance Ministry.

According to sources, the ministry has also set a goal to maintain the primary balance surplus and reduce the current account deficit.

The ministry insisted that once the existing agreement expires, a new one would be negotiated with the IMF, and that the IMF will also be guaranteed that the requirements will be implemented prior to the agreement being finalised.

The founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) demanded that an audit of the election results be conducted before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved any additional loans for Islamabad. However, the IMF showed earlier today that it was eager to cooperate with the new administration in Pakistan by disregarding the demand.

According to Bloomberg News yesterday, Pakistan is to apply for a fresh $6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to assist the next government in paying off billions of dollars in debt that comes due this year.

According to the article, the nation would attempt to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, and it was anticipated that discussions with the international lender would begin in March or April.

Thanks to a short-term IMF bailout, Pakistan avoided defaulting last summer. However, the plan expires next month, and the next administration will need to negotiate a long-term deal to keep the $350 billion economy steady.

The IMF forced the South Asian country to enact a number of reforms prior to the rescue, including raising its benchmark interest rate, changing its budget, and raising the cost of natural gas and electricity.

According to a fund spokeswoman, the IMF staff is still in communication with authorities on the necessary longer-term reform initiatives. The fund is also prepared to assist the post-election government in addressing Pakistan’s ongoing issues by means of a new arrangement, should that request be made.

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