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Rupee shatters all previous records, falls to new low of 221.99 against dollar

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  • Pakistani rupee falls by Rs6.79, closes at 221.99 against dollar.
  • This is the highest day-on-day depreciation after June 26, 2019.
  • Import pressure, political uncertainty behind rupee’s downfall.

The Pakistani rupee shattered all previous records on Tuesday, falling to a new low of 224 against the dollar in afternoon interbank trade, before closing at 221.99.

According to State Bank of Pakistan, the local currency fell by Rs6.79 in the interbank market, depreciating by 3.06% against yesterday’s close of Rs215.20.

It was the highest day-on-day depreciation after June 26, 2019 when the currency fell by Rs6.80.

The ruling PML-N’s thumping in the Punjab by-elections has triggered political uncertainty along with import pressure taking the Pakistani rupee on a downward trajectory.

Analysts believe, however, that the domestic political and economic situation are not the only factors at play.

“The dollar is getting stronger in the global market almost against all the world currencies and the Pakistani rupee is not the exception,” said Alpha Beta Core CEO Khurram Schezad.

Speaking of Pakistan’s financial situation, Schezad said that the country’s external account issues “are not settled as yet, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is yet to be on board, and the flows are yet to materialise”.

“Global rating agencies have put a negative outlook on the economy, so that is an additional burden that is weighing on the financial markets in general and foreign exchange market in particular,” he added.

Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP) Chairperson Malik Bostan Malik Bostan told Geo.tv that there were three reasons behind the constant devaluation of the local unit.

The forex expert said that investors are jittery at the moment as the Opposition PTI has bagged more seats than the PML-N in the Punjab by-polls — creating uncertainty over the future of the current set-up.

Bostan said that the speculations that the IMF’s Executive Board approval would take time and the money lender’s statement of being ready to negotiate with a caretaker government have exacerbated the devaluation.

He also pointed out that since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Pakistan has provided them trade relief, resulting in additional pressure on the rupee.

The currency trader said that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) cannot intervene in the rising rupee-dollar parity as the country has agreed that the central bank will not intervene in the matter.

“…but even if it wishes to intervene, the SBP does not have enough dollars to inject into the market,” he said, adding that if the government wants to save the rupee, it will have to curtail the imports.

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High electricity prices moving beyond consumers’ affordability: study

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A study found that rising electricity tariffs are increasingly moving beyond the affordability of the masses and adversely impacting their consumption patterns. 

The study was conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad titled “Impact of Rising Electricity Prices on Consumer Behavior: The Case of Power Distribution Companies in Pakistan”. 

The research study covered over 1,000 households and 140 shop owners in the top 10 cities of Pakistan.

The survey results indicate that most of the respondents have experienced moderate to significant increases in their electricity bills in recent months. 

The study further highlights the correlation between the magnitude of the bill increase and the extent of consumption reduction, indicating that higher price hikes lead to more significant efforts in reducing electricity usage. 

However, despite the overall reduction in electricity consumption, a significant portion of the survey participants reported no noticeable decrease in their bills.

It recommends the need for improved governance and regulatory measures in the energy sector along with affordable electricity tariffs and alternative payment options to accommodate different economic circumstances. 

The study also stresses the importance of addressing issues such as load shedding and raising consumer awareness about peak hours when electricity costs are higher.

Moreover, it also found that the alarming trend also caused a sharp decline in the recoveries of distribution companies (DISCOs) which can lead to difficulties in paying for power purchases from the generation companies, maintaining distribution networks, and servicing debts.

These factors further hinder the ability of DISCOs to invest in infrastructure upgrades, provide quality services, and improve the overall reliability of electricity supply.

The research emphasises effective measures to address power affordability concerns and suggests strategies for distribution companies to mitigate the negative effects of rising prices. 

Overall, the study provides valuable insights into the impact of rising electricity prices on consumer behaviour in Pakistan and offers recommendations for DISCOs and policymakers to address affordability concerns and ensure a sustainable balance between electricity prices and consumers’ ability to bear these costs.

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Will petrol price drop by Rs100 in Pakistan after Russian oil import?

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With all the hype around Russian oil, the foremost question that every Pakistani has is what effect the imported oil will have on the high fuel prices.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal answered the question in a recent interview with Voice of America (Urdu).

When asked whether the price of petrol — which had reached a record high of Rs282 per litre and currently stands at Rs272 per litre — would be slashed by Rs100 once Russian oil reached Pakistan, the minister responded in the negative.

“There might not be a significant difference,” he said. However, the price would “definitely reduce” once Pakistan started importing large quantities of Russian oil, he added.

“At the beginning, the quantity of imported oil is small, but as it increases in six months to a year, it will help reduce petrol prices,” Iqbal said.

Pakistan and Russia had been negotiating an oil deal for months before reaching an agreement in April.

The first shipment of Russian oil is expected to dock at the Karachi port in late May, State Minister for Petroleum Mussadik Malik had said last month. The country would seek to import 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Russian crude oil if the first transaction went smoothly, he had added.

Initially, the Pakistan Refinery Limited (PRL) would refine the crude oil in a trial run, to be followed later by Pak-Arab Refinery Limited (PARCO) and other refineries.

A day earlier, Malik shared that Pakistan plans to import one-third of the country’s total crude oil requirements from Russia.

The state minister revealed that the government has finalised a comprehensive energy security agreement with Russia, which would cover different aspects of the energy supply in the country.

Malik said: “We want to open an energy corridor with Central Asia like the one we have with Gulf countries.”

“This would reduce the cost of energy in the country and would be helpful in the development of industrial clusters and value additions in the agriculture sector,” he maintained.

The minister revealed that the government’s objective is to import 18-20% of its total crude oil imports from Russia, with the hope that this move will substantially lower petroleum product prices for domestic consumers.

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Power consumers to pay Re0.79 per unit more as March FCA

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  • The amount will be recovered from power consumers in May.
  • The adjustment will be shown separately in consumers’ bills.
  • Charges applicable on all categories except lifeline and EVCS.

ISLAMABAD: Power consumers, who are already overburdened by soaring inflation and high fuel and electricity costs, will now have to pay Re0.79 per unit more in the month of May.

According to a notification issued by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Thursday, the additional amount is being levied in lieu of fuel cost adjustment (FCA) charges for March.

The charges would be applicable to all consumer categories except electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS) and lifeline consumers, the notification stated.

“The said adjustment will be shown separately in the consumers’ bills on the basis of units billed to the consumers in the month of March 2023,” it added.

In March, Nepra allowed power distribution companies (Discos) and K-Electric to recover deferred fuel adjustment surcharges up to Rs14.24 per unit from consumers in eight months.

According to the Nepra decision, discos will recover Rs10.34 per unit from domestic protected consumers using 0-200 units per month, Rs14.24 per unit from non-protected consumers using 0-200 units, Rs14.24 per unit from those consuming 201-300 units per month, and Rs9.90 per unit from private agricultural consumers.

The entire amount would be recovered from the electricity consumers in monthly instalments from March to October 2023.

In its decision, the authority also allowed K-Electric to recover the deferred fuel adjustment surcharge from the consumers up to Rs 13.87 per unit.

K-Electric will recover Rs9.97/unit from domestic protected consumers using 0-200 units per month, Rs13.87 per unit from non-protected consumers using 0-200 units, Rs13.87 per unit from those consuming 201-300 units per month, and Rs9.90 per unit from private agricultural consumers. The private lender will also recover the amount from March to October 2023.

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