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Current Debt Crisis Threatens Pakistan's Future

Pakistan is battling massive twin deficits, deteriorating foreign currency reserves, low exports, diminishing tax revenues, a weak currency, unsustainable external debt payments, and soaring sovereign debt. This crisis has forced the country to seek IMF (International Monetary Fund) bailout, the 13th such request in Pakistan's 72 year history.

Pakistan Debt Service: Source SBP

Pakistan's debt repayment costs rose to $5.4 billion for first half of fiscal 2019 ( July 2018-Dec 2018), up from $7.5 billion for the entire fiscal 2018 (July 2017-June 2018), according to the State Bank of Pakistan. At this rate, the total debt service cost for current fiscal 2019 will exceed $11 billion, adding to the nation's debt crisis.

Pakistan's External Debt. Source: Wall Street Journal

This $11 billion debt service cost will add to the projected trade deficit of nearly $40 billion for the current fiscal year. How can Pakistan fund this balance of payments deficit of about $50 billion? Remittances of $21 billion in current FY2019 from Pakistani diaspora are expected to reduce it to $30 billion. PTI government has taken on billions of dollars in loans from Gulf Arabs and China. Given the low rates of foreign investments in the country, a big chunk of the remaining deficit will have to be met by borrowing even more funds which will further increase future debt service costs.

Pakistan's Current Account Deficit. Source: Trading Economics

As a result, Pakistan is now battling massive twin deficits, deteriorating foreign currency reserves, low exports, diminishing tax revenues, a weak currency, onerous external debt payments, and soaring sovereign debt. This crises has forced the country to seek IMF (International Monetary Fund) bailout, the 13th such request in Pakistan's 72 year history.

Pakistan Debt as Percentage of GDP. Source: Trading Economics

In the short term, PTI government's efforts are beginning to pay off. The current account deficit (CAD) in first 8 months of FY2019 (July-Feb 2018) declined to $8.844 billion, down 22.5%, from $11.421 billion in same period last year, according to SBP as reported by Dawn newspaper.

Pakistan's Debt Burden Highest Among 25 Emerging Nations

However, Pakistan's economic woes are far from over. The country's twin deficits are structural. Its exports and tax collections as percentage of its GDP are among the lowest in the world. British civil society organization Jubilee Debt Campaign conducted research in 2017 that showed that Pakistan has received IMF loans in 30 of the last 42 years, making this one of the most sustained periods of lending to any country.

History of Pakistan's IMF Bailouts

Pakistan needs to find a way to build up and manage significant dollar reserves to avoid recurring IMF bailouts. The best way to do it is to focus on increasing the country's exports that have remained essentially flat in absolute dollars and declined as percentage of GDP over the last 5 years. Pakistan's economic attaches posted at the nation's embassies need to focus on all export opportunities in international markets and help educate Pakistani businesses on the best way to take advantage of them. This needs to be concerted effort involving various government ministries and departments working closely with industry groups. At the same time, the new government needs to crack down on illicit outflow of dollars from the country.

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Views: 162

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 5, 2019 at 6:27am

#IMF package to bring $38 billion in loans to #Pakistan from other creditors. #Debt-servicing amounted to $9.5 billion during the last financial year and projected at $11.8 billion during the current fiscal year. https://www.dawn.com/news/1492216

Pakistan on Thursday welcomed $6bn bailout package approved by the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying it would lead to inflows of $38bn from other lenders in three years.

Read: IMF approves $6 billion loan for Pakistan

Speaking at a hurriedly called news conference, PM’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the approval of 39-month reform programme by the IMF executive board without opposition from any member would provide stability to Pakistan. “The board has given us trust to prove ourselves good partners and deliver on reform promises,” he said.

He said this had improved the country’s standing and other institutions had also started extending their financial support. He said the Asian Development Bank would disburse about $2.1bn out of $3.4bn agreed funds to Pakistan this year and the World Bank had also agreed to additional assistance purely for budgetary support. Discussions with the World Bank were in progress for assistance only for the purpose of government expenditure, he said.

Giving a breakdown of $38bn expected financial support from lenders other than IMF, Dr Shaikh said about $8.7bn funds had been lined up against project loans, $4.2bn for programme loans, about $14bn of rollover loans and up to $8bn in commercial loans. He did not go into details and sources of these loans.

Responding to a question, he said Pakistan’s outflows for debt-servicing amounted to $9.5bn during the last financial year and projected at $11.8bn during the current fiscal year.

The adviser said there had been different exaggerations and unfair comments about IMF conditions while the government was in talks but it would also become clear as to what are the conditions when the IMF releases full details of the programme.

He said the government decision to enter into the IMF programme was a message to the world and other lending agencies that Pakistan was serious and ready to prove its responsibility towards managing expenditures, enhancing revenues and taking difficult decisions while protecting the vulnerable segments.

Dr Shaikh said there was also no condition or IMF demand in the programme about the privatisation as it would become clear from the documents to be released by the Fund. Instead Pakistan has to develop a comprehensive programme to decide which loss making entities could be improved and run in the public sector, which can be better run by the private sector and which require liquidation.

Pakistan has said this programme will be completed by September 2020, but there was also a possibility that we finalise the restructuring plan before this target. This is because these entities are a direct burden on the public finance and should be tackled at the earliest and if the Pakistan State Oil and Pakistan International Airlines are not being run in an efficient manner then this is not in the interest of our people.

The adviser said what should matter to all was that the IMF was an international institution from whom Pakistan could secure financial support and by taking benefit from this fiscal space set the stage for sustainable reforms in the long-term interest of the people and the country and ensure how to learn lesson from the past and not to repeat mistakes.

He said the government had given independence to the State Bank of Pakistan so that it emerged as a strong institution like others in the world.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 17, 2019 at 1:02pm

#Pakistan's current account #deficit shrinks by 32% year over year. It fell to $13.59 billion during the fiscal year-2018-19, down 32 per cent, from $19.90 billion in the same period last year. #PTI #ImranKhan #IMF #economy #debt https://arynews.tv/en/current-account-deficit-shrinks/

Owing to business friendly policies adopted by the incumbent government to boost exports, current account deficit fell by 32 per cent during the current fiscal year, ARY News reported.

The Statistics Division has reported that the current account deficit (CAD) fell to $13.59 bn during the fiscal year-2018-19, decreasing by 32 per cent, from $19.90 bn in the same period last year.

Earlier on June 16, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had said that due to effective measures taken by the government ,current account deficit had shirked to $7 billion during past few months.


Addressing a post budget conference, ‘Pakistan Back on Track’ in Islamabad, Hafeez Shaikh had said that the current government had inherited $20 bn current account deficit and it required 2000 billion rupees for debt servicing.

The advisor had said that the government was striving hard to overcome the fiscal and current account deficit to stabilize economy.

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