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Amid blackouts and severe foreign currency shortage, Pakistan's economy at risk of collapse

According to the report, rolling blackouts and a severe foreign currency shortage are making it difficult for businesses to continue operations.

Shashwat Bhandari Edited By: Shashwat Bhandari @ShashBhandari New Delhi Published on: January 27, 2023 7:15 IST
A car drive in a market, where some shopkeeper are using
Image Source : AP A car drive in a market, where some shopkeeper are using generators for electricity during a national-wide power breakdown, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

British publication Financial Times has warned that Pakistan's economy is at risk of collapse with the government's "failure to revive" an International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal, Geo News reported.

According to the report, rolling blackouts and a severe foreign currency shortage are making it difficult for businesses to continue operations.

Shipping containers full of imports are piling up at ports as the buyers are unable to secure the dollars to pay for them, it added, Geo News reported.

"Associations for airlines and foreign companies have warned that they have been blocked from repatriating dollars by capital controls imposed to protect dwindling foreign reserves. Officials said that factories such as textile manufacturers were closing or cutting hours to conserve energy and resources. The difficulties were compounded by a nationwide blackout on Monday that lasted more than 12 hours," reported the UK newspaper.

"Already a lot of industries have closed down, and if those industries don't restart soon, some of the losses will be permanent," said the founder of Macro Economic Insights, Sakib Sherani, Geo News reported.

Citing analysts, Financial Times reported that Pakistan's economic situation is "becoming untenable", and maybe in a similar situation as Sri Lanka if the situation persists. The publication also warned that if the "situation persists" then the country may default in May.

"Every day matters now. It's simply not clear what the way out is," said Abid Hasan, a former advisor to the World Bank, adding, "Even if they get a billion [dollars] or two to roll over, things are so bad that it's going to be just a band-aid at best."

Pakistan's Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal told the FT that the country has "drastically" reduced imports in an attempt to conserve dollars.

"If we just comply with the IMF conditionalities, as they want, there will be riots in the streets. We need a staggered programme... The economy and society cannot absorb the shock or cost of a front-loaded programme," Iqbal said.

Following the Pakistani rupee's devaluation in the open and interbank markets, the benchmark index of the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) rallied and gained by more than 1,000 points, Geo News reported.

Commenting on the development, Arif Habib Limited's Head of Research, Tahir Abbas, said that the rupee's steep fall has triggered a positive sentiment in the market.

"The driving factor behind the market is the rupee's market-based exchange rate. This has helped clear the uncertainty that was surrounding the investors," Abbas said, Geo News reported.

The analyst said that the government's steps are helping the market recover and increasing the confidence of the investors - who were in a difficult position due to the uncertainty over the revival of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) programme.

Abbas added that with a mini-budget expected within the next eight to 10 days, the tariffs of gas and electricity might also witness an increase and more taxes might be be imposed - also the global money lender's conditions.

The Pak rupee posted its biggest single-day decline against the dollar in more than two decades, after rapidly depleting foreign exchange reserves and an unyielding IMF forcing the government to relax its grip on the currency, The News reported.

Following the government's decision to end its control over the rupee-dollar exchange rate as part of the IMF condition, the Pak currency slid 9.61 per cent, or Rs 24.5, to a record low of Rs 255.43 against the US dollar compared to Wednesday's close of Rs 230.89.

The over 9 per cent decline was its highest since October 30, 1999, when the currency had slumped 9.4 per cent.

"The State Bank of Pakistan is seemingly adjusting the exchange rate to the market rate - closer to open market to address the widening difference between the official and open market rate and to curb the flow of dollars through the informal market," said Saad Ali, a capital market expert, The News reported.

(With inputs from IANS)

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