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Tuesday January 31, 2023

SBP chief expects dollar inflows from next week

Governor says SBP to issue report Monday regarding commercial banks involvement in manipulation of exchange rate

January 18, 2023
An undated image of State Bank of Pakistan Governor Jameel Ahmad. — Twitter/@StateBank_Pak
An undated image of State Bank of Pakistan Governor Jameel Ahmad. — Twitter/@StateBank_Pak

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jameel Ahmad on Wednesday claimed that the country will start receiving inflows from next week giving the government much-needed breathing space amid the liquidity crunch that is currently gripping the cash-strapped nation.

The central bank governor, addressing the business community at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), said that following the inflows the position of foreign exchange reserves — which now stand at its lowest level since February 2014 — will strengthen paving the way for the removal of restrictions on imports.

Pakistan banned the import of all non-essential luxury goods in May to avert a balance of payments crisis and stabilise the economy. However, following severe criticism from stakeholders the authorities concerned removed restrictions on the import of some goods to facilitate the industries.

The low reserves led the SBP to place import restrictions earlier last year, much to the dismay of several importers and businesses in Pakistan that cited these curbs as the reason behind shutting down or scaling back their operations.

Pakistan’s reserves have rapidly depleted to less than three weeks of import cover of $4.5 billion as of January 6, however, the SBP chief assured the businessmen that dollar inflows would start pouring in from next week following which decisions regarding import curbs will be taken.

Addressing the grievances of the business community regarding difficulties faced in opening Letters of Credit (LCs), the governor said "it takes time to verify submissions".

“Currently, the central bank cleared around 33,000 LCs with special consideration for raw material imports used in goods which are exported,” he said revealing that the commercial banks also requested the regulator to prioritise LCs needed for the import of food items, medicines, and oil.

'Strict action' to be taken against commercial banks

Shedding light on the involvement of commercial banks in exchange rate manipulation, Ahmad said an investigation had been completed, assuring the industry players of strict action against the guilty.

“Rest assured all commercial banks involved in manipulating the exchange rate will be held accountable,” he said, adding that a detailed report will be released on January 23 — the same date the central bank is expected to announce the monetary policy rate.

The SBP chief did not comment on the central bank's monetary policy stance.

'No plan in place'

At the outset of the meeting, the industrialists highlighted several issues being faced by them due to which their businesses were suffering.

Former FPCCI president Mian Nasser Hyatt Maggo warned the central bank chief that if supply chain hurdles weren’t removed the country will witness high levels of unemployment and sky-high prices of essential food items.

Lambasting the central bank and Ministry of Finance for not having a proper plan in place, he predicted that if a similar situation persists then the price of pulses will shoot to Rs1,000 per kg.

Meanwhile, industrialist Saleem Bikiya lamented that the out of a total strength of 950 employees only 350 could be retained while the rest were laid off due to the ongoing financial crunch.

Urging the governor to take adequate measures to ensure the availability of dollars so that the companies and industries can survive the ongoing crisis.