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Sunday May 19, 2024

ADB highlights 'political unrest' among key hurdles to economic stability in Pakistan

Growth in Pakistan is projected to grow by 1.9% this year, ADB's Outlook Report 2024 states

By Ashraf Malkham
April 11, 2024
A street vendor sells dried fruits at a market in Karachi. — AFP/File
A street vendor sells dried fruits at a market in Karachi. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan struggles to tackle prevailing dire economic circumstances, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Thursday underscored political unrest, devastating floods and government failure to adhere to key policies as the primary hurdles preventing Pakistan's progress and growth.

In its annual Asian Development Outlook Report 2024, the regional lender has termed uncertainty as a risk towards the efforts being made for stabilisation, recovery and reforms.

Highlighting that the country's GDP declined by 0.2% in fiscal year 2023 (FY2023,ended 30 June 2023) following 6.2% expansion in FY2022, the report says that economy shrank due to various reasons including policy slippage curbed investment, consumption, and production. 

"A steep decline in imports from ad hoc import controls allowed net exports to contribute positively to growth," it added.

The bank maintained that the growth in Pakistan is projected to grow by 1.9% this year, driven by a rebound in private sector investment linked to progress on reform measures and transition to a new and more stable government.

Graphs by ADB depicting growth, interest and inflation rates in Pakistan. — ADB
Graphs by ADB depicting growth, interest and inflation rates in Pakistan. — ADB

"In FY2025, growth is projected to reach 2.8%, driven by higher confidence, reduced macroeconomic imbalances, adequate progress on structural reforms, greater political stability, and improved external conditions," the report added.

Growth has been affected by rising costs and tax hikes in the construction sector, it stated, while the deficit in Pakistan is expected to be at a high level of 25% this fiscal year.

ADB mentioned that Pakistan will have to rely on international financial institutions and friendly countries for external payments.

"Inflation reached a 5-decade high as supply disruption and currency depreciation propelled increases in food and energy prices," the bank said in the report, adding that inflation rates will remain high at about 25% this year due to higher energy prices.

It further mentioned that prices of food commodities will stabilise next year.

Graph by ADB shows monthly inflation rates in Pakistan from July 2022 to Jan 2024. — ADB
Graph by ADB shows monthly inflation rates in Pakistan from July 2022 to Jan 2024. — ADB

However, in it forecast, the ADB also stated that inflation is expected to decrease to 15.0% next year as progress on macroeconomic stabilisation restores confidence

"Inflation will remain elevated at about 25.0% in FY2024, driven by higher energy prices, but is expected to ease in FY2025."

The bank maintained that while improvement in food supplies and moderation of inflation expectations will likely ease inflationary pressures, further increases in energy prices envisaged under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Stand-by Agreement (SBA) are projected to keep inflation high.

According to the report, agricultural production and industrial sector are expected to improve this fiscal year. If the reforms are implemented, the economic recovery process will begin this year, it added.

In its report, the bank also stressed that there is a need to enforce measures for financial inclusion of women in Pakistan.

"While Pakistan’s overall financial inclusion has improved, the gender gap in account ownership more than doubled over the past decade, reaching 32% in 2021," it stated.

Meanwhile, on the regional front, ADB that developing economies in Asia and the Pacific are forecast to expand by 4.9% on average this year as the region continues its resilient growth amid robust domestic demand, improving semiconductor exports, and recovering tourism.

The wave of recession will ease in the region, it added.