With a net worth of about $14.7 billion, State Bank of Pakistan’s present reserves are sufficient to cover about 3 months of imports, government claimed on Wednesday.

Answering a question, Minister of State for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan told National Assembly that the foreign exchange reserves of the country were $11.47 billion at the end of the previous government, while at present reserves are $20.70 billion.

He said country’s total liquid foreign exchange reserves witnessed a reduction of $3.3 billion from the peak level of $24 billion at the end October 2016 to $20.7 billion by 8th December, 2017.

The decline in the country’s FX reserves is primarily attributed to widening of current account deficit. Current account deficit widened to US$12.4 billion during financial year 2017 as compared to US$4.9 billion in 2016, Khan wrote in his reply.

The main contributor to current account deficit is trade deficit - due to increase in imports of machinery, industrial raw material and petroleum products. This sharp increase is due to increased investments under CPEC in energy and infrastructure sectors.

He said another factor was stagnancy in remittances due to tight budgetary conditions in GCC countries as a result of low oil prices, strict regulatory requirements in US and depreciation of pound sterling against US dollar.

The negative trend in exports has bottomed out and exports have increased by 11.2 percent and workers’ remittances by 2.3 percent during July-October, 2017 as against corresponding period of last year.

Minister said during July-October, 2017-18 FDI stood at $940 million as compared to $538 million in the corresponding period of last year showing an impressive growth of 74 percent.

He hoped that in coming months the current account deficit may substantially improve and the foreign exchange reserves of the country will continue to be at a healthy level in present year.

Answering another question, Minister of State for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan said State Bank had taken notice of the recent instances of skimming and had issued instructions to banks to ensure safety and security of payment infrastructure in the country.

He said during 2017, as many as 13,827 incidents of skimming were reported in 23 banks, worth Rs203,182,269.

He said initially the number of incidents were only 3,783 which increased to 5,618 and 9,656 in year 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The repeated cases of skimming surfaced during this year after police arrested many accused including Chinese nationals and claimed that an international racket was behind the ATM skimming frauds. Arrested Chinese nationals were having business visas.

To another question, Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal said that during last five years, a total of 92,204 visas were issued to the foreign nationals.

During the year 2013, maximum visas – 29,622 were issued while in 2014, 2015, the number of visas remained 10,267 and 22,932 respectively. During 2016 a total of 13,456 visas were issued to foreigners while in 2017 these were 15,927 in number.