ISLAMABAD-The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FPCCI) Businessmen Panel (BMP) has said that the unstable rupee value and its massive fall continued to damage the economy, as the local currency has hit a new all-time low mark against US dollar in the interbank market amidst rising energy cost and escalating markup rate owing to tough conditions of the International Monetary Fund, devaluing the rupee by 1.96 percent or Rs3.82 against the US dollar in the inter-bank market.
The FPCCI former president and BMP Chairman Mian Anjum Nisar observed that there was a complete breakdown of economic policymaking, as the country’s fiscal policy had become subservient to monetary and exchange rate policies. During the week, the rupee emerged as the worst performing currency in Asia in the wake of strengthening of the greenback globally and a surge in its demand in Pakistan. Among all currencies, Pakistani rupee registered the largest decline of 26.6 percent in the past one year and the steepest drop of 22.3 percent in the first eight months of 2023. He said that the monetary tightening and exchange rate depreciation resulted in higher inflation, public debt and debt servicing. The empirical evidence showed that the one percent monetary tightening hiked the inflationary pressure by 1.3 percent in the case of Pakistan, he added.
The FPCCI former president observed that besides increasing exports the caretaker government will have to take administrative measures, as a large demand of cash dollars is seen in the market. He said that the IMF has continued to remain tough with Pakistan in the past to ensure its prerequisite conditions are implemented.
Anjum Nisar said that the country’s economy nosedived partly due to external factors but majorly due to non-serious and poor domestic policy decisions and mismanagement of the economic managers, as the rupee saw yet another dramatic fall in just over a week, while the key interest rate have been escalated by the central bank to the record historic level of 22 percent, which will destroy the economy completely.
The FPCCI former president and BMP Chairman Mian Anjum Nisar observed that it is very clear that IMF programmes focus on stabilisation and crisis management rather than growth-oriented policies that require structural reforms. He stressed need for a revisit of government policies including the coordination exercise between the Ministry of Finance and SBP, as no independent economist could support the economic policies that are currently in place. Thus the current untenable situation is due to a perceived policy of exchange rate manipulation and cannot be attributed entirely to the warnings of impending default or criticism of the handling of the economy.
He observed that coordinating fiscal and monetary policies may be beneficial yet with inflation attributed to administrative decisions in nearly all recent Monetary Policy Statements and the government unwilling to implement key reforms in the power sector and tax structure the SBP needs to be vigilant in ensuring market-based exchange rate policy and a positive discount rate while the ministry needs to revisit its tax policy, utility pricing policy and of course continued massive injections into loss-making state-owned entities.
The finance ministers in the past massively misjudged their capacity to get the International Monetary Fund to agree to phasing out the harsh upfront conditions that were agreed– a miss-judgment that delayed the success of the mandatory quarterly reviews and thereby delayed the disbursement of the tranches on which rollovers by friendly countries as well as pledged new loans. Firms that decide to embark upon export-oriented manufacturing despite these adverse incentives face a further distortion. The distortions in place in Pakistan are to a large extent the result of powerful insiders, albeit limited in number, who influence policy making process to maximise their own benefits.
The notable decline in retail trading suggested that individual currency investors had returned to the market to park their savings in foreign currency in an attempt to avoid the impact of further rupee depreciation, which will eat into their savings. With the latest depreciation, the difference between exchange rates in the inter-bank and open markets remained widened at over 2.5 percent compared to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) recommended ceiling of 1.25 percent.
It proved recent speculations true that suggested that the rupee would come under a fresh round of depreciation, which had been due for some time, during the caretaker government. Earlier, the PDM government artificially kept the currency stable around Rs288/$ to save its political capital and left the job to be done during the interim setup. The rupee has maintained its downturn despite some decline in petroleum prices in the international market owing to a weak global economic outlook, particularly for the world’s second largest economy China.
He commented that the reopening of imports had mounted pressure on the rupee, as the demand for the US dollar has remained high to clear import backlog after the government lifted restrictions on imports to revive economic activities. This one-off extra demand for the dollar to clear pent-up demand has piled pressure on the rupee. He, however, aired hope that the currency should settle in the range of Rs290-295/$ immediately as he did not see further depreciation.