Dar chairs meeting to review country’s state of economy

CPEC hoped to fill the growing current account deficit

ISLAMABAD

Finance Minister, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar, chaired a meeting at the ministry of finance on Monday, to review the external account position, including the current account, trade account, exports, imports, remittances and financing.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Commerce, Mohammad Pervaiz Malik, finance secretary, commerce secretary, textile industry secretary and senior officials of the ministries of finance, commerce, textile industry, as well as the State Bank of Pakistan.

The finance secretary gave a briefing to the meeting and explained that the recent increase in the current account deficit was largely driven by a sharp increase in imports of machinery for power generation, textile construction and import of petroleum products.

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He said that these were healthy imports which will increase the production capacity of the economy and enable higher growth and exports in the future. He also stated that the decline in exports in the last few years was mainly due to global economic conditions, energy shortages for industrial and agriculture sectors, and reduced availability of exportable surplus.

The finance secretary informed that, due to improvement in the global economic outlook, uninterrupted supply of electricity and gas to the industrial sector and increased output, the export decline had begun to bottom-out as exports during Jan-June 2017 registered a growth of 0.52 per cent compared to the same period last year. He highlighted that exports in July 2017 posted a healthy growth of 10.5 per cent compared to July 2016. He also highlighted that workers’ remittances, which had remained stagnant due to global conditions, have shown an impressive growth of 16 per cent in July 2017 compared to July 2016.

A detailed discussion on various options to give an immediate boost to exports, manage imports and build on the recent month’s growth in remittances was held during the meeting.

The finance minister said that a significantly higher export target should be achieved to improve the trade deficit. He said that the export incentive package announced by the government earlier this year was fully endorsed by the industry and all effort should be made to achieve the growth targets set under this package.

The finance minister directed the finance secretary, commerce secretary and textile industry secretary to remove any impediment that may hinder the achievement of this target. Comprehensive proposals to incentivise remittances were also discussed in detail.

In this regard, the finance secretary said that several meetings have been held with the stakeholders, and various measures have been identified including the proposed remittance scoring card, road shows in major corridors, transaction efficiency and settlement of TT charges. The finance minister emphasised that remittances were an important foreign exchange stream for the country, and directed that the proposed initiatives in this regard should be finalised immediately. He also highlighted the need to incentivise overseas Pakistanis to invest in Pakistan.

The meeting was also briefed on various financing measures to finance the current account deficit in the short-term. It was explained that increased inflows of Foreign Direct Investment and other investments under CPEC will largely fill this gap. Other options such as tapping of capital markets and trade finance facilities were also discussed.

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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