Would it be Last Bailout Package for Pakistan from IMF?
Authors: Berjis Kamal Abbasi and Sara Batool
The post-war liberal international economic order has established by the United States with the spirit to promote capitalism, market economy and democracy. The capitalist system and market economy is organized by the multilateral institutions i.e. the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Both the international financial institutions are designed to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the globe. Since its inception, the international lender is playing the significant role in the management of balance of payments difficulties of its member countries. The IMF provides economic assistance, loans and policy guide lines to develop and developing countries to deal with their financial policies and to stabilize the international monetary system. Pakistan is also a part of liberal international system and heavily dependent on IMF and the World Bank to balance the imbalance of payments.
The International Monetary Fund was conceived in July 1944 and came into existence in December 1945. It has 189 members and they contribute to a pool through a quota system. Countries suffering from a BoP crisis can draw from it, which is usually known as a bailout. The IMF mostly extend its helping hand to member countries in a case of BoP crisis. A country’s balance of payments tells you whether it save enough to pay for its imports, or whether the country produces enough economic output to pay for its growth. The BoP also means that the country is importing more than its exports and heavily relies on foreign direct investment or borrows money to make up the difference. It is widely acknowledge that a BoP crisis occurs when a country is unable to pay for imports or repay its external debt. Generally BoP crisis negatively impacts on local currency through declining steeply in value, which consequently began to add the value of external payments. The case of Pakistan is very interesting as the country has gone to IMF 21 times since its birth in August 1947. On December 8, 1958 the then military regime signed a one-year Standby Arrangement (SBA) but terminated it prematurely after nine months. Since then, Pakistan has availed 16 programs of IMF, yet the relationship has been far from smooth.
Pakistan has earned the reputation of a one-tranche nation – a veiled reference to the country’s track record of taking loans at critical times and then abandoning them prematurely, either because of a crisis of balance of payments or because further disbursements required tough policy actions. At present, Pakistani authorities and the IMF team have reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies that could be supported by a 39-month Extended Fund Arrangement (EFF) for about US$6 billion. This agreement is subject to the IMF management approval and approval by the Executive Board, subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners’ financial commitments. Before, discussing the deal, it is necessary to probe that Would Pakistan be able to implement the structural reforms proposed by the IMF and would it be last bailout package for Pakistan from IMF?
The economy of the majority-Muslim nation with a population of over 200 million has slid deeper into crisis since Imran Khan took over as Prime Minister last year. Burgeoning fiscal and current account deficits and a dip in revenues from tax collection are at the heart of the crisis. The authorities recognizes the need to address these challenges, as well as to tackle the large informality in the economy, the low spending in human capital, and poverty.PM Imran Khan initially appeared reluctant to approach the IMF for aid, fearing that it would impose stringent conditions on government policy. Instead, Kahn approached friendly nations to help Pakistan and secured billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, UAE and China. But with inflation climbing to over 8%, the rupee was losing a third of its value over the past year, and foreign exchange reserves barely enough to cover two months of imports, which forced to turn to the IMF.
The IMF deal, with the austerity measures it will entail, will be a political blow to a Pakistani government that had promised to build out a new welfare state, The bailout announcement comes as discontent is already growing over measures Khan’s government has taken to fend off the crisis, including devaluing the rupee by some 30% since January 2018, sending inflation to five-years high. Khan came to power after winning a simple majority in last year’s parliamentary elections on promises to improve the country’s economy and provide jobs to people. But his critics say his government has so far not been able to honor his commitment to the masses. A government report published on Friday also noted that Pakistan’s growth rate is set to hit an eight-year low, with the country’s GDP rate likely to sink to 3.3% against a projected target of 6.2%. But some observers claim the IMF package will be beneficial to end the growing uncertainty and build investors’ confidence.
Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position. This reflects the legacy of uneven and pro-cyclical economic policies in recent years aiming to boost growth, but at the expense of rising vulnerabilities and lingering structural and institutional weaknesses. The State Bank of Pakistan will focus on reducing inflation, which disproportionately affects the poor, and safeguarding the financial stability. A market-determine exchange rate will help the functioning of the financial sector and contribute to a better resource allocation in the economy. The authorities are committed to strengthen the State Bank of Pakistan’s operational independence and mandate. The IMF sets tough conditions for bailout package for Pakistan. The IMF on Friday demanded the government to give State Bank authority to decide dollar rate and make National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) independent. After months of difficult negotiations, under the deal, Pakistan would give up the central bank control of the currency to adopt a market-based exchange rate and take measures to improve the functioning of loss-making state-owned firms as well as curtail subsidies, among other things.
The deal will put an end to uncertainty and improve Pakistan’s financial situation. Even though it might have some negative impacts in the form of a rise in inflation, it will produce positive results in the long run. Since the past couple of years, the economy of Pakistan is passing through critical phase. Previous governments of President Asif Zardari and PM Nawaz Sharif took ad hoc decisions to boost the economic growth through borrowing from internal and external lenders. However, they put huge burden on already collapsing economy through offering subsidy to various state owned enterprises and increased public spending. The Pakistan International Airlines, Steel Mills, Railway and WAPDA are burdening national economy. Pakistan’s inability to collect taxes from huge financial magnets and deep rooted indirect financial market is another cause of economic crisis.
The present government is on fire due to economic crisis and high inflation. But it needs to take concrete steps for structural reforms. First and foremost is to end the subsidy and increase the tax collection through widening the tax net. The tax collection and subsidy termination will add generous figures into national exchequer. The government also needs to privatize the dead horses of Pakistan; i.e. Pakistan Railway, PIA, Steel Mills, WAPDA and many others. In the meantime, the government should start a comprehensive anti-corruption campaign and recover looted money, which can ease the economic problem. The government also can enlarge its revenue through inviting local and foreign investors in the Naya Pakistan Scheme. The minimum political influence and crackdown on black money mafia and Hawalla Hundi have potential to add billions of dollars in Pakistani economy. Last but not least, Pakistan require a brave and committed leadership to overcome its crumbling crisis. The successful implementation of structural reforms can turn present bailout package into lost, otherwise there will be many more to come.
Authors are Graduate Students of International Relations, at Women University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Bagh Pakistan
Price hike in Pakistan: the worst of all worries
The most serious issue Pakistan’s economy is currently dealing with is price increases or inflation. Life has become miserable for the average person as a result of the ongoing increase in the cost of necessities like food, fuel, and medicine. The general public’s standard of living is not the only thing this phenomenon is affecting; it is also fueling social unrest across the nation.
There are numerous factors contributing to the price increase. The rise in the price of oil on the global market comes first. Pakistan relies heavily on imported oil, and when the price of crude oil increases globally, it has a negative impact on the regional economy. The issue has also been exacerbated by Pakistan’s struggling economy, high-interest rates, and currency devaluation.
However, several causes can be identified for Pakistan’s dollar exchange rate’s ongoing rise. One of the main causes is the nation’s substantial import bill, which raises the demand for dollars. Energy and other necessities must be imported into Pakistan, and the pressure on its foreign exchange reserves is increased by the high demand for dollars to pay for these imports. Further weakening Pakistan’s currency is the fact that its exports have not been able to keep up with its imports, resulting in a trade deficit. Due to investors’ reluctance to invest in a nation with an unstable economy, political unrest, and economic ambiguity have also boosted the dollar rate.
Similarly, the debt incurred by Pakistan is a sizable additional factor in raising the dollar rate in that country. Pakistan has one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world and has borrowed a significant amount of money from international financial institutions to meet its financial needs. The pressure from this borrowing has reduced the nation’s foreign exchange reserves and devalued its currency. The country’s economy has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating a significant fiscal stimulus on the part of the government. This has further aggravated the situation. In Pakistan, the dollar rate has been rising steadily as a result of all these factors working together.
Simultaneously, inflation and price increases affect Pakistan’s politics as well as its economy. The opposition parties are using the government’s inability to control the price increase as a major issue to attack it and win over the public. The opposition parties are protesting and demonstrating against the government, accusing it of being responsible for the price increase. They contend that the general populace is suffering because the government’s policies have failed to control inflation. The price increase controversy is being manipulated by the opposition to advance their own political goals and turn the public against the ruling party.
The government, on the other hand, is making an effort to address the issue by implementing a variety of measures, including raising subsidies for necessities and lowering import taxes. However, the opposition parties are utilizing this failure to their advantage because these measures have failed to contain inflation. Similarly, the price increase has important political repercussions. Public support for the opposition parties is growing, while support for the government is eroding. If the government is unable to control the price increase, it may trigger more political unrest, demonstrations, and even violence.
Therefore, a price increase has far-reaching effects. The groups with lower incomes are most negatively impacted because they cannot afford the necessities of life. They are compelled to reduce their food intake as well as their health and education spending. The middle class is also suffering. After all, they must second-guess any major purchases because their purchasing power has significantly dropped.
In addition to economic issues, the price increase is also creating social ones. As they struggle to meet their basic needs, people are growing agitated and desperate. Riots, demonstrations, and protests against the government are being sparked by this annoyance. As people struggle more to make ends meet, inflation also causes a rise in the crime rate.
The government must act swiftly and effectively to stop the price increase. Controlling the hoarding and smuggling of essential commodities is the first step. Second, to lessen their reliance on imports, they must make investments in regional industries. Additionally, the government should prioritize economic expansion because it can result in more job opportunities and, ultimately, greater purchasing power for the average citizen.
The government needs to pay attention to it right away and take action. The stability of the nation’s social and economic systems is in jeopardy, and if the issue is not quickly resolved, it might fuel more unrest and instability. This issue requires both political and economic solutions. The public must see that the government is acting practically to control inflation by effectively communicating its policies to them. Furthermore, the opposition parties should cooperate with the government to find a solution rather than use the price increase issue for political purposes.
To address the issue, the government must take a comprehensive approach that includes both immediate and long-term actions. The private sector and civil society can both be crucial players in finding solutions to the issue. The only way the nation can hope to overcome the problem of price increases and guarantee a higher standard of living for its citizens is through collective effort.
The opposition parties should work with the government to find a solution to this issue, as the government must act quickly and effectively to control inflation. The common people’s lives are being impacted by the price increase, and resolving it will require a collaborative effort from all parties involved. The federal government ought to prioritize long-term economic plans that can boost employment opportunities, reduce reliance on imports, and promote sustainable economic growth. To encourage trade and commerce, the government ought to work on enhancing the infrastructure, such as the roads and communication systems.
Additionally, the government needs to take strict action against anyone hoarding, smuggling, or profiting from the situation in order to make extra money. In order to boost production and lessen reliance on imports, the government should also support local industries by offering incentives and support.
Vietnam’s macroeconomic policy and post COVID recovery
As per the latest IMF reports real Gross Domestic Product(GDP) of Vietnam in 2023 is estimated at 6.2 percent. This clearly shows that Vietnam has been avoiding the usual recessionary trends across the Asian markets and is showing better than average growth .With inflation rate being less than 4 per cent, it clearly shows that Vietnam is likely to emerge as a promising economy in Asia. According to the regional economic outlook which has been released by the IMF , it clearly projects that there are high expectations of uncharacteristic slow down in China benefitting competitors such as Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia .
Asian Development Bank(ADB) has forecasted that Vietnam’s GDP was expected to grow by 6.5% in 2022 and nearly 6.7% forecasted for the year 2023. If one looks into the comparative forecast for countries in Southeast Asia it is stated that Philippines will grow by 6.3 per cent ,Cambodia 6.2 per cent ,Indonesia 5 per cent, Thailand 4.2 per cent , Laos 3.5 per cent ,and so on. If one looks into the core fundamentals of Vietnam following the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been clearly stated that Vietnam’s annual economic growth rate hovered between 6.3 per cent to 6.5 per cent for the decade preceding the current one.
One of the major aspects of this better than average economic growth was high foreign direct investment, increased domestic consumption, sizeable increase in the middle class, and Vietnam’s focus on promoting its manufacturing to be export oriented. In terms of other critical aspects Vietnam has been securing loans from many other international agencies over the past few years. With funding and grants from different international economic agencies ,Vietnam has been able to upgrade its road, rail transport and border connectivity infrastructure along with promoting social economic growth of nearly 243,000 people across the provinces.
One of the mainstays of Vietnam economy has been small and medium enterprises along with active participation of women.These enterprises have been getting bank credit and technical assistance through different initiatives such as public private partnerships, promotion of private sector development, and extensive reforms in state owned enterprises. Vietnam has been preparing well for facing the severity of climate change and also undertaking pilot projects for post disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation. It has institutional arrangements with World bank and Netherlands to develop resilience for the coastal areas particularly Mekong delta to undertake comprehensive efforts in mitigating the climate change effects.
Over a period of time Vietnam has been making serious efforts in emerging as a knowledge network society. This includes improving policy applications, enhancing capacities of stakeholders and providing information to the communities on a regular basis. Vietnam has also received more than USD $ 2 million grant for climate resilient inclusive infrastructure through high technology fund from ADB. In terms of meeting UN sustainable development goals, Vietnam has successfully provided electricity to its cent percent population.
It has been stated that Vietnam is one of the economies which is going to benefit from Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership(RCEP) given the reduction in tariffs during the period 2020 to 2035 and because of these reductions the export of electrical equipment and machinery from Vietnam is going to grow to the level of 12.1% while the main stay of its exports primarily textiles and apparels are going to grow by nearly 10%. Given the fact that RCEP would facilitate Vietnam’s entry into high end markets such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand might translate into better trade revenues.
In fact better integration with regional economies would promote its sectors such as tourism, entertainment, education, agriculture, automobile telecommunication, and IT. Two different aspects have gained international attention because of Vietnam ranked 70th out of 190 countries in terms of ease of doing business, and its major strength has been the young population as nearly 70 per cent of its population is aged between 15 to 64. This large working population reduces social security liabilities to the aging population. Major work which has been done by the current Vietnamese government is its national strategy for Environmental Protection 2030 with a comprehensive plan under Vision 2050.
It is expected that Vietnam’s construction sector is going to grow because of increase spending on infrastructure projects along with improvement in regional connectivity through rail, road, and air transport infrastructure. There are high expectations that Vietnam tourism sector will post impressive recovery, and last year the country witnessed an increase of tourist arrivals by more than 185 per cent in the first four months of 2022. The tourism sector is going to increase further given the fact that Vietnam has signed a comprehensive agreement in boosting sustainable tourism and post COVID recovery at the national level. During the period 2022 to 2025 it is expected that the cumulative average growth rate of tourism would be 13.5% average each year .
As per the global data set and the General Statistical Office of Vietnam, the industrial production is also going to increase substantially and export orders as well as internal domestic demand is going to bring about remarkable improvement in production as well as exports. Last year, the G7 countries have agreed to grant a loan of US $5.5 billion for helping Vietnam transition from coal to other sources for power generation. This was based on the promise that Vietnam should make plans for shifting to nearly 50 per cent of its power requirements from renewable energy by the year 2030. It is also expected that foreign direct investment in Vietnam is going to be steady with high tech industries, knowledge based service industries, and education gaining the maximum investments. The real estate and construction sector are other sectors which are going to gain international attention.
This year it is expected that public investment would be helpful in post pandemic recovery and under the Socio Economic Recovery and Development Programme nearly US $15.4 billion has been approved for accelerating the economic growth. Furthermore, commodity exports is likely to see a remarkable two digit jump and the FTAs that Vietnam has signed with various partners will help in building the capacities of Vietnamese manufacturing sector in product transformation, exploring diversified markets, better restructuring, and skill development at different levels. The transformation is also happening in terms of fiscal and monetary prudence as well as undertaking reforms within banking system and financial governance. The anti corruption drive that the Vietnam has undertaken in the last few years have built the investor confidence and it is expected that Vietnam will reap the dividends of better business environment, market connectivity, and relatively comparative advantage among other competitors in Southeast Asia. As expected the fundamentals are getting stronger, and therefore Vietnam can witness a stronger economic growth and better macroeconomic stability in the year 2023.
Azerbaijan’s Favorable Climate for Foreign Investments
Azerbaijan, situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, presents investors with plentiful opportunities, chiefly in the area of oil and gas, tourism, and agriculture, as well as policies developed to stimulate foreign investment and enhance the investment environment. Furthermore, Azerbaijan invested in order to gain access to additional markets and strengthen its presence in the international economy, and the country has committed capital to sectors such as energy, real estate, infrastructure, and tourism.
Azerbaijan’s economy has seen an impressive rate of growth over the past decade. According to the World Bank, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 1.4% in 2020, despite the global pandemic. This serves as a testament to the fortitude of Azerbaijan’s economy, which has endured multiple economic disturbances in the past. Estimations suggest that Azerbaijan’s Gross Domestic Product is approximately $54 billion, with an average annual increase of 1.9% over the past four years. Azerbaijan has experienced a steady low rate of unemployment over the past decade, with an average of 5%, indicating a strong labor market and a prosperous business environment.
Azerbaijan has cultivated wise investments in fields that demonstrate promising growth and profitability. The efforts of the nation to broaden its economic base have proven successful, resulting in a decrease in its reliance on petroleum. Azerbaijan has achieved notable success in diversifying its economic base and diminishing its dependence on oil exports. The non-oil exports of Azerbaijan have been rising continuously in the recent years; as reported by the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Agency (AZPROMO), there was a 47.2% ($2713.40 million) and 12.3% ($3047.67 million) increase in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Between January and February of 2023, the country recorded an increase of 36.6% in non-oil export earnings, amounting to approximately $651.42 million, compared to the same period the year before.
Multinational corporations from around the world are highly eager to access Azerbaijan’s natural resources, mainly its oil and gas reserves. In 2020, Azerbaijan’s oil production reached 33.5 million tons, followed by 29.5 million tons and 32.8 million tons in 2021 and 2022 respectively, as reported by the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), thus placing the nation among the major oil-producing countries in the region. Oil production is projected to reach 35 million barrels in 2023. According to the Oil and Gas Journal, Azerbaijan has more than 2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, representing a significant opportunity for energy companies worldwide.
In 2020, Azerbaijan attracted a total of $4.5 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI):
Azerbaijan saw a 5.9% increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) compared to the past year, which made it one of the most prominent FDI recipients within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) area. In 2020, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the United States were the top three countries by FDI in Azerbaijan, with the United Kingdom contributing $1.7 billion, Turkey investing $577 million and the United States investing $475 million, according to the Central Bank of Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index reveals that Azerbaijan has made substantial strides in reaching the objectives that were put in place by the United Nations across multiple domains. According to the SDG Index, the rate of global poverty has decreased from 49.6% in 2010 to 5.9% by 2022. Azerbaijan’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) has seen a positive trend, decreasing from 14.5 in 2010 to 9.7 in 2019 and further to 7.5 in 2022. The citizens of the country have reaped the benefits of its efforts to bolster health and well-being, as evident by the increase in life expectancy from 68.6 years in 2010 to 73.3 years in 2022. Azerbaijan’s commitment to improving the standard of living for its people and promoting economic growth in a sustainable manner are reflective of its commitment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2019, Azerbaijan achieved a ranking of 25th place in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, which marks a notable enhancement of 32 places from the previous year and highlights a favorable business climate for foreign investors. In 2020, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report ranked Azerbaijan 34th among 190 countries, with a score of 76.7 for the ease of setting up a business.
Taking all factors into consideration, Azerbaijan is a highly attractive investment opportunity for a variety of industries, including energy, tourism, agriculture, and technology. In order to stimulate foreign investment, the government has put in place a variety of incentives to simplify the foreign investment process. Azerbaijan is an attractive option for investors to expand their investment portfolios and explore new markets due to its attractive business environment, strategic location, and robust economic growth. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s foreign investments have had a considerable influence on the nation’s economic growth. The country has leveraged investments to expand its portfolio and reduce its reliance on oil and gas industries, as well as to access novel markets.
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