Possible loss of momentum to make decisions may hit Pakistan’s growth: ADB
ISLAMABAD: Calm has returned to Pakistan following the political uncertainty heightened by the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister, but still possible loss of momentum for making policy decisions may hamper prospects for economic growth in the country, said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in an update to its annual economic report.
The report feared that there are downside risks, pointing out that growth has improved but the PML-N government which will continue to lead until new parliamentary elections are held by the third quarter of 2018 needs to address fiscal and external sector vulnerabilities that have reappeared with the wider current account deficit, falling foreign exchange reserves, rising debt obligations, and consequently greater external financing needs
The update of ‘Asian Development Look 2017’ notes that GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 5.5 per cent in Pakistan assuming better growth prospects in advanced and developing economies alike, a continued revival in world trade volumes, and continued improvement in the security and business environment.
The main impetus for industry and services growth will be expanded China-pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure investments, other energy investments, and government development expenditure. Agriculture should expand by trend rates, the report says.
A key challenge will be to finance Pakistan’s burgeoning trade deficit as remittance inflows, however substantial, continue to fall.
Better prospects for global growth and trade are expected to further the recent improvement in export performance, however weak, in FY17.
EXPORTS TO RISE
Exports are likely to take off, though, only with adequate and reliable power supply and other supporting infrastructure and policy. The report says that imports are expected to continue to increase as growth spurs domestic demand that domestic production cannot meet.
July 2017 imports were, though 8% less than the peak in June, 50.9pc above a year earlier. Petroleum accounted for a quarter of the increase, while imports doubled for power generation machinery and construction, much of it apparently related to the CPEC.
Worker remittances have shown some unexpected improvement, however, in the first two months of FY18, increasing by 13.2% from the same period in FY 2017. If this rebound can be sustained for the rest of FY18, it may ameliorate the projected deficit, the ADB report believed.
In any case, the authorities may need to consider rapid currency depreciation at some point to rein in import growth, or increase foreign borrowing to finance the external gap, to prevent any undue weakening of foreign exchange reserves, the ADB cautioned.
ADB report says that over the medium term, increasing government and Cpec-related repayment obligations highlight the need to carefully manage external debt, the balance of payments, and their financing requirements, while instituting macroeconomic and structural policies to support economic stability and make Pakistan more competitive.
Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank approved $800 million multi-tranche financing facility to help enhance regional connectivity and trade in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) corridors in Pakistan.
Under the CAREC corridor development investment programme, the National Highway Authority will rehabilitate and upgrade the road network of 747 kilometres, constituting the CAREC Corridors mainly in Sindh, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).