The data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) as well as the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP’s) second quarterly report do not provide a comfort level with respect to the performance of the government.
Exports declined by 11.13 percent last month as compared to the same period of 2018, and this in spite of the industrial package, a major component of the second amendment finance bill 2019 passed on March 6, estimated at around Rs 10 billion by the government and over Rs 140 billion by economists.
The Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce RazzakDawood expressed serious concern over the decline in exports though one would assume a time lag before the second amendment bill began to reap positive export results. The SBP report July-December 2018 maintains that merchandise exports are expected to miss the target due to waning demand in certain export destinations (the IMF recently forecast a decline in the growth rates of our major export destinations) “compounded by the competitive pressures in the international arena and lack of diversified and higher value-added products that can effectively utilise the export quota allowed under specific trade agreements,” including the GSP plus status accorded to Pakistan by the European Union.
No doubt, export orders do not increase overnight; yet considering that the SBP in its report projected a massive shortfall in all budgeted targets that are unfairly taken from the PML-N government’s April budget regarded as an unrealistic election year budget – a decision that perhaps is also indicative of the failure of the two supplementary finance bills 2019 presented by the present government to make any contrary macroeconomic projections.
The capacity of the incumbent government to deal with macroeconomic issues continues to be challenged in the country’s markets. These targets include: real GDP growth projected at 6.2 percent in the current fiscal year to SBP’s projection of 3.5 to four percent (that has been further downgraded by the IMF to under three percent); Consumer Price Index budgeted at six percent to SBP’s 6.5 to 7.5 percent (with the PBS indicating a 9.4 percent inflation); exports at $27.9 billion to SBP’s projection of 25.5 to 27 billion dollars (a figure that is unlikely to be met) given the contraction of the Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) sector; current account deficit has strengthened subsequent to inflows from ‘friendly countries’ but there may be a reversal when the loans from these friendly countries become due within the calendar year unless a roll over is negotiated; and a fiscal deficit of 4.9 percent has been projected at six to seven percent by the SBP. The IMF has stated that the deficit is 2.5 percentage points higher than budgeted or around 7.4 percent for the current year.