Press Coverage

Exports recover to pre-Covid-19 monthly level: SBP chief

 ISLAMABAD: The Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Reza Baqir, has said that the exports have recovered to their pre-COVID monthly level of around $2 billion, with the strongest recovery in textiles, rice, cement, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Pakistan needs to focus on competitiveness and reduce imports even further to support local businesses; he said this, while addressing the second day of the 23rd Annual Sustainable Development Conference of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.

Addressing the panel, “Pakistan’s Economic Response to COVID-19 and Way Forward for an Inclusive Economic Recovery”, he said that to boost economic activity and job opportunities in the country, the central bank was working with the banks to see that lending to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and housing financing facilities are increased in collaboration with banks.

He said that under the prime minister’s instruction, the government has coordinated a consistent and holistic policy to promote housing and construction sector.

At the Central Bank’s end, we are working with the banks to help them support this sector, he added.

The governor of the central bank said: “India’s economy has suffered sharp decline. Pakistan has not been hard hit because the country controlled COVID-19 well and the government and SBP took timely measures to stop bankruptcies from happening since that can lead to major and long-term implications. Now that demand is coming back from world market, our exporters were ready due to the liquidity and smart lockdowns. What we need to focus on now is to increase our export-to-GDP ratio.”

Dr Reza Baqir said under the TERF scheme, the SBP would refinance banks to provide financing at a maximum end-user rate of seven percent for 10 years for the purpose of new imported and locally-manufactured plants and machinery for setting up new projects and expansion for existing projects/businesses.

As a country, we should be proud that the world is recognising and acknowledging our success in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the State Bank of Pakistan, we are cautiously optimistic and seeing early signs of a promising recovery.

We should not be hostage to our past.

As the 5th largest country in the world, we cannot let our expectations for the future be limited by the problems of our past. We have to embrace the future as a people that do not have any inherent constraints on their abilities to achieve economic prosperity. So, we have to overcome the baggage of the past and grow optimistic. If we succeed in becoming more forward looking and look at our true potential, we can have great prosperity that will embrace us, he added.

Dr Baqir said: “The IMF, like the government, wants power sector reforms and reduction of circular debt; second that tax collection should be automated and cases of abuse reduced, so that people are facilitated in dealing with tax authorities, plus to increase the tax net. Both the IMF and the government want the same thing in this regard.”

Earlier speaking at a session on “Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security: Challenges for Women”, Androulla Kaminara, European Union ambassador to Pakistan, said that food is not insufficient in Pakistan, but it is inaccessible for the poor and vulnerable classes and communities.

The EU ambassador also explained as to how Covid-19, poverty, gendered policies, and many other factors are adding to the food insecurity and injustice towards women.

Rashid Mehmood, Additional Secretary for Ministry of National Food Security and Research said that Pakistan needs to promote multi-sectoral approach to address food insecurity in the country.

Wouter Plomp, the Ambassador of Netherlands in Islamabad, stressed the need to keep food markets operational, so that the food security can be improved and ensured.

Dr Aamer Irshad from Food and Agriculture Organization, termed the pandemic a global situation and explained that how the economy and production is reducing due to Covid-19.

He highlighted that the bad weather, cost of production and imports are causing food inflation

Dr Pauline Oosterhoff, Institute of Development Studies, discussed as to how the Covid-19 has increased the invisible burden for women as well as their unpaid responsibility.

She said food is really necessary for every kind of development.

Speaking at a session on “Government of Tomorrow: Re-imagining the Role of Government after COVID-19”, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that communication creates incentives for people through transparency of government policies and effectiveness of bureaucracy.

Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh said the current situation emphasized upon the role of government on Green Economy rather than focusing on high growth numbers because growth numbers like GDP is not a scale to measure the people’s welfare.

Dr Dushni Weerakon, Executive Director, Institute of Policy Studies, Colombo said that Covid-19 has exposed real flaws in our system like limited rights to bureaucrats in implementing policy and lack of integrated disaster management institutions to be prepared for any upcoming disasters.

Speaking at a session on Accelerating SDGs Achievement and Building Back Better from COVID-19 Pandemic in South Asia, Dr Nagesh Kumar, Director, UNESCAP, stressed the need for national strategies to focus on building better rather than trying to re-establish the status quo preceding the pandemic.

He also emphasized that regional cooperation could play an important role to national efforts.