Saudi Arabia loaned Pakistan $1.5bn to shore up economy

Published March 13, 2014
Photo from February 15, 2014 shows Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud being received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his arrival in Pakistan for a three-day official visit.—APP photo
Photo from February 15, 2014 shows Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud being received by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his arrival in Pakistan for a three-day official visit.—APP photo

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia loaned $1.5 billion to Pakistan last month to help Islamabad shore up its foreign exchange reserves, meet debt-service obligations and undertake large energy and infrastructure projects, Pakistani officials have told Reuters.

The Saudi assistance has contributed to a sharp recovery of the Pakistani rupee, which rose to a nine-month high of 97.40 from 105.40 against the dollar between March 4 and 12, its strongest rally in 30 years.

“On a personal guarantee of the prime minister, Saudi Arabia has given $1.5 billion, which has helped bail out the rupee,” one senior Pakistani government official close to the deal told Reuters, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to disclose the source and purpose of the funding.

The governor of the Saudi central bank declined to comment, and officials gave no details of the loan terms.


Also read: Dar’s ‘dollar dream’ comes true


Another top official who is based in Lahore said the money went into an account known as the Pakistan Development Fund set up to channel money from “friendly countries” like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We have a promise of a total $3 billion, of which $1.5 billion has been received so far,” the second official said. “Most recently, we got $750 million from the Saudis.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has long enjoyed close relations with the Saudi royal family. After his second term as prime minister was ended by a military coup in 1999, he was sent into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi financier and member of the House of Saud, has described Sharif as “Saudi Arabia''s man in Pakistan”.

Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar confirmed on Wednesday that $1.5 billion was received under the development fund but declined to comment on the source.

“Why do you want to expose our friends?” he told reporters. “The countries who have helped us don''t want us to disclose the source.”


NEW FUND


Dar announced the creation of the new fund on Feb 18, the same day Saudi crown prince and deputy prime minister Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud concluded a three-day-visit to Pakistan.

Pakistan's new army chief, General Raheel Sharif, also met King Abdullah and top Saudi military commanders during a trip to the kingdom two weeks before the new account was set up.

Other high-profile Saudi visitors to Pakistan this year have included Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal and Prince Salman bin Sultan, the country''s deputy defence minister.

According to the finance ministry, gross official reserves - including the latest injection of $1.5 billion - stood at $9.52 billion on March 11. A third loan tranche of $550 million from the International Monetary Fund, expected before the end of March, will push reserves close to $10 billion.


Related: Curious case of rupee rise


Pakistan is expected to receive $150 million from the Islamic Development Bank in March, as well as $150-200 million under the Coalition Support Fund, reimbursements for assistance in the U.S.-led coalition''s Afghanistan war effort.

Pakistan will also launch eurobonds of $500 million in May and plans to raise billions of dollars in privatisation revenue by June.

An increase in foreign investment and remittances by overseas Pakistanis have also helped lift the rupee. Remittances increased by 11 percent to $10.2 billion during the first eight months of this fiscal year.

The finance ministry has also attributed the currency's recovery to punitive action against exporters withholding export receipts abroad and warnings to foreign exchange speculators.

Now you can follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

IMF package
Updated 28 Jan, 2023

IMF package

While it is crucial to seek immediate IMF funding to shore up its reserves, the govt shouldn’t focus only on short-term relief.
Dar unpegged
28 Jan, 2023

Dar unpegged

IT is over. Nearly four months after Ishaq Dar descended on the cash-strapped economy with some decidedly outlandish...
Lurking hazards
28 Jan, 2023

Lurking hazards

OVERSIGHT of illegal industrial activity occurring within residential areas in the country is weak, especially in...
Election time
Updated 27 Jan, 2023

Election time

There are concerns whether the ECP will be sufficiently able to protect the integrity of elections if they are held under partisan governments.
SCO invite
27 Jan, 2023

SCO invite

THOUGH India’s invitation to Pakistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation events in Goa later this ...
Call to arms
27 Jan, 2023

Call to arms

ONE way the state abdicates responsibility in Pakistan is by farming out its functions to the private sector. In ...