ISLAMABAD: The merchandise trade deficit swelled nearly 29 per cent to $15.03 billion in the first five months of this fiscal year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

It rose 19.5pc year-on-year in November to $2.92bn.The year 2016-17 saw the trade deficit rise to an all-time high of $32.58bn, representing year-on-year growth of 37pc. The country’s annual trade deficit was $20.44bn in 2013. It has been continuously on the rise since then.

Analysts believe rising trade deficit is a serious challenge for the government. A commerce ministry official says the impact of government measures including increasing regulatory duties and introducing several non-tariff measures will apply to imports from December onwards.

The imports recorded a growth of 21.12pc to $24.06bn during the July-November period from $19.95bn a year ago. On a monthly basis, they grew 16.48pc year-on-year to $4.9bn in November.

It is claimed that the surge in import bill is driven by increase in imports of petroleum, food and capital products. The imports of mobile phones and apparatuses also witnessed tremendous growth during the period under review.

The import bill of LNG and other petroleum products will rise further following the depreciation of the rupee.

The export proceeds grew 12.35pc in November reaching $1.97bn from $1.75bn last year.

In the first five months of this fiscal year, the export proceeds recorded a growth of 10.49pc to $9.03bn as against $8.17bn in the corresponding period last year.

An official in the commerce ministry told Dawn that the impact of cash support under the prime minister package has revived exports. He said export proceeds entered double-digit growth owing to the cash support. Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi has recently directed departments concerned to expedite process of clearing refund claims and jointly work to resolve all pending issues for facilitating exporters.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2017

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