ISLAMABAD: Merchandise exports grew for the fifth consecutive month in January, reaching a 17-month high, indicating a recovery of export-led industrial growth.

In absolute terms, export proceeds in January totalled $2.78 billion, up 27 per cent from $2.19bn the previous year, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce released on Thursday.

Commerce Minister Gohar Ejaz noted that these positive trends reflect the caretaker government’s commitment to promoting trade and economic growth.

“We will continue to implement policies that support our exporters, diversify our export base, and enhance trade facilitation,” he said.

Seven-month trade deficit shrinks 39pc

Mr Ejaz, with less than a month left in office, expressed confidence that Pakistan is on track to achieving its trade goals and becoming a global economic leader.

Exports for the first seven months of FY24 increased by 12pc to $17.76bn from $15.83bn in the corresponding period last year.

The continued rise in export proceeds in January suggests the textile and clothing sectors are beginning to secure orders from global clients following a year of downturn. This also shows that Pakistan is steadily expanding its international trade footprint.

The commerce ministry has yet to announce the strategic framework to provide regional competitive energy pricing, working capital support, speedy refund payments, enhanced market access, and diversification of products.

The IMF’s first review of the $3bn Stand-by Arrangement projects Pakistan’s export proceeds over the next five years to be much less than the commerce ministry’s ambitious $100bn goal by the end of the FY28.

The Fund anticipates Pakistan’s exports will increase gradually from $30.84bn in FY24, $32.35bn in FY25, $34.68bn in FY26, $37.25bn in FY27, and to $39.46bn in FY28.

Import data reveals a 4.5pc decrease to $4.66bn in January from $4.88bn in the same month last year, continuing negative import growth.

The import bill fell 16pc to $30.01bn in July-Jan FY24 from $35.83bn over the corresponding months last year.

Imports fell 31pc to $55.29bn in FY23 from $80.13bn in FY22. The government has projected an import target of $58.69bn for FY24 against $55.29bn in FY23, an increase of $3.4bn or 8.14pc.

The trade deficit narrowed by 30pc to $1.879bn in January 2024 from $2.689bn in January 2023. This is a substantial improvement from last year.

The overall trade deficit in seven months has decreased by 39pc to $12.244bn as compared to $20.005 in the previous year.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2024

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