ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s merchandise export growth in March slowed to 7.99 per cent after posting double-digit increases in the preceding three months.

In absolute terms, the export reached $2.55 billion in March, up 7.99pc from $2.36bn over the corresponding month of last year, according to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

The trade deficit widened year-on-year by 56.30pc to $2.17bn in March. However, the overall trade gap in the first nine months of the current fiscal year narrowed by 24.94pc to $17.03bn compared to $22.68bn in the corresponding period last year.

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 target of $100 bn by the end of FY28.

Imports swell by over a quarter; export growth slows to single digits

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

During the caretaker government’s time, export earnings increased due to several actions, including releasing maximum sales tax refunds to exporters.

An official FBR announcement said that all sales tax refund claims of exporters created before March 21 were released.

However, the FBR did not mention the exact amount of the refund claims.

The FBR paid Rs369bn during the first nine months of the current fiscal year as compared to Rs254bn issued in the same period last year.

The FPCCI has constituted an Economic Revival Think Tank which will be headed by former caretaker commerce minister Gohar Ejaz. The task force will identify areas for policy intervention to revive economic growth.

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

At the same time, imports rose by 25.86pc to $4.73bn from $3.75bn in March 2023. The import bill has rapidly increased in recent months following the government’s relaxation of restrictions.

These rapidly increasing imports would drive up the trade imbalance in the final quarter of the current fiscal year.

However, the import bill squeezed 8.65pc to $39.94bn in July-March FY24 from $43.73bn in the corresponding months last year.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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