Foreign Currency

SBP acquires over $5bn from market to maintain reserves

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has acquired more than $5 billion from the interbank market during the ongoing fiscal year to prevent foreign exchange reserves from falling below $3 billion due to a shortage of major inflows of foreign loans. 

According to a news report, this amount is two-thirds of Pakistan’s official foreign exchange reserves and exceeds the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package.

Despite substantial debt repayments, the SBP maintained foreign currency reserves at $8 billion but has also contributed to the rupee’s depreciation of Rs278 against the dollar.

As per the latest data released by the SBP, the total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $13.28 billion as of April 19, 2024. 

Independent analysts suggest that the exchange rate might have been below Rs250 per dollar without these interventions.

Sources from the government and the central bank said these acquisitions aimed to prevent reserves from dropping below $3 billion, attributing the absence of significant foreign loan inflows.  The purchases reportedly exceeded $5 billion and were ongoing, with an estimated total of around $5.5 billion.

The SBP paid over Rs1.4 trillion in the interbank market to secure at least $5 billion. Such extensive central bank purchasing activity surpasses the $3 billion IMF program initially intended to secure additional loans and boost reserves.

According to the Economic Affairs Division and the central bank, Pakistan has secured $9.7 billion in foreign loans during the first nine months of the fiscal year, slightly more than half the annual budget estimates.

Despite receiving $9.7 billion in foreign loans, the country has struggled to cover its debt repayments and finance the current account deficit. 

Government officials contend that without these dollar purchases, reserves would have dwindled to $3 billion, potentially triggering higher inflation as seen before June 2022.

Pakistan is currently negotiating a new IMF programme of at least $6 billion, with the central bank’s recent purchases accounting for 85% of this proposed three-year programme. 

Since adopting a market-based flexible exchange rate system in June 2019, the SBP’s continued dollar purchases contradict the principle of market-determined exchange rates.

A contributing factor to the central bank’s intervention was the Ministry of Finance’s inability to secure $6 billion from Eurobonds and foreign commercial loans.

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