Pak's external financing gap to remain USD 12 bn this fiscal:

Pakistan faces external financing gap of around USD 12 billion and its external debt related obligations is expected to rise by whopping 38 per cent from the government's estimates in the current fiscal, according to a media report today.

Appearing in-camera before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa briefed the panel on the reasons behind the weakening rupee and the "grave challenges" to the economy in the months ahead.

"The gap is in the range of USD 11 billion to USD 12 billion," Bajwa was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune.

The governor also did not share with the media the source of funds for the USD 12 billion financing gap if Pakistan wants to ensure gross official foreign currency reserves do not fall below USD 14.6 billion, the report said.

Chances are that the gap will be filled by using official foreign currency reserves as well as resorting to more short- and long-term borrowings including from foreign commercial banks, it said.

The gross external financing requirements of Pakistan are about USD 20 billion, which include an estimated USD 14 billion current account deficit and another USD 5.9 billion foreign debt repayment component during the current fiscal year.

Of the USD 20 billion, the government has around USD 9 billion, which leaves net financing gap of about USD 11-12 billion the report said.

The 'financing gap' is the difference between a country's requirements for foreign exchange to finance its debts and imports and its income from overseas.

After the conclusion of the recently-held Post Programme Monitoring talks, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had said that Pakistan's external sector would continue to remain under pressure.

Former finance minister Hafiz Pasha last week warned that the country was in an incipient financial crisis that will remain for a longer period.

The statement about the quantum of the external financing gap comes amid another disclosure that the government's external debt related obligations in the current fiscal year will be USD 5.9 billion up by 38 per cent over the finance ministry's earlier estimates.

In response to a question, Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood informed the parliamentary committee that during the current fiscal the government's external debt obligations are USD 5.9 billion.

The governor also ruled out the possibility of floating another sovereign bond in the coming months.

The figure is USD 1.64 billion or 38 per cent higher than the projections that the finance ministry had earlier shared with the National Assembly.

This shows that either the finance ministry concealed the real facts from parliament or it did not know exactly the quantum of external debt obligations, the report said.

The finance secretary said that out of USD 5.9 billion, the government has already paid USD 2.4 billion on account of principal and interest on these loans. He also said that remaining USD 3.5 billion will be paid in the coming seven months.

To a question on exchange rate, Bajwa said that since July this year, the rupee has cumulatively shed its value by over 7.22 per cent including 5 per cent in the recent past.

The SBP governor did not comment on the future course of the rupee.

To a question whether the SBP was in a position to immediately return USD 6.16 billion that it has borrowed from the commercial banks for the short term, the governor said that the SBP can return these loans.

But he refused to reason of taking the USD 6 billion loans from commercial banks.

Pasha said that excluding the over USD 6 billion in loans that the SBP took from commercial banks, the central bank's net reserves will fall to USD 3 billion by June 2018. But the SBP governor said that Pasha's estimates were "very conservative" and the SBP will perform better than this.

As of November, the central bank borrowed USD 6.16 billion from commercial banks under the forward and currency swap arrangements, according to SBP data.

This amount is also shown part of both the central bank and commercial bank's reserves, as also admitted by Miftah Ismail, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Economic Affairs in a TV programme.

As of December 8, the SBP's official foreign currency reserves were USD 14.66 billion, including USD 6.16 billion worth of currency swaps and forward contracts.

In 1998, the then PML-N government had consumed foreign currency deposits of commercial banks after global powers imposed sanctions on Pakistan in retaliation to nuclear tests.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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