Government to construct information highways
“Pakistan is making great progress with the use of emerging technologies,” the president said and noted that the country had left behind during the fourth industrial revolution. Amid the fourth information technology revolution, the communication and spread of information had gained rapid traction, he said, adding that the fifth generation (5G) revolution was just around the corner.
The government is taking steps to build information highways and extend the reach of people to the new fourth generation technologies, said President Arif Alvi. Speaking at an international conference on innovation and entrepreneurship on Tuesday, he said that the goal of current leadership was to improve the digital financial system, achieve women empowerment and ensure economic transparency.
Government makes heavy interest payments
The federal government’s spending on interest payments on debt and the defence jumped to nearly Rs4.1 trillion in the last fiscal year – which was Rs538 billion more than its net revenues, pushing the country deeper into the debt trap. The Rs4.065 trillion spending on these two major heads consumed 85 percent of the tax collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The money left after paying for interest cost and defence of the country was not sufficient to pay for other functions, revealed the fiscal operations summary for fiscal year 2020-21 ended in June. The Ministry of Finance released the summary on Thursday. The summary showed that the overall budget deficit – the gap between income and expenditures – in the last fiscal year remained at Rs3.4 trillion or 7.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The deficit was slightly higher than the government’s target but lower than the preceding fiscal year by 1.0 percent of GDP. However, a reason behind 7.1 percent of GDP budget deficit was Rs313 billion savings by the provincial governments.
Policy to raise per acre wheat production in the works
The government is committed to ensuring certified, high-yielding and rust-resistant seeds and fertilisers for wheat to achieve higher per-acre crop output during the coming season, said Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam on Thursday.
While chairing a meeting of Agriculture Policy Institute (API) Committee on Wheat 2021-22 Crop, Imam said that the government will formulate a policy to increase per acre production of wheat, adding that minimum support price would also be announced before of the sowing season. Imam said that the government was focusing on availability of certified seed and for the upcoming season, around 530,000 metric tons would be available including 160,000 tons rust-tolerant varieties. Emphasising on the improved productivity, the minister said that there was a need for paradigm shift in the yield of this crop as the country despite being the eight largest producer of wheat was still standing at the 64th position in terms of productivity at the global level.
SBP reserves fall $47mn to $17.58bn
The foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank declined 0.3 percent on a weekly basis, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Thursday. On August 20, the foreign currency reserves held by the SBP were recorded at $17,578.9 million, down $47 million compared with $17,625.9 million on August 13. According to the central bank, the outflow came on account of debt repayments.
“On August 23, 2021, the SBP received IMF SDR allocation of $2,751.8 million,” it said. “This amount will increase foreign exchange reserves of the SBP and will be reflected in the data to be published on September 2, 2021.” Overall liquid foreign currency reserves held by the country, including net reserves held by banks other than the SBP, stood at $24,619.3 million. Net reserves held by banks amounted to $7,040.4 million.
PKR recovers partially vs $
Pakistani rupee recovered partially by Rs0.47 against the US dollar in the inter-bank market on Thursday and closed at Rs165.81. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the local currency had closed at Rs166.28 against the greenback on Wednesday. Earlier, the rupee dropped to a record low of Rs167.43 to the greenback in August 2020. Apparently, the authorities are letting the rupee depreciate to discourage rising imports and encourage exports in an attempt to narrow down the widening trade deficit, which poses a serious threat to the economy. More importantly, the rupee may be moving down in search of a value that will help resume the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) $6 billion loan programme, which has been on hold for the past two months. The country is set to hold staff-level talks with the IMF to restart the programme next month, ie September 2021. Moreover, there is pessimism in the foreign exchange market because market talk suggests that the IMF will not resume the loan programme until the government of Pakistan raises power tariff.
Local mobile phones production beats imports
The production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants has surpassed the number of mobile phone imports in the country. During January to July 2021, the production of mobile phones by local manufacturing plants came in at 12.27 million whereas mobile phone imports were recorded at 8.29 million, according to a report of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).
“Indeed, the credit goes first to the PTA for bringing in the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS), which effectively stopped the smuggling of phones. But it were the ministries of IT and industries, together with the Engineering Development Board (EDB), that brought the right policy,” said ICT expert Parvez Iftikhar. This trend reflects a positive uptake on PTA’s Mobile Device Manufacturing (MDM) Authorisation regulatory regime whereby local manufacturing within the first year of the regime introduction has resulted in production of 12.27 million phones in a short span of seven months including 4.87 million 4G smartphones.