SBP raises key interest rate by 300bps, takes it to 20pc

SBP raises key interest rate by 300bps, takes it to 20pc


SBP raises key interest rate by 300bps, takes it to 20pc

KARACHI (Dunya News) – Bowing down to another demand of International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) announced an interest rate hike of 300 basis points, taking it to 20%. This is the highest level of the key policy rate since October 1997.

“At its meeting held on 2nd March 2023, the MPC decided to increase the policy rate by 300 basis points to 20%,” it said in a statement, in which it also announced moving the next MPC meeting to April 4 from April 27.

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“During the last meeting in January, the Committee had highlighted near-term risks to the inflation outlook from external and fiscal adjustments. Most of these risks have materialised and are partially reflected in the inflation outturns for February. The national CPI inflation has surged to 31.5 percent y/y, while core inflation rose to 17.1 percent in urban and 21.5 percent in rural basket in February 2023.”

The MPC statement said that in today’s meeting, the committee noted that the recent fiscal adjustments and exchange rate depreciation have led to a significant deterioration in the near term inflation outlook and a further upward drift in inflation expectations, as reflected in the latest wave of surveys.

“The Committee expects inflation to rise further in the next few months as the impact of these adjustments unfolds before it begins to fall, albeit at a gradual pace.

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“The average inflation this year is now expected in the range of 27 - 29 percent against the November 2022 projection of 21 – 23 percent. In this context, the MPC emphasised that anchoring inflation expectations is critical and warrants a strong policy response.”

On the external side, the MPC noted that despite a substantial reduction in the current account deficit (CAD), vulnerabilities continue to persist.

“In January 2023, the CAD fell to $242 million, the lowest level since March 2021. Cumulatively, the CAD – at $3.8 billion in Jul-Jan FY23 – is down 67 percent compared to the same period last year. Notwithstanding this improvement, scheduled debt repayments and a decline in financial inflows amid rising global interest rates and domestic uncertainties, continue to exert pressure on FX reserves and the exchange rate.”

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The MPC noted that FX reserves remain low and concerted efforts are needed to improve the external position. In this regard, conclusion of the ongoing 9th review under the IMF’s EFF will help address near-term external sector challenges. Furthermore, the MPC stressed on the urgent need for energy conservation measures to alleviate pressure on the external account and meet the import requirements of other sectors.

“Recent fiscal measures – including an increase in GST and excise duties, reduction in subsidies, adjustments in energy prices, and the austerity drive – are expected to help contain the otherwise widening fiscal and primary deficits. As highlighted in earlier statements, the envisaged fiscal consolidation is critical for economic stability and will complement the ongoing monetary tightening in bringing down inflation over the medium-term.”

The Committee emphasised that any significant fiscal slippages will undermine monetary policy effectiveness in the context of achieving the price stability objective.

The MPC also assessed the impact of further monetary tightening on financial stability and the near-term growth outlook.

“The Committee views that the risks to financial stability remain contained, given that financial institutions are broadly well capitalised. On growth, however, there exists a trade-off. The MPC, nonetheless, reiterated its earlier view that the short-term costs of bringing down inflation are lower than the long-term costs of allowing it to become entrenched.

“Barring unexpected future shocks, the MPC noted that today’s decision has pushed the real interest rate in positive territory on a forward-looking basis. This will help anchor inflation expectations and steer inflation to the medium-term target of 5-7 percent by end FY25.”

IMF demand

Earlier on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had stressed upon Pakistan to tighten its monetary policy and enhance interest rate.

The demand came at a virtual meeting held between Pakistan and the IMF. IMF officials reviewed efforts made by Pakistan to complete the staff level agreement.

Sources told Dunya News that Pakistan has been facing pressure to implement on the Fund's requirements through advance measures in time.

They said tightening the monetary policy is likely to increase interest rates. The State Bank of Pakistan's base interest rate is currently 17 per cent while the IMF is calling for another 2pc increase in interest rates.

The IMF is pushing for a tightening of monetary policy based on inflation.

According to the sources, Pakistan side informed the IMF about the previous measures, gave a briefing on the financing of friendly countries, and China's refinancing decision of $700 million.

Sources further said the IMF was also briefed on the financing of $1.2 billion from the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the financing through shares in the stock market of the UAE and Qatar.

During the virtual meeting, Pakistan also presented its foreign exchange reserve target strategy till June.