KARACHI: Pakistan on Monday received a $2.2 billion loan from staunch ally China to stabilize high fiscal and current account deficits, raising the country’s foreign exchange reserves to around $11 billion.
The move comes as Pakistan, which has opened talks with the International Monetary Fund about a possible bailout, faces a struggle to avoid a balance of payments crisis that has left it with growing debts and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
“Yes we have received $2.2 billion from the China today,” Abid Qamar, a spokesman for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) told Arab News.
In November last year, China promised to support Pakistan’s economy following a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan but the exact amount of the loan package was not announced.
“The inflow of Chinese financial assistance will improve foreign exchange reserves and ensure balance of payment stability,” Dr. Khaqan Hassan Najeeb, a spokesperson for the finance ministry, said.
Central bank data for up until March 15, 2019 shows that with the injection of the Chinese loan, foreign exchange reserves will increase to around $11 billion and total liquid reserves to around $17.9 billion.
Pakistan has been searching for investment from friendly countries since the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August. Last year, both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also offered Islamabad loan packages of $3 billion. Saudi Arabia offered an additional $3 billion for import of oil on differed payments.
But despite the foreign inflows, currency reserves remain under constant pressure due to increasing foreign payment obligations. The rupee traded at 140.40 against the US dollar in the interbank market on Monday as compared to 140.36 on Friday.
“There was no impact of the Chinese inflows today on the exchange rate but it could be on Tuesday,” Zafar Paracha, General Secretary of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “Uncertainty about IMF is one of the reasons. Despite foreign inflows, currency reserves are continuously falling.”
Pakistan’s net international reserves also continue to deteriorate on the back of high debt repayments. Over the next twelve months, Pakistan has to pay $14.6 billion in debt servicing including $12.8 billion as principal repayment and $1.8 billion as interest, according to Arif Habib Limited research.