KARACHI – The Pakistani rupee on Tuesday further appreciated against the U.S. dollar in the interbank market by two paisa, and hit Rs155.25. Yesterday, the local currency recovered by 20 paisa against the greenback.
Importantly, Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has affirmed Pakistan’s local and foreign currency long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings at B3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.
According to a report issued by the bond credit rating business of Moody’s Corporation, “the change in outlook to stable is driven by Moody’s expectations that the balance of payments dynamics will continue to improve, supported by policy adjustments and currency flexibility.”
It further stated, “Such developments reduce external vulnerability risks, although foreign exchange reserve buffers remain low and will take time to rebuild. Moreover, while fiscal strength has weakened with higher debt levels largely as a result of currency depreciation, ongoing fiscal reforms, including through the country’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, will mitigate risks related to debt sustainability and government liquidity.”
“The rating affirmation reflects Pakistan’s relatively large economy and robust long-term growth potential, coupled with ongoing institutional enhancements that raise policy credibility and effectiveness, albeit from a low starting point.”
“These credit strengths are balanced against structural constraints to economic and export competitiveness, the government’s low revenue generation capacity that weakens debt affordability, fiscal strength that will remain weak over the foreseeable future, as well as political and still-material external vulnerability risks,” it added.
Moody’s has affirmed the B3 foreign currency senior unsecured ratings for The Second Pakistan Int’l Sukuk Co. Ltd. and The Third Pakistan International Sukuk Co Ltd. The associated payment obligations are, in Moody’s view, direct obligations of the Government of Pakistan.
“Pakistan’s Ba3 local currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged. The B2 foreign currency bond ceiling and the Caa1 foreign currency deposit ceiling are also unchanged. The short-term foreign currency bond and deposit ceilings remain unchanged at Not Prime. These ceilings act as a cap on the ratings that can be assigned to the obligations of other entities domiciled in the country,” it further mentioned.
The report further outlined that narrowing current account deficits, in combination with enhancements to the policy framework including currency flexibility, lower external vulnerability risks in Pakistan.
“However, foreign exchange reserve adequacy will take time to rebuild.”
Moody’s expects Pakistan’s current account deficit (CAD) to continue narrowing in the current and next fiscal year (ending June of each year), averaging around 2.2% of GDP, from more than 6% in fiscal 2018 (the year ending June 2018) and around 5% in fiscal 2019.
Moody’s expects policy enhancements, including strengthened central bank independence and the commitment to currency flexibility, to support the reduction in external vulnerability risks.
In particular, the government is planning to introduce a new State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Act to forbid central bank financing of government debt and clarify SBP’s primary objective of price stability.
The IMF programme, which commenced in July 2019, targets higher foreign exchange reserve levels and has unlocked significant external funding from multilateral partners including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.
Nevertheless, unless the government can effectively mobilise private sector resources, foreign exchange reserves are unlikely to increase substantially from current levels.
Earlier, the World Bank Group had forecasted Pakistan’s economic growth to slow down for the next two years as it continues to face another macroeconomic crisis due to massive twin deficits and low foreign reserves.
Besides, several analysts had expressed fear that the intense ongoing trade war between the United States and China would result in fluctuation of the U.S. dollar in the local market, and the value of the Pakistani rupee would stabilise depending on the measures taken by the government with appropriate economic policies.
Currency traders were of the view that the increasing inflows of remittance have supported the local rupee in the market.
Until June this year, the rupee was observed to cumulatively depreciate against the greenback, which in turn, had resulted in increased prices of goods and hardships for the general public.
The SBP has let the rupee depreciate significantly in the inter-bank market after finalising an agreement with the IMF for a loan programme on May 12.
The IMF asked Pakistan to end state control of the rupee and let the currency move freely to find its equilibrium against the US dollar.
On the other hand, the World Bank Group has also supported the idea of leaving the rupee free from state control in an attempt to give much-needed boost to exports and fix a faltering economy.
After the IMF lent the first tranche of $991.4 million to Pakistan, the local currency had depreciated massively.
The stringent conditions – on which the global moneylender has formally approved the bailout package of $6 billion for Pakistan – seemed to have exerted more pressure on the local currency.
The gradual drop in the rupee had come due to high demand for the dollar against thin supply as the country continued to make aggressive international payments to partially pay off huge foreign debt and for imports.
Economists were of the view that effective measures must be implemented on the priority basis to recover the state from the balance of payment deficit.