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17 Jumada Al-Awwal 1445  

Finance minister says rupee stable to ‘great extent’ after anti-smuggling efforts

Shamshad Akhtar says there were ‘some signs’ of economic recovery
Interim Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on September 15, 2023. Screengrab via YouTube/PTV News
Interim Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on September 15, 2023. Screengrab via YouTube/PTV News

The rupee has stabled to a ‘great extent’ after anti-smuggling efforts, interim Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar said on Friday.

“Over the past few days, the government reformed the exchange companies and because of these reform measures and due to anti-smuggling efforts our rupee has stabled to a great extent,” she told a press conference in Islamabad. “This stability has come without any intervention of any bank intervention.”

The government was cracking down against hoarders and illegal exchange companies in the country after seeing a big gap between the rates of the rupee in the interbank and open markets.

“So this is a very positive thing,” said Akhtar.

At the start of the presser, Akhtar said that there were “some signs” of economic recovery “even if they were just starting”.

She added that while the interim set-up had inherited a set of challenges after coming into power, it was not worried and was “dealing” with them.

Akhtar claimed that the government was trying to manage the country’s challenges prudently by controlling expenditures and enhancing revenue. “So if you review macroeconomic indictors, you will see some improvement. There are some signs of economic recovery even if it’s just starting.”

The caretaker finance minister said that the Consumer Price Index had shown a decline from May figures, down from 38% to 27%.

Stagger quarterly adjustments in power bills

Power Minister Muhammad Ali said the government has decided to stagger quarterly adjustments — spread more than three months — in power bills to provide relief to consumers. Similar relief measures would also be provided in the payment of the base electricity tariff in Karachi.

“The K-Electric tariff adjustment has not been done for a year and there will be a burden on the people if it was done together. So we are trying and talking to NEPRA and has involved the KE that we slowly stagger it so that there is not much burden on the consumer. Even we are adjusting the quarterly adjustment in the rest of the country. We are extending the three-month adjustment,” he said at the press conference.

“So we are trying that there is an issue to electricity bills in the country and trying to manage it,” he added.

He also noted that the government’s crackdown on electricity theft across the country was yielding good results.

Ali highlighted that the government was also working on changing the boards of directors of power distribution companies (DISCOs) as he stressed the need for improving their management and governance in order to have a permanent solution. “We have started working on the boards of DISCOs and even change their CEOs.”

He shared that the government was considering three options to improve the performance of DISCOs – including working with the World Bank for long-term concession agreements and giving it to the private sector, giving to provinces, and privatisation.

“We are looking at all three options and we will work on the best one which is beneficial for DISCOs and consumers.”

The minister highlighted that the power and gas sector in Pakistan was suffering losses worth billions and blamed the lack of management by the previous government for it.

Ali assured that the government was changing policies so that the reliance on other countries was reduced.

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Pakistan Rupee

Shamshad Akhtar

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