Pakistan should be more transparent on $46bn China deal, SBP head says


KARACHI: Pakistan needs to be more transparent about the details of energy and infrastructure deals worth $46 billion signed with China earlier this year, the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan said on Friday.
The deals, called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), should help shore up Pakistan’s crumbling infrastructure and reduce its electricity shortages by building more power plants.
China will get a free trade zone in Pakistan’s Gwadar port and access to the Indian Ocean.
New roads in the country will open up routes for Chinese goods into Europe and the Middle East. But the details, terms and financing of many of the deals remain unclear.
“CPEC needs to be more transparent,” Ashraf Mahmood Wathra said.
“I don’t know out of the $46 billion how much is debt, how much is equity and how much is in kind.”
Editorial: CPEC transparency
Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of more than 190 million people, has frequently struggled to manage its cash flows because the government is reluctant to tax the wealthy and powerful.
In September of 2013, the country faced a balance of payments crisis, with just over $4 billion in foreign reserves held by the State Bank – less than a month of imports.
But since then, the state bank’s reserves have recovered to $14.6 billion, with the help of an International Monetary Fund program agreed after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took power in 2013, a $1.5 billion gift from Saudi Arabia, an auction of telecommunications licenses and the issuing of a Euro bond.
Inflation dropped 2.73 percent as oil prices in particular and commodity prices in general declined. The rupee has stabilised at 105 to the US dollar, although last month the IMF said it believes the rupee is over-valued.
Pakistan’s economy grew 4.2 percent this year, a slight improvement over the last year, and the country hopes to reach 4.5 to 5.0 percent growth next year, Wathra said.
Yet underlying problems plaguing the economy, including daily power cuts and security problems, remain.
“Our long-term solutions lie in increasing exports and increasing FDI (foreign direct investment),” Wathra said.
“Without these two strong inflows, it is very difficult to keep the economy on track.”
Foreign investment flows have been shrinking, falling by nearly a quarter this financial year compared with last year, and exporters say the energy crisis and an over-valued rupee is crippling business.