Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pakistan's 2012 Economy Estimated at $401 Billion

Even with the run-up (in KSE-100), Andrew Brudenell, manager of the HSBC Frontier Markets fund (HSFAX) in London, says Pakistan is one of the cheapest markets he follows, at about seven times earnings. He notes that earnings growth has kept pace with the market. The firms, he adds, are typically cash-rich, boast strong return on equity levels in the 20% range, and pay good dividends. In Pakistan, the informal, cash-based economy for goods and services is larger than the formal economy.  Barron's, November 17, 2012

Growing gap between dismal official economic statistics and consumption boom coupled with strong corporate profits in Pakistan is a challenge for many analysts around the world. Most believe that Pakistan's GDP is, in fact, much larger and growing faster than the government data indicates.

Informal Economy Estimates:

 M. Ali Kemal and Ahmed Waqar Qasim, economists at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), have published their research on estimates of the size of Pakistan's informal or underground economy.

Kemal and Qasim explore several published different approaches for sizing Pakistan's underground economy and settle on a combination of  PSLM (Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement) consumption data  and mis-invoicing of exports and imports to conclude that the country's "informal economy was 91% of the formal economy in 2007-08". Here are the figures offered by the authors for 2007-8:

1) Formal Economy: Rs. 10,242 billion= $170 billion (using Rs.60 to a US dollar)
2) Informal Economy: Rs. 9,365 billion = $156 billion
3) Total Economy (Sum of 1 & 2): Rs. 19,608 billion = $326 billion

Assuming that the ratio of formal and informal economy remained the same in 2011-12, here are the figures for Pakistan's total economy as of the end of last fiscal year which ended in June, 2012 :

1) Formal Economy: $210 billion
2) Informal Economy: $191 billion
3) Total Economy: $401 billion
Hypermart Lahore

Naween Mangi of Businessweek in her piece titled "The Secret Strength of Pakistan's Economy" described how Pakistan's informal cash-based economy evades government's radar, illustrating it with the story of a tire repair shop owner Muhammad Nasir. Nasir steals water and electricity from utility companies, receives cash from his customers in return for his services and issues no receipts, pays cash for his cable TV connection, and pays off corrupt police and utility officials and local politicians instead of paying utility bills and taxes.

Karachi Stock Market:
Comparing Karachi and Mumbai Share Indexes


A string of strong earnings announcements by Karachi Stock Exchange listed companies and the Central Bank's 1.5% rate cut have helped the KSE-100 index exceed 16,000 level, a gain of 42.1% (33.2% in US dollar terms) year to date. In spite of this run-up in KSE-100, Andrew Brudenell, manager of the HSBC Frontier Markets fund (HSFAX) in London, remains bullish on Pakistani equities, according to Barron's. Pakistan is one of the cheapest markets he follows, at about seven times earnings. He notes that earnings growth has kept pace with the market. The firms, he adds, are typically cash-rich, boast strong return on equity levels in the 20% range, and pay good dividends.

Conclusion: 

While Pakistan's public finances remain shaky, it appears that the country's economy is in fact healthier than what the official figures show. It also seems that the national debt is much less of a problem given the debt-to-GDP ratio of just 30% when informal economy is fully comprehended. Even a small but serious effort to collect more taxes can make a big dent in budget deficits. My hope is that increasing share of the informal economy will become documented with the rising use of technology. Bringing a small slice of it in the tax net will make a significant positive difference for public finances in the coming years.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Investment Analysts Bullish on Pakistan

Precise Estimates of Pakistan's Informal Economy

Pak Consumer Boom  Fuels Underground Economy

Rural Consumption Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence

Poll Finds Pakistanis Happier Than Neighbors

Pakistan's Rural Economy Booming

Pakistan Car Sales Up 61%

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Land For Landless Women in Pakistan

Pakistan's Circular Debt and Load-shedding

Hypermart Pakistan

25 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Dawn story on informal business sector in Karachi:

Unlike the Sind Industrial Trading Estate and other big industrial and commercial zones in Karachi, Orangi, Shershah and other katchi abadis on the outskirts of the city can be taken as self-created special economic zones for the poor. Unfortunately the government has failed to provide necessary infrastructure for development of formal sector and as such a major chunk of economic activity is the preserve of informal sector.

The OPP’s micro credit programme has given fillip to micro businesses not only in Karachi, but also has expanded in other cities of Sindh. The youth initiated Technical Training Research Centre (TTRC) provides housing support service to the community and trains youth to become architects specialising in low cost housing. In a way the OPP promotes Katchi Abadis as franchise all over the country as youth of Karachi from low and middle income class learn construction and other trades skills from TTRC and then move to other settlement to set up their businesses. These katchi abadis and slums are not only working class settlements, but also have growing population of doctors, engineers, architects and business administration graduates who, in large numbers, are mainstreamed in economic process every year.

Although the government is responsible for providing main sewerage lines and treatment plants yet the Orangi Pilot Project works as a link for developing partnership between poor residents of the area and the government for accomplishing the task.

This, apart from facilitating the work of government for developing and regulating these settlements, has given impetus to construction and also construction material supply business in these areas, providing employment and self-employment to thousands of people.

Almost all katchi abadis in Karachi have business clusters in their folds, particularly of garments and leather goods manufacturing establishments. Garment factories have proliferated throughout katchi abadis which make women and children outfits including exportable fashion and designer dresses. A lot of embroidery works and small printing factories are coming up in these areas which handle the work of large scale textile industries producing fashion fabrics on sub- contracting basis.

Another important economic feature of these settlements is that all recycling operations of discarded plastic and news prints is done here. Thousands of people are employed in this business. In a way these squatter ‘bastis’ are helping clear the waste and improve the environment.

Along with the OPP quite a number of NGOs and CBOs operating in katchi abadis have initiated micro enterprise credit programmes to enable the poor to set up home- based family businesses. The OPP alone has so far expanded its micro credit programme to more than 12 cities and 50 villages of Sindh.

The Sindh government’s recent initiative to regularise katchi abadis will promote a sense of security among its dwellers.


http://dawn.com/2012/04/30/thriving-informal-business/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on the start of index futures trading in Karachi:

KARACHI: AKD Securities CEO Farid Alam struck the gong on Friday at the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) to mark the commencement of market making in Stock Index Futures Contract (SIFC).

As an index-based contract with its price resting on a pre-determined contract multiplier, the SIFC aims to provide investors with an opportunity to “mimic returns on the KSE-30 Index,” according to Alam, whose company will act as the market maker for the SIFC.

Therefore, the SIFC is designed to provide a hedge for individual investors and institutions to take counter-balancing positions while offering basket exposure to index stocks.

“Global fund managers are becoming increasingly aware of the potential that Pakistan’s capital markets offer, which makes the SIFC more valuable,” Alam said.

Stock index futures – designed to link the stock market with the futures market – were first introduced in 1980 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

They are a typical example of a derivative – a financial instrument widely blamed for causing the 2008 global financial crisis, which can be defined as a security whose price depends on, or derived from, one or more underlying assets.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) allows mutual funds to use derivatives for hedging against their risks. Therefore, an index-based mutual fund duplicates the holdings of the underlying index. This means that if the underlying index increases by 5%, for example, the SIFC on that index will also rise by 5% for that mutual fund.

Speaking on the occasion, KSE Managing Director Nadeem Naqvi said stock index futures were introduced on the Bombay Stock Exchange in June 2000.

He added that their activity remained weak until 21 market makers started working in May 2002, as daily trading volumes increased seven times in one year.

Market crash?

Naqvi said many people feared a stock market crash – like the one experienced in 2008 – in view of the KSE’s over-the-top performance in the recent past. Saying that such a crash was highly unlikely, Naqvi noted that market capitalisation was roughly 45% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) when the stock market crashed in 2008.

“It’s true that the KSE-100 Index is at a historic high these days, but if you see market capitalisation as a percentage of the GDP, it’s nowhere near the level of 2008,” he said.

Pakistan’s GDP in 2011 was $211 billion. According to the KSE, market capitalisation as of November 13, 2012, was $42.3 billion, which makes it roughly 20% of the 2011 GDP. “I believe the market has a lot of potential to expand and the SIFC is going to help it grow,” Naqvi said.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/466899/market-making-starts-in-stock-index-futures-contract/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a PakistanToday story on $258 million current account surplus for July-Oct 2012 period:

KARACHI - Pakistan’s dollar-hungry current account balance continued to remain in the green zone during July-October FY13 by registering a surplus of $ 258 million.
This surplus amounted to $ 432 million during first quarter of FY13, July-Sep, owing to what the official and unofficial quarters agree, receipts of war reimbursements from the United States in early August this year.
On August 1, 2012, the Islamabad’s non-Nato allies in Washington had released to the cash-strapped Pakistan some $1.118 billion under the long-denied Coalition Support Fund (CSF) after a months-long strain in bilateral ties relaxed through an on-and-off process of negotiations between the two countries on civilian, military and intelligence level.
The inflows, the SBP chief spokesman Syed Wasimuddin had confirmed, had put the country’s current account balance into a surplus since July. The central bank Monday reported that during the corresponding period of last year, July-Oct FY12, the country’s current account balance had marked a deficit of $ 1.655 billion.
In percentage terms, the surplus constitutes 0.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) accounting for $ 82.232 billion. This is against a deficit of 2.1 percent last year.
Senior analysts like Khurram Schehzad had also seconded the central bank’s view saying the positive was attributable mainly to the dollar inflows on account of CSF and Kerry Lugar from the US. The receipts under KLA have been meager with Washington reported to have transferred only Rs 20.356 billion during FY12 against a projected receipt of Rs 34.164 billion. Under the KLA, Pakistan has the US’s word for receiving a civilian aid of $ 7.5 billion till 2014, $ 1.5 billion per annum.
However, the funds transfer under CSF augured well for the funds-starved Pakistan which, in FY12, had braved a current account deficit of over $ 4 billion, pushing the economic managers closer once again to a fresh IMF bailout package. During the period under review, the country’s trade balance remained subdued and registered a deficit of $ 5 billion against last year’s $ 5.398 billion. A break up of trade deficit shows that during the review months the country exported goods worth $ 8.210 billion compared to $ 8.105 billion in July-Oct of FY12. Compared with last year’s $13.503 billion, the imports totaled at $ 13.210 billion.
Overseas Pakistanis also performed well by remitting $ 4.964 billion during the review period as against $ 4.315 billion last year. The State Bank says that the country on average receives over a billion dollars every month from Pakistanis working abroad. The disbursements from the foreign financers, another noteworthy indicator on the current account balance list, stayed however in the red zone by remaining confined to long-term project loans standing at $ 382 million. Last year, disbursements under the same head were recorded at $ 519 million.
However, despite these positives the analysts believe that the economic managers have still a lot to worry about owing to the current poor dollar inflows into the country specially the foreign investment.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/11/20/news/profit/green-light-for-current-account-balance/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg on outsize returns of KSE-100:

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

The country’s 190 million people are boosting purchases three times faster than Asian peers as higher rural incomes and record remittances outweigh fighting on the Afghan border, violence in Karachi that led to at least 2,100 deaths this year and power outages that sparked rioting. The region’s fastest earnings growth may increase economic stability, according to Karachi-based Atlas Asset Management Ltd. Foreign investors added to holdings for five straight months, lured by Asia’s lowest valuations and biggest dividend yields.

“Stocks are very cheap and there are some very good businesses in Pakistan,” said Andrew Brudenell, whose HSBC Frontier Markets Fund has returned 18 percent this year, beating 92 percent of peers tracked by Bloomberg, and holds more shares in the country than are represented in benchmark indexes. “We still think there’s some positive growth to come from the markets.”

Earnings in the KSE 100 index advanced 45 percent during the past year, the largest gain among 17 Asian equity indexes, and this month hit the highest level since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2005.

Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. While the growth in Pakistan may slow to 6.6 percent in 2012, it will still exceed the 5.3 percent pace in Asia, according to Euromonitor estimates.

Engro Foods Ltd. (EFOODS), a Karachi-based seller of dairy products, reported a 214 percent jump in net income for the third quarter, while Unilever Pakistan Ltd. (ULEVER), a unit of the world’s second- biggest consumer-goods company, had a 36 percent gain, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Dividends in Pakistan have also climbed at the fastest pace in the region. Payouts increased 49 percent in the past 12 months, giving the KSE 100 index a dividend yield of 6.6 percent, double the 3.3 percent average in Asia, Bloomberg data show.
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Foreign investors have purchased a net $153 million of Pakistan shares since the beginning of July, according to data from the Karachi Stock Exchange. Overseas holdings amount to about 20 percent of the bourse’s free float, or shares available for trading, according to Adnan Katchi, the head of international equity sales at Arif Habib Ltd.

Bond investors are also growing more confident. Pakistan’s international debt, rated Caa1 at Moody’s Investors Service, or seven levels below investment grade, has returned 32 percent this year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Next Generation Markets Index. Yields hit a two-year low of 8.5 percent on Oct. 26.

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The country is luring more of the world’s biggest consumer brands as spending increases. Debenhams Plc (DEB), the U.K.’s second- largest department-store chain, and Nine West Group Inc., a seller of women’s shoes and handbags owned by New York-based Jones Group Inc. (JNY), opened their first Pakistan outlets this year.....


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-20/pakistan-stocks-best-as-violence-ignored-riskless-return.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Unilever targeting Pakistan market as a priority:

It is a global food and consumer goods giant that serves over 2 billion consumers every day in more than 180 countries around the world, but Unilever’s global management team is convinced that the key to their future success lies in 16 emerging markets, of which Pakistan is one.

Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, and Harish Manwani, the chief operating officer, visited Pakistan on Tuesday in what appears to be part of their global push to gear the company’s growth strategy towards emerging markets. “We want to be in every market with more than 100 million consumers,” said Manwani. “And we want to be in every market where the purchasing power of the consumer is growing. Pakistan meets both of those criteria, the first one by quite a lot.”

About 56% of Unilever’s revenues come from emerging markets, a number that Manwani says could rise to as high as 75% over the next few years. In Pakistan, the company operates two subsidiaries, Unilever Pakistan and Unilever Pakistan Foods, both of which are publicly listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange. For the year 2011, the company’s Pakistani subsidiaries earned combined gross revenue of over Rs73 billion, or about 1.3% of the global total for Unilever.

Growth in Pakistan is significantly higher. While Unilever’s global revenues grew by around 5%, revenues in Pakistan grew by a much stronger 9.9%, even when taking into account the rupee’s depreciation against the euro, the company’s global reporting currency. In Pakistani rupees, gross revenues of both companies grew by nearly 17%.

But it is not just the current growth figures that appear to be attracting Unilever’s attention to Pakistan, but rather what is clearly a rapid expansion of the Pakistani middle class, which is causing purchasing power – and thus the propensity to buy branded products – to rise among a wide and diverse array of Pakistani consumers. Unilever is increasingly finding that it is selling its products to everyone from the bank CEO who works on Karachi’s II Chundrigar Road to the small shop owner in rural Sanghar to the grain merchant in a small town outside Sialkot.
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Malik said that the company is actively trying to reach consumers in small towns and rural areas, well beyond the larger cities in the country. The company reaches 50,000 retailers in rural areas, said Malik, a number that keeps on expanding rapidly.

That focus on rural consumers appears to be part of the global strategy: Paul Polman said that Unilever’s connection to farmers and rural communities is part of its efforts to integrate its business strategy with social responsibility. “Over 40% of the world’s population is in agriculture. We want to integrate over 500,000 of them into our global supply chain. They tend to be more reliable suppliers and help us reduce our volatility. In turn, we provide them with a better livelihood,” said Polman.

Unilever’s global CEO was effusive in his praise of the team in Pakistan. “The water conservation techniques pioneered in Pakistan will now be replicated in Unilever factories around the world,” he said. “Pakistan has always provided us with talent, and is in fact exporting talent. Over 55 Pakistanis are now working in senior positions in Unilever all over the world.”...


http://tribune.com.pk/story/469350/food-consumer-goods-unilever-targets-pakistan-among-top-priority-markets/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation story on Japanese investments in Pakistan:

LAHORE - Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Hiroshi on Thursday said that many big Japanese investors are seriously planning to shift their units to Pakistan from India due to strong workers unions culture in India.

The Ambassador was speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. LCCI President Farooq Iftikhar highlighted the issues being faced by the businessmen while Senior Vice President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Vice President Mian Abuzar Shad, former presidents Tariq Hameed, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Mian Misbahur Rehman, former senior vice president Abdul Basit, former vice presidents Aftab Ahmad Vohra and Shafqat Saeed Piracha also spoke on the occasion. Hiroshi Oe said that the business environment in Pakistan is far better and it is a safer place as far as working conditions are concerned. The economy and infrastructure development are the priority areas and Japan government is focusing on them.

The Ambassador also stated that Japanese government has hosted investment seminars for Pakistan to further strengthen bilateral relations. “Japanese businessmen are being motivated for establishing business with their counterparts in Pakistan. He said Japan will continue to provide financial and technical assistance to Pakistan as we believe that this country has a great potential for the future.

There are spectacular development and investment opportunities in various fields as few countries are gifted with natural resources, the Ambassador said.

“Pakistan is facing difficult challenges which will be over soon,” adding that he will continue to strive to deepen mutual understanding through economic, educational, cultural and political exchanges....


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/23-Nov-2012/japanese-firms-plan-to-shift-units-to-pakistan-from-india

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of an interesting Op Ed in The Nation newspaper by former finance minister Shaukat Tarin:

Despite all the gloomy news and events that has started to define Pakistan, our national resilience remains intact. However, the question that is one every one’s mind is for how long?

Let’s start with the positives (yes there are always some!) of Present Day Pakistan;

• CP Inflation while high is showing signs of becoming range bound;

• Foreign Remittances continue to rise (the PRI scheme launched under my stewardship has borne fruit with remittances expected to cross the $l2b annual mark this year);

• We have finally started to debate/define our role in the devastating ‘War on Terror” and the end game of Afghan conflict has started to be played out.

• Pakistan’s banking system remains insulated from the Western banking meltdown.

• Booming Agrarian economy, despite devastating floods; with corporate sector moving into dairy, live-stock and value added processing.

• While most of the rest of the world is ageing our population is getting younger

• Democracy is still holding on!

However, we are far from the country we all aspire. The negative list (so to speak) is long, makes a somber reading, but largely includes:

• Lack of governance and transparency (lack of meritocracy).

• Unrelenting and crippling energy shortages.

• Lack of Scale/infrastructure to support GDP growth.

• Security and Law and order situation (Perception twice as worse as reality with the reality bad enough especially in Karachi and Quetta)

• Weak Social Sector reforms/indicators.

• Increasing friction amongst state institutions.

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... the economic and social sector performance of Pakistan has also been severely impacted by the following:

1) Inability of the successive governments to balance their budgets by increasing tax to GDP ratio, reducing non-development expenses and losses of the Public sector enterprises.

2) Negligible expenditures on education and health sectors to develop our most important asset i.e. human resource.

3) Creating a competitive environment of high economic growth by focusing on the productive sectors of our economy such as agriculture and manufacturing, and

4) Focusing on infrastructure and energy sectors to facilitate the economic growth.

Whereas, we have seen efforts in the past to address these weaknesses they have been at best weak and far between.

The present economic scenario is again infected by the same weaknesses i.e. large fiscal deficits, low expenditure on education and health, chronic electricity and energy shortages, lack of focus on the productive sectors resulting in high inflation, high unemployment and low economic growth. We all want a Pakistan which is economically prosperous, institutionally resilient and strategically oriented. In essence, we want to make Pakistan an economic welfare state. In my view, a key pre-requisite for an Economic Welfare State is to ensure that a country experiences equitable and sustainable growth for a prolonged period of time. Look at the examples of India and China where uninterrupted economic growth has changes the whole value proposition of these countries.
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To reduce our fiscal deficit we will have to increase our taxes. As I have said it many a times, all incomes will have to pay taxes and there cannot be any sacred cows. Agriculturists will have to pay their taxes and so should the retailers, real-estate developers stock-market and all professionals. Our tax to GDP is woefully inadequate at 9pc, where Sri Lanka is 17pc, India 19pc, China 21pc and Turkey 33pc. Before I left the government, there was a tax plan in place, which needs to be implemented. It will require a strong political will.....


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/25-Nov-2012/economic-challenges-for-pakistan-going-into-2013

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on sizing Pakistan's informal economy:

Tax authorities have estimated that the size of informal economy stood in the range of 31.4 to 44 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to official documents of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).



The proposed amnesty scheme will give last opportunity to avail after approval of the parliament to those who are major beneficiaries of huge volume of black economy, it said.



“Unfortunately, Pakistan has a large percentage of underground economy. It is difficult to estimate the exact volume but different studies have estimated the size of underground / informal economy in the range of 31.4 percent to 44 percent of the GDP,” according to the documents.



The FBR’s working also referred other studies done in the past in order to give policymakers a candid comparison to reach the rationale decision.



Referring to the World Bank’s research done in July 2010, it said that the size of informal economy stood at 36.7 percent of GDP. The State Bank of Pakistan had estimated the size of informal economy at 27.3 percent in 2000s and 28.6 percent in 1990s.



According to the Global Financial Integrity Organization paper on Illicit financial flows from developing countries 2000-09 (December 2011), the illicit financial flows was estimated at $1,449 million.



According to the research conducted by Ali Kemal of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) for 2007-08, Pakistan’s formal GDP was half the GDP. However, it is still an underestimated figure since investment data is not adjusted. The informal economy is 91.4 percent of the formal economy, he revealed during the last PIDE conference held in Islamabad in November.



However, the FBR has informed the prime minister, the finance minister and other cabinet ministers that several countries in recent past have provided opportunity to whiten income in their respective countries.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-145048-Tax-authorities-estimate-size-of-informal-economy-at-44-percent-of-GDP

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on rise in worker remittances to developing world:

Developing countries are expected to receive $406 billion in remittances in 2012, which is 6.5% higher than the remittances they received in 2011, according to a recent World Bank report.

The World Bank projects that remittances to developing countries will grow by 7.9%, 10.1% and 10.7% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, to reach $534 billion in 2015.

While the international economic downturn has adversely affected remittance flows to Europe and some other regions, South Asia is expected to fare much better than previously estimated, the report says. Remittance flows to South Asia are expected to clock in at around $109 billion in 2012, up by 12.5% over 2011, it said.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country received remittances of $13.2 billion in fiscal 2012, which were 17.7% higher than the preceding fiscal year.

Similarly, in the first four months of the current fiscal year, remittances to Pakistan stood at $4.9 billion, higher by 15% compared to remittances received in the corresponding four-month period last fiscal year.

“Regions and countries with large numbers of migrants in oil-exporting countries continue to see robust growth in inward remittance flows, compared with those whose migrant workers are largely concentrated in the advanced economies, especially Western Europe,” the World Bank report says.

According to the Bureau of Emigration’s Assistant Director Farrukh Jamal, more than 80% of the manpower that Pakistan has exported resides in Saudi Arabia. “Almost 90% of recent emigrants from Pakistan currently work in the Middle East,” he told The Express Tribune in an interview two weeks ago.

The largest single-country chunk of remittances that Pakistan received in fiscal 2012 – amounting to $1.1 billion – was from Saudi Arabia. It was followed closely by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with $963.1 million remitted from the country in the same period. The United States ($795.3 million) was the third biggest source of remittances during fiscal 2012...


http://tribune.com.pk/story/471300/expatriate-workers-increasingly-help-float-domestic-economy/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Huffington Post piece by investment adviser Dan Solin:

Pakistan is often in the news and usually in unflattering terms. The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is troubled, characterized by deep mutual distrust and conflicting goals.

The economy of Pakistan is equally troubled. According to the Heritage Foundation, its economy has been plagued by "political instability and violence." Much needed economic reform has been stalled by bureaucratic delays and lack of political will. Property rights in Pakistan are "compromised." The rule of law is "fragile." Taxation is "poorly administered." Its public debt is over 50 percent of total domestic output. Foreign investment is declining. Its overall ranking on economic freedom is below the world and even regional averages, placing it in the category of "mostly unfree" economies. To put this in perspective, there is more economic freedom in Yemen, Senegal and Nigeria than in Pakistan. Its unemployment rate is a staggering 15 percent. Its inflation rate is 11.7 percent.

Does this country seem like a good place to invest to you?

Now for the shocker: Year-to-date returns for the stock market of Pakistan were 46.73 percent. That's not a typo. Year-to-date returns for the U.S. during the same period were 11.90 percent.

Here are some other interesting facts. The stock markets in Nigeria and Kenya
were 27.26 percent and 26.56 percent, respectively. What about the returns in fast-growing economies like Brazil and China? Brazil was an anemic 1.43 percent. China was a loss of 10.20 percent.

If you are a typical investor, you believe paying attention to the financial news is important to your investing success. You read the financial media. You watch CNBC and pay special attention to the fund managers who "explain" the stock markets to you and encourage you to follow their advice (often by investing with their firms). Maybe you follow the stock picks served up by Jim Cramer, who appears to have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things financial.

Let me ask you this question. Did any source of financial news advise you to invest in the stock markets of Pakistan, Nigeria or Kenya? Or Turkey, which topped the list with returns of 47.31 percent? How about your broker or financial adviser? They make it appear they have special insight into the financial markets. Did they advise you to invest in any of the countries reporting returns higher than the U.S.?

The average returns of the 77 countries is a positive return of 8.47 percent. In 2011, the average was a negative 14.15 percent and the list of top performers was markedly different, with Venezuela, Jamaica and Botswana turning in stellar results, along with Pakistan which came in second.

Trying to predict which country will perform best in 2013 is a crapshoot. So is trying to pick stocks that are mispriced, or betting on which asset class will outperform. Yet the securities industry continues to thrive by persuading you to pay its members fat fees for dispensing precisely this kind of "advice."

The next time your broker peers into his crystal ball and makes a recommendation, ask this question: Did you predict stellar returns in Pakistan, Nigeria or Kenya for 2012?


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-solin/you-learn-investors-pakistan_b_2266913.html?utm_hp_ref=business

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Reuters on 70% of Pak lawmakers not filing tax returns:

Almost 70 percent of Pakistani lawmakers did not file income taxes last year, an investigative journalism group said on Wednesday, highlighting deep flaws in a taxation system that has drawn repeated criticism from Western aid donors.

The Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan released a report based on leaked tax returns, marking the first time that the records of 446 lawmakers and ministers have been published and focusing scrutiny on individuals ahead of polls next year.

Pakistan's inability to raise revenue has constrained government spending, depriving schools and hospitals of funds and exacerbating a power crisis, causing widespread hardship in the nuclear-armed country of 180 million people.
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"This is what the people of Pakistan are upset about," said Jehangir Tareen, a trim, silver-haired businessman who paid the most tax in the National Assembly last year. He tried to set a precedent by making his returns public but no one followed suit.

"Taxes are the beginning and end of reform in Pakistan," said Tareen, who gave up his seat in parliament in frustration over his inability to push changes. "Right now the rich are colluding to live off the poor."

Umar Cheema, an award-winning journalist heading the Center for Investigative Reporting, said he hoped the report would make members of parliament more accountable to voters.

Cheema took legislators' identity card numbers from their public election nomination papers, then convinced employees at the Federal Board of Revenue to leak the tax returns related to the identity numbers. It took him a year to collect the data.

POOR ENFORCEMENT

The report highlights why Pakistan has failed to improve its tax collection rates: politicians benefit from a lax regime. No one has been convicted of income tax evasion in 25 years and few Pakistanis see a failure to pay tax as shameful.

Although lawmakers have about $25 a month deducted from their basic pay in tax, almost all have second incomes.

They built this system for their own benefit," said tax expert Ikramul Haq. Poor laws and loopholes meant lawmakers often have their income exempt from tax, he said.

Huge swathes of the economy, like agriculture, are virtually exempt. Specially designated products also benefit from "zero-ratings" and are not subject to any tax.

"We want to cut down on zero ratings and loopholes," said Ali Arshad Hakeem, the head of the Federal Board of Revenue. He has vowed to crack down on tax cheats.
--------
Most countries collect between 20 to 40 percent of their economic output in tax. In Pakistan, less than 10 percent is collected, Franks said.

Pakistan revenue authorities say 0.57 percent of adults pay income tax and the number is steadily declining.

"People know that the elites, the government, are corrupt but they don't understand how the corruption works," said report author Cheema.

"If our rulers are not paying for themselves, why should taxpayers in other countries pay for them?"

Part of the problem with going after tax evaders is the poor state of records at the Federal Board of Revenue. It's hard to distinguish ineptitude from corruption, officials said.

About three quarters of the time, people's declarations of what they paid did not match the actual payments, the officials said. An official said authorities never really tried to match up the records: "Oh dear God, no!" he laughed.


http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/pakistan-tax-idINDEE8BB08X20121212

Riaz Haq said...

Here's LA Times on Pakistan's tax collection effort:

The man hired to go after a nation of tax evaders jabs his finger at his laptop screen as he scrolls through a database of wealthy Pakistanis and dissects their spending habits.

He stops at the name of a rich man from Peshawar.

Everything's there, Ali Arshad Hakeem says: the man's photo, his home in a posh Peshawar neighborhood, his frequent trips to Abu Dhabi, his BMW and a bevy of bank accounts.

"We have the universe; now how do we use that universe?" asks Hakeem, Pakistan's new Federal Board of Revenue chairman. Hakeem answers his own question. "My approach is to give them an offer."

Hakeem has the Sisyphean task of overhauling Pakistan's broken income tax system, and he claims to have the remedy. He is asking parliament members — a majority of whom are believed to evade taxes themselves — to approve a national amnesty wiping the slate clean for millions of Pakistanis who have never paid a rupee in taxes, if they agree to a one-time payment of 40,000 rupees, about $420. Then, in 2013, they would have to file a return and pay whatever income tax they owe: for example, about$11,100 on a taxable income of $56,000

-----------
Hakeem, 49, was appointed in July, after a four-year stint as head of the National Database and Registration Authority, the agency that issues the national identity cards. He says his prime target is Pakistan's moneyed upper crust: owners of sprawling two- and three-story marble-floored homes kept white-glove clean by teams of servants.

Among them are ministers and politicians, the very people responsible for enacting and executing laws aimed at fixing the system. A 2010 study by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, an independent think tank, reported the average worth of a Pakistani lawmaker to be about $850,000, while the richest lawmaker's assets topped $34 million.

According to a study released Wednesday by Pakistani investigative journalist Umar Cheema, two-thirds of Pakistan's federal lawmakers and more than 60% of the Cabinet did not file income tax returns in 2011. One senator, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, paid less than $1 in income taxes in 2011, Cheema says. The report also says President Asif Ali Zardari did not file an income tax return last year, though it adds that an aide said the president did file a return.

"The problem starts at the top," the report states. "Those who make revenue policies, run the government and collect taxes have not been able to set good examples for others."

To track down cheats, Hakeem and his team of young computer experts have combed a variety of national databases to form individual spending and income profiles. One of those experts and a top aide to Hakeem, Samad Khurram, says previous tax amnesties in Pakistan failed because the government had no idea who the tax evaders were.

"Now we know them, their children, their wives, where they travel, what cars they use," Khurram says. "We're saying, 'We know you, we're coming after you, and if you don't pay, we do this….' That's not an amnesty — that's a threat."....


http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-73686565/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a couple of reports on Pak economy:

1. Dr. Ishrat Husain in The News:

“The economy is facing lot of difficulties due to bad governance,” he said at a seminar on ‘Pakistan’s Economic Outlook – 2013 & Beyond’ organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) on Tuesday evening.



Dr Ishrat, who is also Dean and Director of Institute of Business Administration, disagreed with the doom and gloom painted about the economy by other speakers, saying the situation is not as worst as being projected. “There is plenty of room to improve the system by improving good governance in law and order, education and energy,” he added.



He said that it was an issue of governance that authorities were not taking action against tax evaders and criminals. “Due to lack of enforcement the criminals feel comfortable,” he said.



The economic situation is much better right now, he said and added that the country had witnessed a crisis like situation when oil ships were anchored on the ports and government had no money to pay them in the past.



He neither criticised the present government setup nor supported it, but said that the democratic system should be given opportunity for sustainable economic growth. “We did not allow democratic system to flourish,” he added.



Further, Dr Ishrat said that 50 percent population of Pakistan is living in an urbanised society, and most of them belong to middle class. Besides, a big strength of youth would set direction for better.



To a question about rupee depreciation against dollar that is creating difficulties in capital investment for manufacturing sector, which would result in decline in exports, he said rupee depreciation will help in increasing exports. He said that the nation was blinded by short-term measures and frequent changes of heads at SBP and finance ministry also resulted in economic instability.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-149270-Pakistans-economic-outlook-2013-&-beyond


2. Reuters on Pak current account deficit:

Pakistan’s current account deficit for the July-November period of the 2012/13 fiscal year was $365 million, compared with a deficit of $2.341 billion in the same period last year, the central bank said on Thursday.

In November, the current account deficit was $638 million.

The current account deficit for the 2011/12 fiscal year was $4.634 billion compared with $214 million in the 2010/11 fiscal year.

“This was positive mainly because of lower commodity prices and the gap between imports and exports was lower,” said Ahsan Mehanti, an analyst at Arif Habib Corp.

“At the same time, there was higher foreign investment in the country and higher remittances. There was a higher rupee to dollar value.”


http://dawn.com/2012/12/19/pakistan-july-nov-current-account-deficit-at-365-million/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune list of Pakistani companies with over a billion in revenue:

The Billion Dollar Club

1. Pakistan State Oil Company

Revenues: $11.57 billion

Joined club: Before 1986

2. Pak-Arab Refinery

Revenues: $3.00 billion

Joined club: 2000

3. Sui Northern Gas Pipelines

Revenues: $2.52 billion

Joined club: 2004

4. Shell Pakistan

Revenues: $2.38 billion

Joined club: 2000


5. Oil & Gas Development Company

Revenues: $2.23 billion

Joined club: 2005

6. National Refinery

Revenues: $1.97 billion

Joined club: 2005

7. Hub Power Company

Revenues: $1.97 billion

Joined club: 2009



8. Karachi Electric Supply Company

Revenues: $1.84 billion

Joined club: 2008


9. Attock Refinery

Revenues: $1.74 billion

Joined club: 2008


10. Attock Petroleum

Revenues: $1.72 billion

Joined club: 2010


11. Lahore Electric Supply Company

Revenues: $1.49 billion

Joined club: 2006

12. Pakistan Refinery

Revenues: $1.44 billion

Joined club: 2011


13. Sui Southern Gas Company

Revenues: $1.38 billion

Joined club: 2005

14. Pakistan International Airlines

Revenues: $1.36 billion

Joined club: 2005

15. Engro Corporation

Revenues: $1.29 billion

Joined club: 2011


16. Pakistan Telecommunications Company

Revenues: $1.25 billion

Joined club: 2000

17. Kot Addu Power Company

Revenues: $1.14 billion

Joined club: 2012

18. Mobilink

Revenues: $1.11 billion

Joined club: 2006

19. Pakistan Petroleum

Revenues: $1.09 billion

Joined club: 2012

.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/483287/corporate-revenues-the-growth-of-the-billion-dollar-club-in-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on the impact of nearly $700 million CSF funds from US to Pakistan:

Pakistan received the second tranche of $688 million Coalition Support Fund (CSF) from the US on Friday. This second CSF tranche is expected to provide relief to the ailing economy, supporting the country’s macroeconomic indicators positively in short-term.
Analysts said that Pakistan’ depleting foreign exchange reserves have been enhanced with inflows of much-awaited funds dedicated mainly for the expense of military operations in the war against terrorism. This was the second instalment received by the country after it got $1.12 billion in July.
The foreign reserves will be improved along with balance of payment and rupee position against dollar on temporary basis.
The current account balance failed to sustain its surplus position as it turned into a deficit of $365 million in November due to trade imbalance of trade and services that stood at $6.3 billion and $8.2 billion, respectively in the first five months of the current financial year. The rupee, which neared the Rs 100 mark against the dollar, will likely get some respite. The macroeconomic situation will be improved for a quarter with inflows of millions of dollars into the country’s reserves, analysts said.
In the short-term, the country will benefit from the millions of dollars inflows but its impact will not be sustainable for the long-term, they added.
The overall CSF pledged by US government is $2.5 billion in which remaining amount will be expected in future to be received by the country depending on diplomatic relationship with the US government. The persistent inflows are important for the country mainly for the payment of $7.9 billion it borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), otherwise, the economic situation will get severe and the country will again go to the IMF.


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\12\29\story_29-12-2012_pg5_13

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Dawn on KSE-100 among best performers in the world:

KARACHI: Pakistani stocks closed lower on Monday, although the market gained 49 per cent during 2012 and crossed 17,000 points for the first time.

The Karachi Stock Exchange’s (KSE) benchmark 100-share index ended 0.22 per cent, or 37.86 points, lower at 16,905.33.

The market’s rise was partly down to a substantial decrease in the interest rate, said dealer Samar Iqbal at Topline Securities.

Stocks that ended positively included Byco Petroleum, which rose 4.81 per cent, or 0.67 rupee, to 14.59 per share and Bank of Punjab, which was up 10.31 per cent, or one rupee, to 10.70 per share.

Stocks that fell included TRG Pakistan, down 0.7 per cent to 5.65 per share, and Fauji Cement, which fell 0.91 per cent to 6.53 per share.

In the currency market, the Pakistani rupee ended steady at 97.18/97.23 against the dollar, compared to Friday’s close of 97.17/97.23.

Overnight rates in the money market ended at 8 per cent compared to Friday’s close of 7 per cent.


http://dawn.com/2012/12/31/pakistani-stocks-gain-49-per-cent-during-2012/

Here's Bloomberg on Asian markets:

Dec. 28 was the final trading day of the year in South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Thailand’s SET Index surged 36 percent this year, the biggest advance by any Asian benchmark gauge after Pakistan’s Karachi 100 Index.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-28/asian-stocks-rally-for-sixth-week-on-japan-and-china-bets.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Bloomberg on informal savings and investment in Pakistan:



Ali has been selling wall clocks and wristwatches in a crowded Karachi market for 15 years. He’s been participating in savings circles with fellow shopkeepers for just as long, and has used the proceeds to buy a car and acquire a new store.

Now he’s a few months away from getting 400,000 rupees ($4,100) from a savings group of 16 shopkeepers into which he’s been paying 1,000 rupees a day for almost a year. He plans to put a down payment on an apartment. “This system is flawless,” says Ali, 35, who goes by one name. “You can never save this way without this binding commitment of making payments every day or every month. At banks there are hassles and procedures that waste time. This is simple. The organizer comes to collect the money himself, and because of the trust element, it’s a given that we’ll get the money.”

Millions of Pakistanis save billions of rupees in informal, interest-free savings circles called ballot committees—popularly known as BCs—run by housewives, students, office workers, shopkeepers, even high-society ladies. Each member of a group of trusted friends or relatives contributes the same sum daily or monthly to a pool for a predetermined length of time, usually one year. Through a ballot, each participant is allotted a number indicating his or her turn. Every month, one participant gets the pool total. Everyone on the committee keeps contributing until each member gets a pot of cash.

---

No one knows the origins of savings circles, but they’re found in Africa and Latin America as well as Asia. “This system has existed in South Asia as long as I’ve known, and it was started by low-income women who were financially insecure,” says Ashfaque Hasan Khan, dean at the business school of the National University of Sciences & Technology in Islamabad. “The purpose was to hedge against a problem or to pay for a son or daughter’s wedding.” In India a similar savings plan, called a chit fund, flourishes. The big difference is that India’s savings circles, after years of operating on their own, are now regulated by the government.

No estimates exist of the total amount of the funds collected by the committees. In Karachi alone, the All Karachi Traders Alliance Association estimates 10 million rupees pour into ballot committees on a daily basis. “The size and volume of the circles is on the rise because inflationary pressures mean people need more cash now to do the same things,” says Dean Khan of National University. Inflation in Pakistan is close to 8 percent. While the official savings rate is 10.7 percent of gross domestic product, it is probably higher thanks to the committees.

Another reason the ballot committees are flourishing is the low level of financial literacy in Pakistan and the reluctance of ordinary Pakistanis to take part in cumbersome banking procedures. “Coverage by bank branches is fairly limited, especially in rural areas,” says Sakib Sherani, chief executive officer at Macro Economic Insights, a research firm in Islamabad. “The ballot committees offer greater flexibility and avoid the hassle of traveling to a bank, keeping documentation, and paying service charges.”

Only 14 percent of Pakistanis use a financial product from a formal financial institution, according to a 2009 World Bank report. That compares with 48 percent for India. But when informal financial networks such as the BCs are taken into account, 50.5 percent of Pakistanis have access to finance, according to the report. ....


http://mobile.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-17/in-pakistan-savings-circles-beat-banks

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an Op Ed in The News on issues with informal economy:

Concerns regarding informal economy generally arise on the following grounds: First, informal economy creates biases and economic distortions. Second, it does not contribute to the state kitty as the firms and businesses operating in the informal sector are not registered with the tax authorities. Third, a huge informal economy is indicative of low trust between the government and business agents, and lack of confidence in economic and business regulations, procedures and policies.



Fourth, informality retards a country’s subsequent economic development, because informal entrepreneurs cannot use their wealth as collateral for loans to finance investments. Fifth, informality has social costs as well. Almost all countries have social security plans, labour welfare laws and safety regulations for the welfare, security and protection of labourers working in factories and other workplaces. But such laws will be applicable to formal businesses as informal businesses hide their business activity from regulators.



But the key question is: what causes the ballooning of the informal economy? Various elements are responsible for a large informal economy. High formalisation costs, high taxation, huge regulatory burden and corruption, and poor enforcement are considered prime reasons of Pakistan’s informal economy. The costs of formalisation are both monetary and non-monetary. These costs may be prohibitively high.



According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2013, a Pakistani entrepreneur must complete 10 procedures to start a business. These take at least 21 days. The cost involved in meeting the procedural requirements is 9.9 percent of per-capita income.



Simple back-of-the-envelope calculations show fulfilment of these requirements consumes your income of 36 days. Is the cost very high? To arrive at a conclusion let us analyse this in the light of some regional and developed countries. In the case of India, the total number of procedures involved is 12, the time involved is 27 days and the income earned by an average Indian in 182 days is spent in the fulfilment of procedural requirements.



For Sri Lanka, the total procedures are five and seven days are required, on average, while a Sri Lankan will earn the income required as start-up costs in 70 days. In the case of Bangladesh, seven procedures are involved and the time taken is 19 days, and an average citizen of Bangladesh would earn the money required to formalise the business in 92 days.



In the US the procedures involved are six and it takes six days to register your business. A US citizen can earn in five days the money required in the registration of his business. In the UK the number of procedures involved are 19, the days required to start a business are 13, and it takes the earnings of two-and-a-half days to cover procedural costs and formalities. For countries like Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, the start-up costs are much lower in terms of per-capita income.



Where do we stand in terms of start-up costs? Compared with the regional countries we do not lag behind as far as ease of starting business is concerned. Rather, Pakistan fares better. We lag behind the developed countries not in terms of number of procedures but in the time and costs involved in meeting the procedural requirements. Certainly, we need do to further improve our processes and reduce start-up costs, but the present start-up costs are not a big constraint for formalisation of a business. So formalisation costs we can be ruled out as a key reason for informality in Pakistan.....


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-156136-Our-informal-economy

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn Op Ed by Economist Sakib Sherani on Pak informal economy:

NEW estimates indicate that Pakistan’s informal economy is larger than previously approximated, and is expanding at a rapid pace. On the other hand, the formal sector appears to be on the retreat.

Indications to this effect have been around for several years. These indicators have included, among others, a rising share of informal jobs in total employment, a static share of output and employment of the formal manufacturing sector, a growing level of cash transactions in the economy, and an increase in estimates of the “tax gap”.

In addition, firm-level behaviour has also provided clues to the underlying trend in the economy. There are fewer listings on the stock exchanges, and some prominent de-listings, while a fairly significant number of previously formal small and medium enterprises have chosen to become Association of Persons over the past few years, according to some tax experts. Finally, according to some reports, the number of firms on the tax register (for income as well as sales tax) has declined in the past five years.

In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that in the past few years, there have been instances of even large manufacturing units that have either completely or partially “shifted” production to the underground economy. Evidence to this effect has come from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) in the case of at least one significant sector of the economy — cigarettes — where a sharp dip in federal excise duty collection in 2009-10 was attributed to this phenomenon.

-------------
Having set up and run my own small business in the formal sector for the past two years has given me some unparalleled insights. While Jamil Nasir in his article in January (in another newspaper) believes the tax structure is not a big contributor, and the regulatory burden is a bigger factor, my own experience suggests that it is both, the tax and regulatory burden, that are either preventing informal businesses from formalising, or are driving already documented firms into the informal economy.

Here’s how. For starters, a formally registered firm filing an income tax return has a 20 per cent disadvantage compared to an enterprise that is operating in the undocumented sector (the tax arbitrage for informal firms). But this is not the end of it. The direct costs of maintaining books, having the firm’s accounts externally audited by a professional auditor, hiring tax consultants and an accountant etc. are not insignificant.

More annoying from my perspective is the opportunity cost of devoting roughly 10-15 per cent of my management time to tax and SECP-related issues, not least of which are chasing up on tax deduction certificates and acting as a withholding tax agent for the government.

In addition, the number of corporate and tax-related filings that the company has to make each month, every quarter, and then on an annual basis is absurd. To incentivise informal sector players to formalise, both the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) will have to reduce the number of filings, while the transactional relationship with FBR will need to be converted to “arm’s length” via the use of automation.

Finally, the government should consider a system of tax credits and rebates on investment and hiring by small registered businesses, and an initial lower income tax rate for newly corporatised firms as a powerful incentive.
At the other end of the spectrum, the tax and regulatory burden on large, formal firms also needs to be reduced by a comprehensive broad-basing of the tax regime.


http://dawn.com/2013/02/22/the-informal-economy/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn Op Ed on hidden economy west of Indus:

GOING by the numbers alone, it would appear that no significant economic activity takes place west of the Indus. Look at the provincial GDP numbers, the revenue figures and you see no movement, no activity on any significant scale.

More detailed metrics of economic activity also show great ‘tranquillity’ in the west. Detailed figures on consumption of electricity by industrial and commercial categories of consumer, for instance, show very little change over the years.
---------
But take a closer look and you’ll find something odd. The State Bank has a data series on its website that shows something enormous, of truly gigantic proportions, stirring beneath the tranquillity suggested by the formal macroeconomic data.

Here is what the data reveals: the amount of money passing through the clearing houses of Quetta and Peshawar is so large that it rivals the amounts in clearing houses of cities like Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi.

----
The State Bank operates 16 clearing houses in cities all over the country. Every month it releases data on how many cheques were presented for clearing in each of these, and what the total amount cleared by cheques was.

If you take this data, which stretches back to 1999, and plot it for each city in Pakistan, you notice something very interesting. Remove the cities of Karachi and Lahore from the sample for the time being, because these are global cities in a sense with long-distance connections. Compare only the regional cities and here is what you’ll find.

Following 9/11, half the cities in the total sample will show a sharply rising trend in the amount of money going through their clearing houses. For the other half, the line is flat.

The cities that show a rising trend are led by Peshawar, with Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpindi and Quetta in close succession. For Peshawar, the amount of money being cleared via cheque in the year 2011 crosses Rs1.3 trillion! For Quetta, in the same year, the amount is just under Rs900 billion, meaning between them these two regional cities are seeing almost Rs2tr going through their clearing houses in one year alone.

This figure compares with Faisalabad at Rs1.3tr, Rawalpindi at Rs1.4tr, and Multan at Rs826bn. Cities that show a flat trend over the entire reporting period include Sukkur, Hyderabad, Sialkot and D.I. Khan.

What the data shows is a steep intensification of transactions being cleared by cheque in some cities, and no change in others, meaning the pace of economic activity accelerated unevenly over the decade, sweeping some along its path and leaving others behind.

But what are Peshawar and Quetta doing on this list? With Faisalabad and Multan, it’s easy to understand. These are regional hubs, productive centres, large seats of agrarian operations.

---
In fact, after Karachi and Lahore, it is Multan, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi that account for the bulk of transactions in branchless banking, which shows the intensification of activity in the clearing houses of these cities is accompanied by an overall deepening of the financial sector.

But in Peshawar and Quetta, there is no other accompanying trend, not in branchless banking, TT transfers, bulk consumption of electricity. There is only one lone spike, showing an increase in clearing house transactions that keeps pace with the agricultural and industrial heartland of the country.

The obvious question is: what is driving this spike in Quetta and Peshawar? Where is the economic activity that is sending such spectacular sums of money through the clearing houses of these two cities? And why does this money leave no trace on any other economic indicator of the city or the province?

---

Here’s another explanation: these cities are engulfed by a very large hidden economy, from where a massive river of transactions briefly appears on the official record, then disappears from view again....


http://dawn.com/2013/02/28/the-hidden-economy/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on hairstyling in Pakistan:

KARACHI: Meet Mark Hampton. He’s 28 years old, blonde, boyish and you can’t tell that he’s a maverick with hair; the youngest global ambassador, in fact, of a world-renowned hair brand like Toni&Guy.
However, get Mark to talk about hair and he transforms from the charming young British lad to hairstylist extraordinaire. He’ll talk about partings, detangling and blow-drying the ‘crazy bits’ of hair until it sweeps you into a world where hair can be coerced into wacky, glamorous hairstyles with just the right maneuvers. Oh, and you need to use the right Toni&Guy products, of course — Mark wouldn’t be a great ambassador if he didn’t advise you upon the various products of the brand he endorses.
To do them justice, the Toni&Guy ‘Hair Meet Wardrobe’ (HMW) line of products that has just launched in Pakistan actually does seem to be a lot of fun — there’s a ‘Classic Shine Gloss Serum’ that’s supposed to make hair glossy and shiny and a ‘Sea Salt Texturising Spray’ for creating the tousled beach hair look, among others. It was for the launch of this line that Mark landed in Karachi, to assert the Toni&Guy concept of dressing from “the head down”, where hair complements wardrobe and vice versa.
It may not have been the best time to visit Karachi — even though Mark was here just for two days — but he took the general unrest in the city in his stride. We meet with the threat of a city shutdown hanging over our heads and he good-naturedly shrugs. “I usually don’t bother much with current affairs,” he tells me. I can’t help but notice, though, that he has toned his appearance down — he’s dressed neatly, in a sensible full sleeved shirt that covers his tattooed arms. “Work keeps me busy and I am too wrapped up in my fashion bubble to stress out over what’s going on outside,” he says.
And what a bubble it is! Mark has been working for 11 years now and he’s trained under well-known stylist Guido Palau, assisting him in shows for Valentino and Alexander McQueen among others. More recently, he’s created hair for the Autumn/Winter 2013 shows at London Fashion Week (LFW) for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Matthew Williamson in his capacity as a lead stylist from Toni&Guy. He plays stylist to the rich and the famous, his current favourite being Grammy-award winner Calvin Harris, who he says is very “down to earth and easygoing”. Mark’s been to the Oscars, travels constantly and has a hectic, high-flying life that he absolutely loves!...


http://tribune.com.pk/story/518324/sartorial-word-dressing-pakistan-from-the-head-down/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed by Mazur Ejaz in Friday Times:

The condition of an economy is often confused with the financial health of its government. Pakistan's economy is perceived to be in a deep hole because of its near-bankrupt fiscal conditions. Similarly, America's inability to settle on a national budget is taken to be an indicator of the collapse of the US Empire.

In some ways, the condition of the economy and the financial health of the government are separate matters. Major stock market indexes at Karachi Stock Exchange and the Wall Street are at their highest level, but both governments are facing serious financial problems. Most of the countries around the world are facing similar dichotomous situations. So how does one solve the riddle of the corporate sector making record profits while governments around the world are in serious financial jeopardy?

The phenomenon needs to be analyzed at grass-roots level. A shopkeeper from my village comes to mind. He told me that he sells PTCL internet cards grossing about Rs 9,000 every day. There are several other such shops in the village. That means that just in one village, the total sale of PTCL internet cards is up to 50,000 rupees. This consumer item was not present five years ago, which means hundreds of computers have been bought in the village recently. Furthermore, if such luxury products are making such huge profits for village shops, traders throughout the country must be making much larger profits selling essentials every day. One of the indicators of booming business in our village is that the United Bank branch in the village is doing very well, according to its manager.

There are thousands of such villages in the country, and that gives one an idea of the mammoth growth of rural markets. Such an undocumented economy is not even factored in estimating the economic growth of the country. From these supposedly marginal markets, one can extrapolate the profits of the corporate sector in towns and cities.

It may be astounding for some that Pakistan's banking sector is considered fourth in profitability in the entire world. Producers of other major industrial and agricultural products are also making huge profits. Cement, fertilizer, automobile, construction and telecommunication industries are doing extremely well. Other than the textile industry, which has been hit by power shortages, there is hardly any manufacturer or importer/exporter of any kind of goods who is not making money. The stock markets look at the profits of these industries and price them accordingly. Therefore the claims of Pakistan's economic growth are not a fairy tale. The evidence is out there in the market.

The government is also like a large corporation whose income depends mainly on tax revenue. Most of the goods and services (such as roads, defense, education and health) provided by the government are public goods which are not priced directly. The government has to price its public goods through direct taxes on income and sales, or indirectly. Following a certain brand of capitalism, countries like Pakistan and the US are not collecting enough taxes to cover the cost of public goods. They have failed mainly in collecting direct taxes on income. While Pakistan cannot implement an appropriate tax collection mechanism because of corruption, the US has leaned towards favoring high income groups and ended up in a jam. The net result is the same: the rich are getting richer, appropriating most of the new wealth generated....


http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20130322&page=9

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on rebasing Pak GDP from fiscal 2000 to 2006 adding another Rs. 557 billion to GDP:

A new rebasing exercise has been carried out by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), aimed at shifting the base (reference) year for calculation of economic statistics from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2006. The share of services and agriculture in the overall size of the economy has resultantly increased, while the industrial sector has significantly shed its value. The exercise has resulted in gross value addition of 7.8% or Rs557 billion to the total size of the economy.

Headed by Dr Shahid Amjad, adviser to the prime minister on finance, the PBS Governing Council approved the change on Monday.

“The overall size of the economy from 2006 onwards will now be calculated afresh and presented to the National Accounts Committee (NAC) for approval,” Chief Statistician of Pakistan Asif Bajwa told The Express Tribune. The NAC meeting will also give approval to this year’s official growth rate. It is scheduled to meet on May 3.

As a result of the shift, the total size of the economy in fiscal 2006 will now be considered as Rs7.72 trillion, higher by Rs557 billion than the size of the economy in fiscal 2000.

The current size of the economy, estimated as Rs23.6 trillion in 2012-13, has been calculated keeping the base year as fiscal 2000. Experts say its size will increase after new calculations, which will not only add additional value to this year’s growth rate, but also lower the budget deficit in percentage terms.

Taking the new base year as 2005-06, the size of the agricultural sector now stands at 23% of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as against the earlier 20.3%. Due to the rebasing, Rs318 billion has been added to the value of the agriculture sector, taking its total size to Rs1.78 trillion.

The contribution of the services sector to total GDP, meanwhile, has increased to 56% against its earlier share of 52.8%. The value of the services sector in absolute terms has been reassessed as Rs4.4 trillion – higher by Rs547 billion.

At the same time, the industrial sector has shed its value by Rs308 billion, while its share in GDP has shrunk to 20.9%, against an earlier share of 26.8%. Its total value has reduced to Rs1.62 trillion due to major contractions in the sizes of the sub-sectors of large and small scale manufacturing.

Rebasing exercises usually increase the size of the economy due to the addition of new goods and services into the calculation. The government had carried out 223 studies for the last time the economy was rebased, which had been debated extensively in technical committees overseeing the matter.

Bajwa said the technical committee constituted for the recent exercise reviewed every subsector of the economy item-by-item, and had the exercise vetted by experts. Thus, he said, there are no chances of error. The PBS Governing Council was also informed that double counting, omissions and errors have also been rectified as a result of the rebasing.

The rebasing has been done in the light of improvements in international statistical systems, say officials. The availability of new data sources through censuses, surveys and studies, updated prices and industry bases have all been utilised in the exercise.

A similar exercise aimed at rebasing the economy was conducted last year, which immediately ran afoul of analysts as it resultantly reduced the overall size of the economy by Rs2.5 trillion of its value. The exercise had sent waves in the corridors of economic power, as it necessitated a revision of all major economic indicators over the preceding five years..


http://tribune.com.pk/story/542169/calculation-of-economic-statistics-pakistan-bureau-of-statistics-okays-change-in-base-year/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on rebasing Pak economy resulting in 7.8% increase in GDP for 2012-13:

ISLAMABAD, April 29: After a delay of one year, the Governing Council of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Monday approved the rebasing for calculation of national accounts.

Dr Shahid Amjad, adviser to the prime minister on finance and also chairman of the council, changed the base year for calculation of national accounts from 1999-2000 to 2005-06 to depict the actual performance of the economy and variables.

As per rebasing, the size of the GDP now expands to Rs7,716bn from Rs7,159bn in the previous base year, reflecting an increase of 7.8 per cent (Rs557 billion).

The size of the GDP is the outcome of changes in procedures, methodology for calculating various indicators, expansion of coverage to more sectors and corrections in the existing sectors. Double counting, omissions and errors have also been rectified.

The re-basing is now believed to make the system more advanced and on a par with the international system. Some missing areas like stone crushing industry, stock exchanges, brokers, cable operators, internet providers etc., are now part of the economy.

A senior official of the PBS told Dawn that the budget proposals for 2013-14 would be based on the new figures, which will be finalised by end of this week. “We are now working on calculating new growth figures on the basis of new base year”, the official added.

Last year, the base year was revised ahead of the budget, but the then finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had reversed the process to show good feel figures.

Since July 2012, the rebasing was on the agenda of the PBS governing council but no meeting was convened.

The growth in the size of overall economy was mainly driven by an increase of 14.47 per cent (Rs547bn) in the share of services sector to GDP.

In the services sector, the share of wholesale and retail increased by 20.68pc (Rs261bn); transport, storage and communication 5.61pc (Rs51bn); housing services (owner of dwelling) by 172.97pc (Rs320bn); general government services 5.1pc (Rs21bn).

However, the share of two services finance and insurance; other private services dipped by 22.2pc (Rs81bn) and 3.82pc (Rs25bn), respectively.

With the introduction of Financial Intermediation Services Indirectly Measured (FISIM) in the banking and insurance sector, the contribution of the sector had been measured based on the services provided.

The share of overall agriculture sector in GDP increased by 21.82pc (Rs318bn). The share of crops increased by 21.01pc (Rs133bn), livestock 21.5pc (Rs165bn), forestry 21.4pc (Rs6bn), fishing 43.4pc (Rs13bn).

In the crops, the share of major crops dropped by 3.23pc (Rs15bn). However, major increase of over 52pc (Rs89bn) was witnessed in the share of minor crops. As part of the new base year, the share of cotton ginning/others were also calculated as part of crops.Earlier, cotton measurement was part of the manufacturing sector.

Ironically, the share of industrial sector in the size of overall economy dipped by 16pc (Rs308bn), reflecting a trend of de-industrialisation.

Of these the share of manufacturing dipped by 22.31pc (Rs306bn) in the industrial sector. However, mining and quarrying witnessed an increase of 15.9pc (Rs35bn).In the manufacturing sector, the share of LSM dipped by 9.97pc (Rs100bn); small scale manufacturing 63.82pc (Rs157bn) and slaughtering 40.16pc (Rs49bn), respectively.

On the other hand, the share of electricity generation and distribution and gas distribution share in the overall economy size dropped by 39pc (Rs43bn). However, the construction share increased by 3.22 pc (Rs6bn)..


http://dawn.com/2013/04/30/rebasing-approved-economy-size-expands-7-8pc/

Riaz Haq said...

From VOA report:

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed.

On a good day, Jamil Hassan will have some 15 customers, and earn an average of $8 a day.

Hassan is one of the millions working in Pakistan's informal economy, the mainstay for the country's vast poor. He never went to school. Cutting hair is all he knows.

"I've been doing this all my life," he said. "My father and grandfather did it before me, so this is what I do."

About 40 percent of all workers in Pakistan have no education. Hassan says illiterate people like him will never make enough to be able to save money.

Economist Ali Kamal says the informal economy can be seen as helping the country's overall economy.

"It absorbs a labor who is otherwise unemployed, it provides services at a cheaper cost and cheaper price to the general public, and it complements the formal sector," he said.

Mohammad Naeem works in a modest seasonal wheat mill, when Pakistan's constant power cuts don't grind work to a halt. Naeem says he would like to have his own business. But he doesn't believe in bank loans or in savings.

"I feel that people should not take loans, not owe money," he said. "That is very important. You should only use what you earn."

Kamal says millions of workers like Naeem and Hassan don't pay taxes, meaning less money for an already cash-strapped state.

"If we collect sales tax from all those informal sectors, it may account for four to five percent of GDP, and if we collect four to five percent GDP in sales tax from those informal activities, then we don't have any budget deficit anymore," he said.

But as of now, the informal sector is providing cheaper goods, services and labor to the formal sector. Analysts say Pakistan would have to reform its entire economic structure to change the situation


http://m.voanews.com/a/millions-labor-in-pakistans-informal-economy/1894009.html