Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pakistan Economy Hobbled by Underinvestment

Pakistan needs investment of 20% of GDP to achieve 5% economic growth, a capital-to-output ratio (COR) of four, according to Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna, economic minister at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, DC.

Major Issues:

In a wide-ranging presentation to the Pakistan Club at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Mr. Chandna, an alumnus of the university, listed the following major issues facing Pakistani economy:

1. Pressure on capital account

2. Declining FDI

3. Declining tax to GDP ratio

4. Over reliance on monetary policy

5. Excessive domestic borrowing

6. Extremely volatile internal and external geo-political environment

7. Energy shortages

8. Increase in poverty and unemployment rates

Heavy Borrowing: 

To make up for the shortfall in investments and tax revenues, the Pakistani government is forced to borrow heavily from commercial banks and international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the IMF, in addition to recent floating of $2 billion worth of bonds on international debt market. These debts add to the debt-to-GDP ratio and put further pressure on the cost of debt service.

Many of the problems highlighted by Mr. Chandna did not exist during President Musharraf's rule when foreign and domestic investments climbed to new highs and debt-to-gdp rartio declined.

Pakistan Domestic Savings Rate Source: World Bank


Domestic savings rate was about 18% and foreign direct investment reached $5.2 billion, or 3.5% of Pakistan's GDP. These investments fueled economic growth from 2000-2008.  In my view, the activist judges led by former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry have contributed significantly to the sharp decline in FDI and domestic investments in the country.

Gross Fixed Capital Formation in Pakistan. Source: ADB


Foreign Direct Investment (FDI):

World Bank's data shows that foreign direct investment (FDI) in Pakistan reached a peak of over $5 billion (3.6% of GDP) in 2007 and then fell sharply in the wake of Justice Chaudhry's reversal of the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills. FDI has essentially dried up and the Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation has accumulated losses over Rs. 100 billion in spite of multiple bailouts at taxpayers expense. It is currently operating at just 3% of capacity and its monthly payroll adds up to Rs. 500 million, according to Dawn.

FDI as % of GDP in Pakistan Source: World Bank

Canceled Privatization Deals:

Huge subsidies are being given at taxpayers' expense to Pakistan Steel Mills and several other state-owned enterprises which take resources away from more pressing needs for spending on education, health care and infrastructure. In fact, Pakistan Education Task Force Report 2011 reported that "under 1.5% of GDP [is] going to public schools that are on the front line of Pakistan's education emergency, or less than the subsidy for PIA, Pakistan Steel, and Pepco."

Speaking at a recent international judicial conference in Islamabad, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, current dean of the Institute of Business Administration and former governor of The State Bank of Pakistan, said there has not been a single privatization deal in Pakistan since the Supreme Court's 2006 decision voiding the steel mill transaction.

Dr Hussain said that despite fulfilling the legal requirements, the fear that the country’s courts may take suo motu notice of the transaction, and subsequently issue a stay order, deters businesses from investing in Pakistan, according to a report in The Express Tribune. “A large number of frivolous petitions are filed every year that have dire economic consequences. While the cost of such filings is insignificant the economy suffers enormously,” he added.

Crucial Projects Delayed:

Among other projects, Dr. Hussain particularly cited Reko Diq and LNG projects which could not proceed because of judicial activism of Pakistan Supreme Court judges.

The lack of progress on liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal has exacerbated Pakistan's energy crisis. It would have brought in 400 million cubic feet of gas per day to bridge the growing supply-demand gap now crippling Pakistan's economy.

The invalidation of Reko Diq license to  Tethyan, joint venture of Canada's Barrick and Chile's Antofagasta, has turned away Pakistan's single largest foreign investment deal to date. The deposit in Balochistan was expected to produce about 200,000 tons of copper and 250,000 ounces of gold annually. Under the deal Baluchistan province would hold a 25 percent stake in the project, with Tethyan holding the remaining 75 percent.

Militants Released:

In addition to activist judges intervention in economic matters, there have also been many instance in which hundreds of known militants have been released by Pakistani courts. Those released have then committed acts of terror which have also scared away investors, both foreign and local.

Summary:

Mohsin Mushtaq Chandna's presentation of the data and facts is quite comprehensive. A combination of poor governance and activist judges have significantly contributed to the major issues highlighted in the presentation. I hope Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government is up to the tough challenges faced by Pakistan.  Failure to confront these challenges would produced yet another lost decade like the decade of 1990s when Pakistan's economic growth was just 3-4%.

You can find a pdf version of Mr. Chandna's presentation on PakAlumni.com website:

http://www.pakalumni.com/forum/topics/assessment-of-the-state-of-pakistan-economy-in-may-2014

Related Links:




5 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn Op Ed by Dr. Ishrat Husain on Pakistan's isolation from global economy:

It is becoming increasingly difficult for Pakistanis to obtain visas to visit other countries of the world. Security clearances have made it difficult for businessmen to travel and explore opportunities. The resurgence of polio has further added to the existing problems. Even Sri Lanka has removed Pakistan from the list of ‘on arrival visa’ countries.

It is pertinent to probe the reasons that have led to our isolation.
The international Financial Action Task Force has placed Pakistan among a handful of countries in the high-risk category for its lack of action against money laundering and terrorism financing. Capital inflows and outflows from Pakistan are now subjected to more serious scrutiny. Even legitimate philanthropic donations for noble causes have to bear the brunt.

International retail banks are either completely withdrawing or substantially curtailing their operations particularly at the retail level. Pakistani banks are facing difficulties in maintaining international correspondent banking ties. Pakistan is being edged out of international financial integration.

The country’s market share in world exports has declined significantly. The recent energy crisis can be blamed for short-term production difficulties but the withdrawal of the buying houses’ physical presence from the country has contributed significantly to this decline. New and emerging companies avoid Pakistan as they can source their supplies at competitive prices and quality from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam etc. where they can easily undertake reconnaissance and exploratory trips.

Karachi used to be once an international hub for air travel. Almost all reputed airlines used to route their operations through Karachi. Western airlines suspended their services in the 2000s and after the recent attack on the Karachi and Peshawar airports some airlines have cancelled flights or discontinued their services altogether. Pakistanis are now left with fewer choices for travelling abroad.

Insurance premia on shipping cargo and passengers escalated soon after September 2001 but slowly came down. In recent years, premia are becoming heftier, reinsurance getting difficult to obtain and several Western companies are unwilling to issue insurance policies to foreigners intending to visit Pakistan. The landed cost of goods at Pakistani ports is likely to rise due to this escalation in insurance premia. Alternatively, big shipping companies will simply skip our ports.

The northern areas of Pakistan that can be compared to the mountainous regions of Switzerland used to attract thousands of tourists from abroad every year for hiking, trekking, mountain climbing, skiing and other sports. The local economy of this area depends on the tourist trade. Since the murderous attacks on the tourists at the Nanga Parbat base camp tourist traffic has almost disappeared.

In the knowledge-based economy that is going to characterise the 21st century, Pakistani students, researchers and faculty suffer from a serious handicap as they do not get to meet any of their international counterparts at home and have great difficulty in getting opportunities to visit abroad. Collaborative research and exchange in natural and social sciences in which Pakistan used to feature prominently is waning rapidly.

Pakistani professionals used to dominate international organisations in both the public and private sectors. They had disproportionately high representation in senior decision-making positions. It is now difficult to find Pakistanis in top positions in any noteworthy public international organisation, or private multinational company. Pakistanis in higher positions were conduits for promoting business with the country of their origin as they understood the situation much better.
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http://www.dawn.com/news/1117090/delinking-from-global-economy

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an FT story on Pakistan plans to raise $2 billion through privatization:


Pakistan expects to raise at least $2bn by March next year through the international sale of shares in Pakistani energy and banking companies, according to the man spearheading the privatisation drive.
Muhammad Zubair, chairman of the privatisation commission, signalled the country’s return to global equity markets following what the government says is the end of a political crisis marked by weeks of demonstrations in the capital, Islamabad.


“There was uncertainty that the prime minister will be forced to resign, the parliament will be packed up,” he said, referring to the protests led by Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, and Tahirul Qadri, a moderate Islamic leader. “By mid-September, it was clear that the prime minister was staying and the parliament will remain intact.”
Demonstrators remain camped outside the parliament, but other political parties, including some opponents of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have backed the government’s right to run the country until its five-year mandate expires in 2018.
Mr Zubair will share his message of returning political stability on Thursday when he meets potential investors at the start of a roadshow beginning in London to sell a 7.5 per cent stake in Oil and Gas Development Co. Analysts say the offer through global depositary receipts should raise more than $800m.
This will be followed by the offer of government shares in the privately run Habib Bank, which analysts said could fetch up to $1.2bn in the first quarter of next year. HBL was privatised in 2003 when 51 per cent was sold to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.
Mr Zubair said a successful outcome of the two deals would build investor confidence and help pave the way for privatising other public sector companies. He said at least nine electricity distribution companies and six generating companies would be privatised.
Pakistan International Airlines, the lossmaking state-owned carrier would also be offered for sale. In the past week, Pakistani officials have said the government was planning to split PIA into two, offering its international operations to a Middle Eastern airline while selling ageing aircraft and domestic routes to a local investor.
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Mr Zubair said the privatisation programme had the support of every mainstream political party. “We have met with 60 international equity funds. At least 90 per cent are convinced that political stability will remain in Pakistan . . . We now have to demonstrate we are back at work.”
Mr Sharif was elected prime minister for the third time in May 2013 and is seeking to revive confidence in an economy ravaged by corruption, poor management and attacks on official and civilian targets by Taliban Islamist extremists.
As the scion of a prominent business family in the populous Punjab province, Mr Sharif has advertised himself as a business-friendly leader eager to privatise lossmaking state groups.
But some analysts are sceptical about the likely extent of privatisation, warning that even a successful sale of OGDCL and HBL shares will not necessarily lead to the sale of struggling electricity groups.
“Getting credible foreign investors has historically proven difficult, especially when it comes to taking charge of public sector companies,” said Sakib Sherani, a former adviser to the finance ministry.
“These assets include those that are heavily overstaffed and have run in loss for a long time. The real test will come when these assets are put up for strategic sales along with transfer of management.”
Nor is political stability guaranteed, with Mr Khan and Mr Qadri repeating their demands for Mr Sharif to resign and trade unions likely to flex their muscles.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/029b3250-487a-11e4-ad19-00144feab7de.html

Riaz Haq said...

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan plans to split ailing national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) into two companies and sell control of the core business to a global airline over the next 18 months, but political opposition to the sell-off will be intense, the country’s privatization czar said.

Financial advisers are now in talks with several airlines about taking over cash-strapped PIA, which has some 17,000 employees but just 36 aircraft — and 10 of them are grounded due to a lack of spare parts.

Mohammad Zubair told Reuters in an interview during a visit to New Delhi that no decision had been taken on the buyer, but he mentioned Emirates airline, Etihad and Qatar Airways — the Gulf giants that dominate the regional sector — as possibilities.

“It’s going to be the most difficult sale,” said Zubair, who is aiming to raise around $4bn this fiscal year from the sale of stakes in several companies, anticipating demands that the government hold onto PIA and nurse it back to health itself. “If we are saying that for 25 years PIA has been going from bad to worse, we can’t claim that we are business-savvy and we can turn it around. Anyone who thinks that the government can fund it is living in a fool’s paradise.”

Zubair, a former IBM chief financial officer for the Middle East and Africa, was tapped by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take charge of a central plank of economic reforms promised by Islamabad in return for an International Monetary Fund bailout. Pakistan announced this week that it will seek to raise about $815mn through a sale of shares in Oil and Gas Development Co (OGDC), its largest offering in eight years.

Zubair said investors are returning to Pakistan after weeks of anti-government protests in Islamabad that have now fizzled out, and the OGDC deal representing 7.5% of the company’s share capital would be a test of their confidence. The OGDC sale is part of a sell-off drive to raise capital for an economy that has been crippled for years by power shortages, corruption and militant violence, and to staunch huge losses from dysfunctional companies. Zubair said the losses of power distribution companies alone are equivalent to one-sixth of the government’s fiscal revenues.

Next on the block will be the government’s 40% stake in Habib Bank Ltd, which will be sold in two stages between November and next March, for around $1.2bn. Also ahead is the sale, targeted at domestic investors, of the state’s 7.5% stake in Allied Bank Ltd, for around $150mn, Zubair said.

Over the years, critics say, governments have manipulated state Corps like PIA for political and financial gain, giving jobs to so many supporters that the size of the workforce has become unsustainable in the face of mounting losses.

Zubair said that PIA’s employee-to-aircraft ratio, at around 600, is one of the worst in the world and keeps going up as more planes are grounded. Under his plan, the airline will be spun off as a separate entity and PIA’s other interests — such as ground-handling, catering, hotels and even a poultry business — would go into a holding company that would be retained by the state.

To avoid mass layoffs that would run into political opposition the holding company would absorb all the employees, keep a share in the airline to earn dividend income and then sell off each of its interests individually over time.

Zubair said he could not proceed with the sale of PIA as quickly as other companies, partly because parliament may have to approve legislation allowing it to pass into private hands. “It’s more politically sensitive,” he said. “PIA is not going to be sold just like that.”

http://www.eturbonews.com/51147/pakistan-talks-several-airlines-about-taking-over-ailing-pia

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s debt-fueled journey from $6b to over $15b in foreign exchange reserves under #PMLN #Nawazsharif #PTI #PPP http://tribune.com.pk/story/972449/sbps-reserves-pakistans-journey-from-6b-to-over-15b/ …

In addition to total disbursements amounting to $4.5 billion from the IMF since 2013, Pakistan has also raised at least $3.5 billion from the international bond market by floating Sukuks and Eurobonds.

In its many reports on the economy, the SBP has made it abundantly clear that it is not particularly fond of the government’s approach to shore up foreign exchange reserves on borrowed funds.

It should be noted that repayments to the Paris Club — following the debt rescheduling of December 2001 – are set to begin in 2016-17 whereas IMF repayments will start from 2017-18. It is against this backdrop that the SBP believes shifting financing away to non-debt creating inflows (i.e. foreign investments) is a must to strengthen the country’s debt servicing capacity in the future.

“A sustainable solution requires narrowing the FX gap with real earnings from exports and/or remittances, rationalisation of imports, and curbing smuggling,” the central bank advised the government in one of its recent reports.

Riaz Haq said...

Sakib Sherani's Op Ed in Dawn on Pakistan's debt situation:

In overall terms, since July 2013, non-debt creating foreign exchange inflows (such as foreign direct investment, remittances and exports) have increased by $2.2bn, while debt flows have increased by $4.1bn (in net terms).

While Pakistan’s overall external debt situation is not alarming at the moment, with the bulk of the debt stock long-term and concessional in nature, and with debt repayment indicators in a relatively comfortable zone, the trend established in the past few years does give cause for concern.

The concern is accentuated by the possible confluence of a number of unfavourable factors in the medium term. Within the next three years, repayments begin on maturing sovereign dollar-denominated bonds; to the Paris Club on rescheduled debt; and to the IMF for the amounts disbursed under the current programme. In addition, imports relating to new power plants and the projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will also kick in. On top of all this, Pakistan could be incurring as yet unspecified external liabilities on CPEC projects.

With exports misfiring, the government paying inadequate attention to this cause, and remittances plateauing, the unfolding scenario could be the ‘worst case’ rather than the hopeful ‘base case’ constructed by the government and IMF.

(A crude indicator of the PML-N government’s priorities is the number of hours the finance minister has spent travelling the world meeting foreign bond investors in the past two years versus the amount of time he has given to Pakistan’s exporters in listening to, and trying to address their concerns.)

Taking external as well as domestic debt together, Pakistan’s debt dynamic in overall terms is extremely unfavourable. Public debt has increased nearly three-fold since 2008, rising to almost Rs18 trillion by end-June 2015, growing at a compounded annual rate of over 16pc. In the last two years, Rs3.2tr has been added to the public debt, increasing the stock by 22pc. Making the debt dynamic non-benign is the fact that the bulk of the increase (Rs2.7tr) has come from high-cost, shorter-maturity domestic debt.

With economic growth stagnating, inflation-adjusted increase in government revenues only nominally positive, and uncertain prospects for exports, the outlook for public debt is not benign. Already, public debt-to-GDP ratio stands at over 65pc (excluding the quasi-fiscal deficit), well above its legal threshold under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation (FRDL) Act of 60pc. Interest payments are inching up, budgeted to consume 52pc of total net federal revenue (after provincial transfers) in the current fiscal year.

An oft-overlooked aspect of Pakistan’s debt situation is the political economy. There is an inherent asymmetry between the ‘benefits’ derived from new debt undertaken, and the burden of its repayment. There are two facets worth considering. First, those segments who tend to ‘benefit’ from the debt contracted (the elite) are usually different from those who bear the incidence of the debt burden (the less affluent).

The elite benefit from the country’s overall borrowing because it insulates them from difficult choices by easing their budget constraint. The debt expands their available resource pool, and their control and influence of expenditure allocation allows them to increase the spending on their constituencies while shifting the ‘burden’ and consequences to less influential segments. The consequences can be in the form of expenditure cutbacks, lower spending on public services, lower investment and growth in the economy and/or higher inflation.


http://www.dawn.com/news/1213356