The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said on Tuesday that the bi-monthly monetary policy will be announced on May 23. Speculators expect downward revision in the interest rate by 50 basis points. Since November 2014, the SBP cut its policy rate thrice to 8 per cent.
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The main inflation, Consumer Price Index (CPI), moved to record low. The central bank and many analysts believe that the average inflation will remain in the range of 4-5pc at the end of this fiscal year.
The falling CPI (4.8pc for July-April) created room for policymakers to cut the interest rate by another 50bps in the upcoming monetary policy review. The government rightly takes the credit of bringing the inflation down to a decade low, but the impact on investment has yet to emerge. The private sector further squeezed its investment programme and its borrowing fell to just 55 per cent of what it was last year during the first 10 months of this fiscal year. While the private sector blames energy crisis and poor law and order situation, analysts and economists see the fault in the government borrowing strategy. The government massively borrowed from scheduled banks during this fiscal year. In fact, it set new record of borrowing from banks. Though the government used some of money to retire State Bank debt, it siphoned off liquidity from banks.
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However, banks are extremely satisfied with their investment in government papers which not only yielded record profits in 2014 but substantially reduced non-performing loans. Some bankers said since the banks were not extending loans to private sector, the NPLs on fresh loans are negligible. Most of the loans given to private sector are meant for working capital which is short term and less risky. The CPI inflation clocked in at 2.1pc in April 2015 after a lapse of 12 years mainly to sharp drop in oil prices and lower food inflation. “Due to improved inflation outlook and increasing real interest rates, we anticipate State Bank of Pakistan to cut policy rate by 50bps to 7.5 per cent in upcoming review,” Topline Securities observed in its research report.