For giving a look over current state of Pakistan economy and role of digitalization in its growth a conference was held at Marriot Hotel Karachi on 27th March 2019. President Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry Junaid Esmail Makda, Advisor Banking & Insurance Subcommittee Ateeq-ur-Rehman, CEO the Professionals Network Mehmood Tareen, Chief Systems Officer PIA Kashif R. Rana, Managing Director Daraz.pk Ehsan Saya, were the main speakers.
It was heartening to note that since 2011, The Professionals Network (TPN) is playing the role of event specialists by arranging events occurring in the world not only but also delivering results through client relationships and event partnerships. In this regard role of Mr. Ateeq-ur-Rehman and Mr. Mehmood Tareen are appreciable. Further role of Mr. Ibne Hassan of NBP is also appreciable who has always brought forward image of NBP by participating in such events.
The Federal budget of Pakistan for FY 2020 is now in final stages with news of increase in energy prices and devaluation of PKR. Negotiations are also going on with IMF for doing reforms in Pakistan the burden of which would fall on the public and business. PTI government has in fact damaged the country with its U turn policies. Actually they should have accessed IMF aid in September last year to give indication to the world that Pakistan economy is now under reforms. This would have made task of government easy to maintain its reserves for two month imports.
Further it would have made easier for government to digest devaluation of PKR that has jumped from Rs 121 per dollar in September 2018 to Rs 140 per dollar in December 2018. Now with negotiations with IMF and World Bank going to be finalized before budget, Pakistan would again allow depreciation of PKR that would be highly damaging .Further hike in SBP prime rate above 10% has weakened the business activities that would affect Pakistan GDP growth and may bring it down to 3% in 2019 from 5-6% in 2017-18.
Pakistan government total debt was Rs 20,768 billion on June 2017. In June 2018 it became Rs 24,212 billion and now in January 2019 it has gone to Rs 30,876 billion showing an increase of 16.58% from June 2017 to June 2018 (i.e. within 12 months) and 27.52% from July 2018 to Dec 2018 (i.e. within 6 months) This increase is drastic and shows immense failure of Imran Khan economic team. Further revenue generation would also remain short by Rs 1.5 trillion this year as well and to bring people in tax net through bringing legislation for Services, Agriculture, Whole sale and retail sectors is also looking impossible as PTI is short in numbers in the parliament. So they would rely on indirect taxation and withholding tax deduction forcing people to get out of banking system. So the situation is highly tense at this moment.
Pakistan is at a turning point at this moment. On economic front immediately it should do two things. First to finalize the deal with IMF and than through bilateral arrangements to keep is reserves around $ 17 billion i.e. for two months imports. Now for going forward two areas are important i.e. to develop tourism industry and to go for development of e commerce in Pakistan like Malaysia whose Consul General was also present in the conference.
Given the country’s overall retail market worth of e commerce market is $40 billion. The speakers of the conference elaborated that e-commerce in Pakistan is still in its infancy – it is barely 0.2% of the overall market.
According to the latest annual performance review released by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the adoption of digital transactions in Pakistan has seen a 17% growth YoY during 2016-17. The credit for this largely goes to influx of mobile broadband technology in Pakistan that has encouraged the use of digital transactions. Additionally, rising awareness and efficiency of e-commerce businesses and online payments systems have also contributed to this growth. Although ATM stills holds a significant portion of these transactions, but mobile and internet banking transactions are gradually becoming strong. As per SBP report, 625.8 million transactions have been made via electronic banking channels by banks, businesses, and consumers of Pakistan. However, the total value of transactions stood at Rs37.1 trillion during 2017-18 which did not depict any improvement. Following the global trends, the payment systems landscape in Pakistan has also transformed rapidly during last 6-7 years. There has been a stellar growth in payment cards, mobile, internet banking transactions. The total commercial banking activity including deposits, withdrawals and funds transfer through intra-bank facility accounted for Rs31.1 trillion while the number of transactions remained 143.6 million during 2017. SBP quotes.
The initiation of projects like the development of National Payment Gateway, online collection of taxes and duties and elimination of cheques from government payments will have far reaching implications on banking system efficiency, effectiveness and access.
It has been observed that 25 banks are currently providing internet and call center services. Furthermore, 18 banks have started operating through mobile banking operations as the year ended. Therefore, paper-based transactions including cheques pay orders, demand drafts etc. stood at 451.8 million with a worth of Rs139.6 trillion during the last fiscal year. ATMs are the most frequently used channel for withdrawal of cash. Furthermore, there has also been a growth of 11.5% in the number of ATM machines as currently 32 banks own 12,689 ATMs across Pakistan.
Another significant trend is the rising adoption of e-commerce as currently 571 merchants are selling their offerings online. As of outgoing fiscal year, there were 1.2 million e-commerce transactions worth Rs9.4 billion.
After investment in energy and transport sector under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China is now making headways in the e-commerce and banking industry of Pakistan through Alibaba, Bank of China and Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).
With foundations well in place for digital commerce to flourish in Pakistan, it is only a matter of time before e-commerce takes the Pakistani consumer market by storm. The e-commerce market in Pakistan has changed drastically. Large e-commerce portals, such as PakWheels.com, Zameen.com and Rozee.pk have changed the landscape of the e-commerce industry.
This change may be rightly attributed to the emergence of 3G and 4G, which constitute 90% of Pakistan’s broadband base. Considering this, e-commerce giant Alibaba, one of the world’s largest online retailers, with a total market value of $380 billion, has signed a MoU with our Ministry of Commerce which aims at promoting exports from SMEs and may potentially lead to an investment of approximately $400 million in Pakistan’s e-commerce sector.
Furthermore, this agreement entails the provision of training for SMEs with respect to using e-commerce platforms, along with promoting mobile financial services and online payment services. With the entry of Alibaba, other tech giants will follow, with the result that SME exports will be encouraged, an issue which was previously not addressed.
Foreign competition will lead to better standards in this sector and force local e-commerce companies such as Daraz.pk and Homeshopping.pk to become more efficient or risk being wiped out. Consequently, not only more jobs will be generated, but HR and relevant skill-sets will also be developed. Alibaba’s partnerships with local vendors could also boost the economy.
With the opening of Bank of China in Pakistan, the access to Chinese markets will strengthen further. Considering the recent local and global economic developments, particularly with the growing size of trade and investment with China under CPEC, Yuan denominated trade with China will increase significantly and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.
The main issue is that the Chinese banking system is used to handling transactions in Yuan and other regional currencies (of the countries with which direct settlement of transactions are going on) but Pakistani banks are not. The challenge is to make them used to such transactions, explain them how the rupee-Yuan settlement of transactions would work and how the businesses would benefit from it.
The next step is promoting the clearance and settlement of claims of financial institutions through a cross-border interbank payment system. Once concrete developments are made in this regard, the free flow of capital and cross-border transfer of legitimate funds between the two countries would become easier.