After ‘mini-budget’, govt also drops petrol bomb on inflation-hit masses

Hours after tabling a finance bill in parliament to revive a stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan programme, the federal government on Wednesday increased the price of petrol by Rs22.20 and high speed diesel (HSD) by Rs17.20.

According to a press release issued by the Finance Division, a copy of which is available with, the prices of kerosene and light diesel oil were also increased by Rs12.90 and Rs9.68 respectively.

The new price of petrol is Rs272 per litre while HSD will cost Rs280 per litre. Kerosene will be available at Rs202.73 whereas LDO will be sold at Rs196.68 per litre.

“Increase in price is due to Pakistani rupee devaluation applicable for the calculation of current pricing period,” the press release said, adding that the prices would be effective from February 16 (Thursday).

The government is in a race against time to implement new tax measures and reach an agreement with the IMF as the country’s reserves have depleted to a critically low level of $2.9bn, which experts believe is enough for only 16 or 17 days of imports.

The agreement with the IMF on the completion of the ninth review of a $7bn loan programme would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.2bn but also unlock inflows from friendly countries.

Earlier today, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar tabled a crucial bill aimed at fulfilling the IMF conditions in parliament. The bill proposes increasing general sales tax (GST) from 17 per cent to 18pc as well as increasing the federal excise duty on cigarettes, sugary drinks and cement.

Meanwhile, a senior economist with Moody’s Analytics told Reuters on Wednesday that inflation in Pakistan could average 33 per cent in the first half of 2023 before trending lower, and a bailout from the IMF alone is unlikely to put the economy back on track.

“Our view is that an IMF bailout alone isn’t going to be enough to get the economy back on track. What the economy really needs is persistent and sound economic management,” senior economist Katrina Ell said in an interview.

“There’s still an inevitably tough journey ahead. We’re expecting fiscal and monetary austerity to continue well into 2024,” she added.

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