Pakistan is a nation with a diverse economy that include textiles, chemicals, food processing, agriculture and other industries.In terms of purchasing power, It is the 26th largest economy in the world while in absolute dollar terms it is the 47th largest economy.
The economy has suffered in the past from decades of internal political disputes, a fast growing population, mixed levels of foreign investment, and a costly, ongoing confrontation with neighboring India. However, IMF-approved government policies, bolstered by foreign investment and renewed access to global markets, have generated solid macroeconomic recovery the last decade. Substantial macroeconomic reforms since 2000, most notably at privatizing the banking sector have helped the economy. Pakistan has seen a growing middle class population since then and poverty levels have decreased by 10% since 2001.
GDP growth, spurred by gains in the industrial and service sectors, remained in the 6-8% range in 2004-06. In 2005, the World Bank named Pakistan the top reformer in its region and in the top 10 reformers globally.
Islamabad has steadily raised development spending in recent years, including a 52% real increase in the budget allocation for development in FY07, a necessary step toward reversing the broad underdevelopment of its social sector. The fiscal deficit - the result of chronically low tax collection and increased spending, including reconstruction costs from the devastating Kashmir earthquake in 2005 was manageable. Development in urban areas of Pakistan has remained high but is low in rural areas.
Inflation remains the biggest threat to the economy, jumping to more than 9% in 2005 before easing to 7.9% in 2006. In 2008, following the surge in global petrol prices inflation in Pakistan has reached as high as 25.0%. The central bank is pursuing tighter monetary policy while trying to preserve growth. Foreign exchange reserves are bolstered by steady worker remittances, but a growing current account deficit - driven by a widening trade gap as import growth outstrips export expansion - could draw down reserves and dampen GDP growth in the medium term.
Since the beginning of 2008, Pakistan's economic outlook has taken a dramatic downturn. Security concerns stemming from the nation's role in the War on Terror have created great instability and led to a decline in FDI from a height of approximately $8 bn to $3.5bn for the current fiscal year. Concurrently, the insurgency has forced massive capital flight from Pakistan to the Gulf. Combined with high global commodity prices, the dual impact has shocked Pakistan's economy, with gaping trade deficits, high inflation and a crash in the value of the Rupee, which has fallen from 60-1 USD to over 80-1 USD in a few months. For the first time in years, it may have to seek external funding as Balance of Payments support. Consequently, S&P lowered Pakistan’s foreign currency debt rating to CCC-plus from B, just several notches above a level that would indicate default. Pakistan’s local currency debt rating was lowered to B-minus from BB-minus. Credit agency Moody’s Investors Service cut its outlook on Pakistan’s debt to negative from stable due to political uncertainty, though it maintained the country’s rating at B2.The cost of protection against a default in Pakistan’s sovereign debt trades at 1,800 basis points, according to its five year credit default swap, a level that indicates investors believe the country is already in or will soon be in default.
The middle term however may be less turbulent, depending on the political environment. The EIU estimates that inflation should drop back to single digits in 2010, and that growth should pick up to over 5% per annum by 2011. Although less then the previous 5 year average of 7%, it would represent a overcoming of the present crisis wherein growth is a mere 3.5-4%.
Pakistan is a member of the World Trade Organization, and has bilateral and multilateral trade agreements with many nations and international organizations.
Fluctuating world demand for its exports, domestic political uncertainty, and the impact of occasional droughts on its agricultural production have all contributed to variability in Pakistan's trade deficit.
In the six months to December 2003, Pakistan recorded a current account surplus of $1.761 billion, roughly 5% of GDP. Pakistan's exports continue to be dominated by cotton textiles and apparel, despite government diversification efforts. Exports grew by 19.1% in FY 2002-03. Major imports include petroleum and petroleum products, edible oil, chemicals, fertilizer, capital goods, industrial raw materials, and consumer products.
Past external imbalances left Pakistan with a large foreign debt burden. Principal and interest payments in FY 1998-99 totaled $2.6 billion, more than double the amount paid in FY 1989-90. Annual debt service peaked at over 34% of export earnings before declining.
With a current account surplus in recent years, Pakistan's hard currency reserves have grown rapidly. Improved fiscal management, greater transparency and other governance reforms have led to upgrades in Pakistan's credit rating. Together with lower global interest rates, these factors have enabled Pakistan to prepay, refinance and reschedule its debts to its advantage. Despite the country's current account surplus and increased exports in recent years, Pakistan still has a large merchandise-trade deficit. The budget deficit in fiscal year 1996-97 was 6.4% of GDP. The budget deficit in fiscal year 2003-04 is expected to be around 4% of GDP.
In the late 1990s Pakistan received about $2.5 billion per year in loan/grant assistance from international financial institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank) and bilateral donors. Increasingly, the composition of assistance to Pakistan shifted away from grants toward loans repayable in foreign exchange. All new U.S. economic assistance to Pakistan was suspended after October 1990, and additional sanctions were imposed after Pakistan's May 1998 nuclear weapons tests. The sanctions were lifted by president George W. Bush after Pakistani president Musharraf allied Pakistan with the U.S. in its war on terror. Having improved its finances, the government refused further IMF assistance, and consequently the IMF program was ended. The government is also reducing tariff barriers with bilateral and multilateral agreements.
While the country has a current account surplus and both imports and exports have grown rapidly in recent years, it still has a large merchandise-trade deficit. The budget deficit in fiscal year 2004-2005 was 3.4% of GDP. The budget deficit in fiscal year 2005-06 is expected to be over 4% of GDP. Economists believe that the soaring trade deficit would have an adverse impact on Pakistani rupee by depreciating its value against dollar (1 US $ = 60 Rupees (March 2006) ) and other currencies.
One of the main reasons that contributed to the increase in trade deficit is the increased imports of earthquake relief related items, especially tents, tarpaulin and plastic sheets to provide temporary shelter to the survivors of earthquake of October 8, 2005 in Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and parts of the NWFP, an official said. The rise in the trade gap was also fuelled by high oil import prices, food items, machinery and automobiles.
The Petroleum Ministry says that this year the bill of oil imports was expected to reach $6.5 billion against $4.6 billion in the last fiscal year, which is the main reason behind the all-time high trade deficit.
The EU is the single largest trading partner of Pakistan absorbing over one-third of the exports in 2003.
Pakistan's exports stood at $17.011 billion in the financial year 2006-2007, up by 3.4 percent from last year's exports of $16.451 billion.
Pakistan exports rice, furniture, cotton fiber, cement, tiles, marble, textiles, clothing, leather goods, sports goods (renowned for footballs/soccer balls), surgical instruments, electrical appliances, software, carpets, and rugs, ice cream, livestock meat, chicken, powdered milk, wheat, seafood (especially shrimp/prawns), vegetables, processed food items, Pakistani assembled Suzukis (to Afghanistan and other countries), defense equipment (submarines, tanks, radars), salt, marble, onyx, engineering goods, and many other items. Pakistan now is being very well recognized for producing and exporting cements in Asia and Mid-East. Starting August 2007, Pakistan will be exporting Cement to India to fill in the shortage there caused by the building boom.
Pakistan's imports stood at $30.54 billion in the financial year 2006-2007, up by 8.22 percent from last year's imports of $28.58 billion.
Pakistan's single largest import category is petroleum and petroleum products. Other imports include: industrial machinery, construction machinery, trucks, automobiles, computers, computer parts, medicines, pharmaceutical products, food items, civilian aircraft, defense equipment, iron, steel, toys, electronics, and other consumer items.
Sales tax is levied at 15 percent both on imports and domestically produced products. The income withholding tax is levied at 6 percent on imports and at 3.5 percent on the sales of domestic taxpayers.