LAHORE - The All Pakistan Business Forum has urged the central bank to review its policies to facilitate private sector, as the credit off-take in fiscal year 2018-19 has fallen to Rs 607.5 billion against Rs 618.2 billion of last year on the back of high key policy rates, which was raised from 6.5 percent to 13.25 percent in just one year. Moreover, the government borrowing from the SBP also increased by record highs during the period, increasing inflationary pressures on the economy.

APBF President Syed Maaz Mahmood observed that private sector has found no space to borrow from financial institutions, as banks are preferring to park their money in risk-free government securities in huge sums. He said that banking money’s flow has now directed towards the government papers, which will definitely hit the economic growth adversely, affecting the investment landscape of the country too. APBF President was of the opinion that the government’s shift for borrowing from the central bank to commercial banks will likely result in banks making profits however this would hurt overall economic growth.

The State Bank of Pakistan’s latest data shows the government borrowed Rs1.37 trillion in just one month of the new fiscal year of 2019-20 against net debt retirement of over Rs20 billion during the same period last fiscal year.

Maaz Mahmood observed that a low volume of private sector credit offtake means lower domestic investment, hindering business activity and economic growth and promoting unemployment in the country. He added the trend is alarming and a criteria of bad financial management of the country, as all the monetary aggregates tell us a sad story of the failure of the authorities. The off-take at the beginning of last financial year was much higher than the preceding year but disappointing economic situation along with the higher rates discouraged the private sector from borrowing additional funds during the later months. The central bank had justified massive rate hikes throughout the fiscal year citing rising inflationary pressures.

With weaknesses in private capital inflows continue to persist, the central bank should cut policy rates to spur growth, as cut would infuse confidence in the business community and propel economy. The industry is expecting the cut in interest rate, which could help boost private sector growth. He also complained that lending to private sector by the commercial banks during the current fiscal year has not picked up pace.