According to a report by Moody’s Investors Service, Pakistan’s ability to secure loans from bilateral and multilateral partners will be severely limited until a new programme is negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The report suggests that it may only become clear whether Pakistan will join another IMF programme after the elections, which are scheduled to take place by October 2023. Furthermore, even if negotiations for a new IMF programme are successful, they are expected to take some time.
Moody’s warns that Pakistan is unlikely to access affordable market financing from sources such as Eurobonds or commercial banks in the foreseeable future. In fiscal year 2023, the government did not issue any Eurobonds and fell significantly short of its target by raising only Rs521 billion ($2.8 billion) from commercial banks, compared to the target of Rs1.4 trillion set in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget.
The report also highlights the high external debt repayment burden for Pakistan in the coming years, with approximately $25 billion of repayments (principal and interest) due in fiscal year 2024. Additionally, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are very low at $3.9 billion as of June 2.
Moody’s further expresses uncertainty about Pakistan’s external funding prospects for fiscal year 2024 and beyond, noting that it is not guaranteed that Pakistan will secure the $2.4 billion from the IMF as budgeted. The IMF has been in talks with Pakistan regarding the ninth tranche of a $6.5 billion bailout package, with the current programme set to expire at the end of June.
Regarding debt rescheduling, the report mentions that the government is considering rescheduling bilateral debts but has no plans to approach the Paris Club or multilateral partners for debt rescheduling. Moody’s states that a suspension of debt service obligations only to official creditors is unlikely to have direct rating implications, as it would provide the government with additional fiscal resources for essential expenditures in health, social, and infrastructure sectors.
Moody’s criticises Pakistan’s newly announced budget for the fiscal year 2023-24, noting that it lacks significant revenue-raising or spending-containment measures to alleviate intense government liquidity pressures. The report suggests that the deficit estimates and growth projections in the budget may be overly optimistic, given the economic stresses faced by the country, including government liquidity and external vulnerability pressures, which have been exacerbated by severe floods in August 2022, expected to impact economic activity throughout fiscal year 2024.
The budget does provide relief measures for households and businesses, including a reduction in fuel and electricity prices, an increase in the minimum wage, and a one-time cash transfer to low-income households. However, a substantial portion of the increased expenditure is allocated to salaries and pensions for government employees, with total employee-related expenses budgeted at Rs1.2 trillion, compared to an estimated spending of Rs960 billion in fiscal year 2023. The government has also earmarked Rs2.8 trillion for grants and subsidies in fiscal year 2024, compared to an estimated Rs2 trillion in fiscal year 2023.
Pakistan’s low revenue-to-GDP ratio is identified as a major constraint on the government’s debt affordability and debt burden. The budget aims to achieve tax revenue of Rs9.2 trillion in fiscal year 2024, representing a 28 per cent increase from the estimated Rs7.2 trillion in fiscal year 2023. However, Moody’s sees significant downside risks to this revenue projection, given the lack of significant revenue-raising measures and the current economic context.