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Multinationals Struggle with Pakistan’s Dollar Shortage


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Bloomberg highlights the struggles faced by multinational corporations (MNCs) operating in Pakistan as they grapple with a shortage of dollars, making it increasingly difficult for them to repatriate their profits. Notable companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Philip Morris find themselves in a predicament, with an estimated one to two billion dollars worth of earnings stuck in Pakistan due to an acute dollar shortage that began earlier this year.

According to the report, approximately “$1 billion to $2 billion in earnings from firms including Nestlé SA, Unilever Plc, and Philip Morris have been stuck in Pakistan’s banks for almost 18 months.” This financial conundrum has been exacerbated by various economic challenges in the country, including the depreciation of the rupee and high inflation.

To adapt to this situation, companies are exploring various strategies, such as seeking banks with access to dollars, investing profits in government securities, and reducing their reliance on imports. However, the ongoing dollar shortage presents a significant obstacle for MNCs, and some are even contemplating the possibility of withdrawing their business operations from Pakistan altogether.

Philip Goh, the regional vice president for Asia Pacific at the International Air Transport Association, acknowledged a slight improvement in the situation, noting a $47 million outflow in August. Nevertheless, the process of applying for currency repatriation in Pakistan remains a cumbersome task. Companies are required to obtain an auditor’s certificate specifying the remittance amount, leading to monthly audits rather than annual ones, which both increase operating costs and prolong the repatriation process.

While the government is aware of the issue and is making efforts to attract foreign investment through tax incentives and other incentives, it remains uncertain whether these measures will be sufficient to convince MNCs to continue their operations in Pakistan.

Additionally, Dawn reported on the state of Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves, which had hit critically low levels during July and August due to the rupee’s devaluation. The dollar-to-rupee exchange rate had reached Rs307 in early September, but the rupee has since begun to recover, appreciating by 7.5% from its lowest point, a trend that is expected to reflect in September’s data.

Pakistan’s total foreign exchange reserves currently stand at $13.03 billion, including $5.42 billion held by commercial banks.

Despite the challenges associated with repatriating profits, companies maintain a positive outlook, considering the improving rupee in September and the promising prospects offered by Pakistan’s rapid urbanization and youthful population.

This report sheds light on a critical issue facing multinational corporations operating in Pakistan, as they navigate the complexities of repatriating their profits amidst a challenging economic landscape. The shortage of dollars presents a formidable hurdle, and the decisions made by these companies regarding their continued presence in Pakistan will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the nation’s economy and its business environment.

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