ISLAMABAD: Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan has said that the worsening of Pakistan’s current deficit can largely be attributed to the slowdown of the global economy.

According to a recent data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the country’s current account deficit widened 121% during the first eight months (July-February) of the ongoing fiscal year, standing at $5.473 billion compared to $2.482 billion in the same period of previous year.

The monumental increase in the deficit suggests that the government has been unable to manage the balance of payments position over the medium and long run. However, the minister of commerce dismissed this analysis.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Khan said that Pakistan’s trade volume has increased with 87 countries so far, compared to the corresponding period of the previous financial year.

“The present government is working hard on trade and in the past five years, Pakistan’s trade volume has increased with 137 countries, with the increment of 87 countries coming in the past two years,” he said. Nevertheless, he admitted that the global recession has hurt Pakistan’s exports, a problem which the government is trying to rectify.

“The major reasons for the decline (exports) were low commodity prices, slowdown of China’s economy and the Eurozone debt crisis,” he said. “However, the government has taken necessary steps to counter the effects of the global recession.” After a positive growth of 2.75% in the fiscal year 2014-15, exports registered a negative growth of 4.88% in the fiscal year 2015-16 and 12.11% in fiscal year 2016-17.

Khan said that in order to boost exports of the country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced the Trade Enhancement Package of Rs180 billion. He added that under the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2015-18, a total of Rs20 billion will be spent on the development of the export sector over the next three years.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2017.