Key policy rate kept unchanged at 7pc on improved GDP growth forecast

Key policy rate kept unchanged at 7pc on improved GDP growth forecast

KARACHI: The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Friday decided to keep the key policy rate unchanged at 7 percent owing to improved GDP growth forecast to 3.94 percent and hope of further higher growth in the next fiscal year.

A statement issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said that since its last meeting in March, the MPC was encouraged by the further upward revision in the FY21 growth forecast to 3.94 percent.

The MPC noted that this confirms the strength of the broad-based economic rebound underway since the start of the fiscal year, on the back of targeted fiscal measures and aggressive monetary stimulus.

This positive momentum is expected to persist, translating into higher growth next year.

According to the SBP statement, the inflation rose to 11.1 percent (y/y) in April, propped up by the lingering impact of this February’s electricity tariff increase as well asa pick-up in month-on-month food prices, partly driven by the usual seasonality around Ramzan. The MPC noted that supply-shocks to food and energy still dominate, with a small number of energy and food items in the CPI basket accounting for about three-fourths of the rise in inflation since January.

The MPC also observed that although core inflation in urban areas has risen by around 1.5 percentage points during this period, available evidence suggests that demand-side pressures on inflation continue to be relatively contained.

This reflects the fact that despite the economic recovery, there is still some spare capacity following last year’s contraction. Second-round effects from the supply shocks are also not visibly apparent: price pressures are concentrated in a few items, wage growth is subdued keeping a cap on costs, and inflation expectations remain reasonably anchored. As previously forecast, the headline year-on-year inflation rate is likely to remain elevated in the coming months due to the recent electricity tariff hike, pushing the average for FY21 close to the upper end of the announced range of 7-9 percent. As supply shocks dissipate thereafter, inflation is expected to gradually fall toward the 5-7 percent target range over the medium-term.

In light of the foregoing considerations, the MPC was of the view that the current significantly accommodative stance of monetary policy remains appropriate to ensure the recovery becomes firmly entrenched and self-sustaining. This is especially so given the renewed heightened uncertainty created by the on-going third wave of Covid in Pakistan and the fiscal consolidation expected this fiscal year. As a result, the MPC noted that it was important for monetary policy to remain supportive. The MPC observed that given the Covid-related uncertainties, the cost of withdrawing monetary stimulus too soon exceeded that of withdrawing too late.

Looking ahead, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, the MPC expects monetary policy to remain accommodative in the near term, and any adjustments in the policy rate to be measured and gradual to achieve mildly positive real interest rates over time. If demand side pressures emerge as the recovery becomes more durable and the economy returns to full capacity, the MPC noted that it would be prudent for monetary policy to begin to normalize through a gradual reduction in the degree of accommodation. This would help ensure that inflation does not become entrenched at a high level and financial conditions remain orderly, thereby supporting sustainable growth.

In reaching its decision, the MPC considered key trends and prospects in the real, external and fiscal sectors, and the resulting outlook for monetary conditions and inflation.

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