Yawning gap of PBS, SBP import data increases to $1.5 bn


ISLAMABAD: In an alarming development, the gap between import data of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) widened to a historic high figure by climbing to $1.5 billion during November 2021, it is learnt.

This widened gap is the highest ever figure in one month to the tune of $1.5 billion since 2008 when the reconciliation issue had surfaced for the first time. It remained a problematic area in all these last 13 years but it had never touched the figure of $1.5 billion on a monthly basis.

All this is happening when Pakistan’s exchange rate witnessed a massive nosedive as the Pak rupee depreciated from Rs 152 to Rs 180 against the US dollar in the last 7 months period.

Out of the massive gap of $1.5 billion just in November 2021, the PBS showed that the import of food group stood at $888 million while the SBP data showed import of food group standing at just $705 million, indicating a difference by $183 million. Alone on account of palm oil, there is a difference of $157 million in import data of SBP and PBS.

The PBS showed that the import of machinery stood at $1.081 billion during November 2021 while the SBP showed that the import of machinery was standing at $793 million, registering a gap of $288 million. There was a difference of $116 million on the import of power generating machines in November 2021.

The PBS showed that the import of transport group stood at $426 million in November 2021 while SBP data demonstrated that the import was ranging about $288 million, indicating a gap by #137 million. The difference n import of cars was standing around $116 million.

There is a huge gap on account of petroleum group imports as the PBS data showed that its import stood at $2.183 billion during November 2021 while SBP was showing its imports of $1.619 billion, indicating a gap of $564 million just in one month.

In imports of agriculture and other chemicals, the PBS data showed that imports stood at $1.562 billion while SBP was showing imports of just $1.026 billion, indicating a widening gap of $536 million.

In the first five months (July-Nov) period of the current fiscal year 2021-22, the PBS showed that imports stood at $31.012 billion while SBP was showing total imports of $29.901 billion, indicating a gap of $3.11 billion in five months period.

There is a need to ascertain its exact reasons as increasing fear pointed out that depreciating exchange rate whereby rupee nosedived to Rs 180 against US dollar was providing incentives to importers to arrange dollars outside Pakistan to make payments, while exporters were stopping their earnings on expectations that their profits would balloon further when they send back mainly through remittances with time lag on the expectation of further depreciation.

In the year 2017, this gap had widened to $4.6 billion for nine months (July-March) period of 2017-18 when Pakistan China Economic Corridor was running in full swing.

The official data showed that Pakistan’s imports stood at $7.9 billion in November 2021 in accordance with PBS data while it stood at $6.4 billion on the basis of data compiled by SBP, indicating a widening gap of $1.5 billion.

There has always been a slight difference in data of both PBS and SBP. A few years back, the SBP had published a research report and found that ten years of data showed reconciliation occurred by end of the day.

However, it has become a source of major concern because the gap between SBP and PBS widened to a massive level in November 2021. The SBP receives data from commercial banks when importers make payments against L/Cs. Due to a variety of factors (like imports on deferred payments, freight, and insurance, etc), there is a natural discrepancy between the two datasets.

Deferred payments, for instance, result in a time lag between the recording of imports by customs and their reporting to SBP. Besides, there are certain items, like gold, and vehicles (under the baggage scheme), etc, for which the payment burden does not fall on the interbank market.

Usually, for any period, import data recorded by PBS tends to be higher than that available with SBP: the 10-year average difference between the two was on the lower side but it widened to the massive level of $1.5 billion for November 2021 which requires raising of a red

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