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Poverty reduction has slowed amid recent shocks, as economic growth has remained volatile and slow. Pakistan made significant progress towards reducing poverty between 2001 and 2018 with the expansion of off-farm economic opportunities and increased inflow of remittances. However, rapid poverty reduction has not fully translated into improved socio-economic conditions, as human capital outcomes have remained poor, with high levels of stunting at 38 percent and learning poverty at 78 percent. Critical constraints, including persistent fiscal and current account deficits, protectionist trade policies, unproductive agriculture, a difficult business environment, a heavy state presence in the economy, and a financially unsustainable energy sector, have remained unaddressed, leading to slow and volatile growth. Progress with poverty reduction has recently slowed amid macroeconomic instability, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the catastrophic 2022 floods. The estimated lower-middle income poverty rate is 40.1 percent (US$3.65/day 2017 PPP) for the year 2023-24, virtually the same as the poverty rate in 2018, but with 7 million more Pakistanis living below the poverty line.

Pakistan experienced heavy monsoon rains in 2022 leading to catastrophic and unprecedented flooding with enormous human and economic impacts. Roughly 33 million people were impacted, and many permanently displaced. More than 13,000 kilometers of roads were destroyed, 2.2 million houses damaged, around 3.8 million hectares of crops were flooded, and an estimated 1.2 million livestock were killed. Limited access to input and output markets and temporary disruptions to supply chains subsequently drove up food prices and added to existing price pressures resulting from reduced agricultural yields and the global rise of food prices. The Government’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment estimated that the need for rehabilitation and reconstruction is at US$16.3 billion.

Pakistan has made recent progress towards macroeconomic stabilization, but risks remain extremely high and faster growth will require substantial reform. Real GDP growth contracted by 0.2 percent y-o-y in fiscal year FY23, after growing by 6.2 percent in FY22 and 5.8 percent in FY21. Accumulated economic imbalances, including high fiscal deficits and increasing debt, depleted Pakistan’s policy buffers resulting in high vulnerability to the catastrophic floods, high world commodity prices, and tight global financing conditions. Repeated delays in implementing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program and the associated decline in external financing inflows saw foreign reserves fall to critically low levels, amid high inflation and sharp currency depreciation. Following the expiry of the incomplete EFF program, a nine-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) was approved by the IMF, with staff level agreement reached on its final review in March 2024. Under the SBA, exchange rate flexibility was restored, import controls were eased with some recovery in foreign exchange reserves and economic growth, and new measures were introduced to contain the FY24 fiscal deficit. Nonetheless, risks remain high. Short-term stability depends on remaining on track with the SBA, continued fiscal restraint, and new external financing inflows. Robust economic recovery over the medium term will require the steadfast implementation of much broader fiscal and economic reforms.

Economic activity is expected to remain subdued, with real GDP growth estimated at 1.8 percent in FY24, reflecting continued tight macroeconomic policy, import controls, high inflation, and continued policy uncertainty. Output growth is expected to increase to around 2.5 percent over FY25-26, remaining below potential. Poverty reduction is projected to stall with the poverty rate at around 40 percent in the medium term, owing to weak growth, limited increase in real labor incomes, and persistently high food and energy inflation. Inflation is projected to remain elevated at 26.0 percent in FY24 due to higher domestic energy prices, with little respite for poor and vulnerable households with depleted savings and lower real incomes. With high base effects and lower projected global commodity prices, inflation is expected to moderate over the medium-term. With continued import controls, the CAD is expected to remain low at 0.7 percent of GDP in FY24 and to further narrow to 0.6 percent of GDP in FY25 and FY26. The fiscal deficit is projected to widen to 8.0 percent of GDP due to higher interest payments but gradually decline as fiscal consolidation takes hold and interest payments fall over time.

The Government continues to face a challenging macroeconomic environment while maintaining progress towards macroeconomic stabilization and critical structural reforms. Significant downside risks include: i) policy uncertainty, which may undermine a coherent and timely policy response; ii) worsening external conditions, including unforeseen increases in global commodity prices and interest rates; and iii) risks associated with large domestic and external financing needs, especially in the context banking sector liquidity constraints. To manage these risks, it will be critical to adhere to sound overall economic management and buttress market sentiment, including through articulating and effectively implementing a clear strategy for economic recovery; constraining fiscal expenditures to the extent possible and carefully targeting any new expenditures; maintaining a tight monetary stance and flexible exchange rate; and remaining on-track with critical structural reforms, including those in the energy sector.

Last Updated: Apr 02, 2024


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Pakistan: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments
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