IMF says inflation to slow growth across Middle East, Pakistan this year

IMF says inflation to slow growth across Middle East, Pakistan this year
In this file photo taken on September 14, 2022 People gather at a beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 May 2023
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IMF says inflation to slow growth across Middle East, Pakistan this year

IMF says inflation to slow growth across Middle East, Pakistan this year
  • The international lending agency predicts regional growth to drop from 5.3 percent last year to 3.1 percent
  • Rising interest rates, used by central banks to stem inflation’s rise, are increasing the costs of borrowing money

DUBAI: Economies across the Middle East and Central Asia will likely slow this year as persistently high inflation and rising interest rates bite into their post-pandemic gains, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Wednesday.

The IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook blamed in part rising energy costs, as well as elevated food prices, for the estimated slower growth. The report said that while oil-dependent economies of the Gulf Arab states and others in the region have reaped the benefits of elevated crude prices, other countries — such as Pakistan — have seen growth collapse after an unprecedented flooding last summer or as economic woes worsened.

The regional slowdown also comes as an explosion of fighting in Sudan between two top rival generals — who only a year ago as allies orchestrated a military coup that upended the African country’s transition to democracy — threatens a nation where IMF and World Bank debt relief remains on hold.

Rising interest rates, used by central banks worldwide to try to stem inflation’s rise, increase the costs of borrowing money. That will affect nations carrying heavier debts, the IMF warned.

“This year we’re seeing inflation again being the most challenging issue for most of the countries,” Jihad Azour, the director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the IMF, told The Associated Press. “For those who have high level of debt, the challenge of increase in interest rate globally, as well as also the tightening of monetary policy, is affecting them.”

The IMF forecast predicts regional growth will drop from 5.3 percent last year to 3.1 percent this year. Overall, regional inflation is expected to be at 14.8 percent, unchanged from last year, as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues to pressure global food supplies and affect energy markets.

It will be even worse in Pakistan, where the IMF projected inflation to more than double, to about 27 percent. Pakistan and IMF officials have held repeated talks over the release of a stalled key tranche of a $6 billion bailout package loan to Islamabad.

The IMF warned that financial conditions worldwide will tighten this year, brought on in part by two bank failures in the United States in March. The sudden collapse of Credit Suisse before it was purchased by UBS also strained markets.

For Sudan, Azour acknowledged the challenge as the country faces a humanitarian crisis brought on by the weeks of fighting there. The violence has also worsened a debt crisis that has gripped the country for decades as it faced Western sanctions.

“We have worked with the government of Sudan, for the Sudanese people, in order to help them by achieving a debt operation that would allow Sudan to have a debt relief of more than $50 billion,” Azour said.

“But unfortunately, the recent developments ... put in a halt to all of those efforts,” he added.


Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
Updated 25 February 2024
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Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller

Peshawar Zalmi beat Lahore Qalandars by 8 runs in PSL thriller
  • Saim Ayub (88), Babar Azam (48) and Rovman Powell (46) guided Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs
  • In response, Rassie van der Dussen scores first century of season, but fails to guide Lahore to victory

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi defeated Lahore Qalandars by eight runs in a thrilling match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Sunday.
Lahore won the toss and decided to field first in the match. Saim Ayub played a brilliant innings of 88 runs from 55 deliveries, strengthening Peshawar’s position in the game.
Captain Babar Azam struck 48 and Rovman Powell hit 46 to take Peshawar to 211 runs in 20 overs at a loss of four wickets. In return, Lahore could only score 203 runs despite Rassie van der Dussen’s first century of the season.
“Another day, another thriller,” read a post on PSL official account on X. “Rassie van der Dussen’s spirited century goes in vain as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a hard-fought 8-run win.”
Shaheen Afridi dismissed three Peshawar batsmen for 33 runs.
Chasing a 212-run target, van der Dussen hit an unbeaten 104 runs from 52 deliveries, but could not lead his side to victory. Shai Hope and Ahsan Bhatti chipped in with 29 and 20 runs, respectively.
Naveen-ul-Haq dismissed two for 50 runs, while Salman Irshad and Paul Walter took one wicket each.
This was Lahore’s fifth consecutive loss of the season, while Peshawar have registered two back-to-back wins in their four matches.


Pakistan opens 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US and Jordan among participating nations

Pakistan opens 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US and Jordan among participating nations
Updated 25 February 2024
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Pakistan opens 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US and Jordan among participating nations

Pakistan opens 60-hour joint military exercise with Saudi Arabia, US and Jordan among participating nations
  • The exercise is aimed at enhancing military-to-military cooperation under complex global security environment, Pakistani military says
  • Officials from Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Myanmar, Germany, Indonesia, Japan and Oman will witness the exercise as military observers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Sunday opened a 60-hour-long joint military exercise in its northwest, with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United States (US) among the participating nations, the Pakistani military said.
The opening ceremony of the 7th International Pakistan Army Team Spirit (PATS) Exercise was held at the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) in Pabbi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing.
A total of 20 friendly countries, including Pakistan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Morocco, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkiye, United States of America and Uzbekistan, are participating in the exercise.
Pakistan’s military training director-general opened the exercise, which is aimed at enhancing military-to-military cooperation under complex international security environment.
“Pakistan Army Team Spirit is a mission-specific and task-oriented professional military exercise organized annually in Pakistan,” the ISPR said in a statement.
“The exercise calls for highest standard of physical fitness, mental agility/robustness and professional military expertise for quick decision-making in varied situations during conduct of challenging missions in near-real environment.”
Officials from Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Myanmar, Germany, Indonesia, Japan and Oman will be witnessing the exercise as military observers, according to the ISPR.
“The exercise would help hone basic soldierly attributes besides interoperability through sharing of innovative ideas and mutual best practices,” it added.
Pakistan routinely holds joint air, ground and sea exercises with friendly nations to foster interoperability and joint deployment concepts to counter threats to global peace.
Several cadets from these nations annually visit the South Asian country, which has fought back militancy for decades, to undergo specialized military training.


Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy

Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy
Updated 25 February 2024
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Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy

Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy
  • The fire erupted late Saturday at the factory that produced chemical products for sanitizers, perfumes, Pakistani embassy says
  • The UAE is home to 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to Pakistan, after Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: Nine Pakistani nationals were injured in a fire that erupted at a chemical factory in the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) Ajman city, Pakistan’s top diplomat to the UAE said on Sunday.
The fire erupted late Saturday at the factory that produced chemical products used to make sanitizers and perfumes, according to the Pakistani embassy in the UAE.
The injured Pakistani nationals hailed from Shaheed Benazirabad in the southern Sindh province and Dera Ghazi Khan in the eastern province of Punjab.
“A sad accident of fire eruption occurred at sanitizers, perfumes related chemical products facility in Ajman, UAE late on February 24,” Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, told Arab News.
“Nine Pakistanis got injured in the ill-fated incident who were immediately rushed to different hospitals.”
The UAE is home to some 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to the South Asian country, after Saudi Arabia. A majority of these Pakistanis includes skilled laborers and technicians.
Tirmizi said the injured Pakistanis were admitted to hospitals in Ajman, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
“I assure you that all possible assistance shall be extended to fellow Pakistanis who became victims of the accident,” he said.
Hussain Muhammad, the Pakistani consul general in Dubai, said they were constantly in touch with the Emirati authorities and ensuring all-possible assistance to the injured Pakistani nationals.
“We are ensuring all possible assistance to the injured Pakistanis and [officials of] the Welfare Wing of Pakistan’s Consulate General, Dubai visited the hospitals immediately after the unfortunate occurrence and are constantly in touch with the relevant authorities,” he told Arab News.


Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day

Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day
Updated 25 February 2024
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Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day

Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day
  • Access to the social media platform was restricted days after Pakistan’s controversial election, which was marred by rigging claims
  • Lawyer Jibran Nasir seeks contempt proceedings against Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for defying court’s order to restore X

KARACHI: Digital rights activists said on Sunday that free speech was “critically under threat” in Pakistan as the South Asian nation continued to experience a disruption of social media platform X for the eighth consecutive day, despite a high court ruling to immediately restore it.
The platform went down on the night of February 17, when a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 national election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.
The suspension of mobile networks and subsequent delays in poll results led to widespread allegations of vote-rigging and sparked protests, mainly by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, against alleged manipulation of results.
Usama Khilji, director of the Bolo Bhi Internet, censorship and gender advocacy group in Pakistan, said non-compliance of the court order meant there was “complete impunity” for the violation of the Constitution as well as orders of the higher judiciary.
“I think free speech is critically under threat,” he told Arab News, adding it was quite concerning as there was no protection of fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.
The Sindh High Court this week ordered authorities to immediately restore the social media platform after concerned citizens in the southern Pakistan province of Sindh moved the court against the disruption of X.
Jibran Nasir, a human rights lawyer who filed one of the two petitions in the Sindh High Court, said he had already filed a contempt of court case against chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which regulates Internet and social media platforms in the country, over non-compliance of the court orders.
Arab News reached out to PTA spokesperson Malahat Obaid for a comment on the matter, but she referred the query to the interior ministry. There was no response from the interior ministry either.
Nasir, the human rights lawyer, said the unannounced restriction on X indicated the state was “scared of free speech.”
“These repeated interruptions, disruptions and now what we are seeing as prolonged ban on Twitter, or X, which is primarily a medium for information sharing where academic, journalists, politicians, people from different walks of life and the masses at large interact indicates that the state is scared of free speech, the state is petrified by the idea that citizens under the constitution can have the liberty to exercise their right to freedom of expression,” he told Arab News.
“It’s also indicative of the fear of the state that what can an empowered and informed electorate do, so that’s why to ensure that the people don’t have free access to flow of information and that they don’t have the medium where they can express their views.”
Nighat Dad, a digital rights activist, said while the disruption of X was a “blatant violation of civil liberties,” it had sent out a message to the world that Pakistan might not be a “good market” for them.
“Any banning or blocking, or disruption of any platform tells the world that there’s something wrong with our policies” she said, questioning who would bring their investment to Pakistan under such circumstances.
Amber Rahim Shamsi, director of the Center for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) and another petitioner against the disruption, said the PTA was “violating its own rules and regulations” by banning the social media platform and the move had not helped stop any mis- or disinformation.
“Mis- and dis-information cannot be identified and documented on private Facebook accounts or WhatsApp groups,” said Shamsi, who also heads the iVerify Pakistan fact-checking platform.
“Banning Twitter has not stopped the spread of mis- and dis-information, but the ability of independent fact-checkers to trace and respond.”


Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder
Updated 25 February 2024
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Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder
  • Haris Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Karachi-Lahore match on Saturday
  • Doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from injury, says Lahore Qalandars 

LAHORE: Fast bowler Haris Rauf has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan Super League after dislocating his shoulder during two-time defending champion Lahore Qalandars’ two-wicket loss against Karachi Kings on Saturday.

The franchise said in a statement on Sunday that doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from the injury after undergoing scans.

Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the last over while holding onto a stunning catch of Hasan Ali during Karachi’s thrilling run-chase as Lahore lost its fourth successive game in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event.

Rauf struggled in the first three games but bounced back against Karachi with economical figures of 1-22 off his four overs.

“We are deeply saddened by Haris Rauf’s injury,” Lahore captain Shaheen Shah Afridi said. “It was painful to see him missing out … and his absence will be felt.”

Rauf’s injury is the second major bowling setback for Lahore after its premier spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan was ruled out before the tournament due to a back injury.