Financial Services Sector in Pakistan

November 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm (Economics, Pakistan)


By Riaz Haq

Pakistan has been ranked 34 out of 52 countries in the World Economic Forum’s first Financial Development Report, which was released in Pakistan through the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF) in December, 2008.

The report is a comprehensive analysis of financial systems and capital markets in 52 countries that explores key drivers of financial system development and economic growth in developing and developed countries and serves as a tool by which countries can benchmark themselves and establish priorities for financial system improvement.

Arthur Bayhan, Chief Executive of the Competitiveness Support, told the media: “I am very happy to see that financial system in Pakistan is well reformed and competitive vis-à-vis Asia and Europe. Pakistan is ranked ahead of the Russian Federation (35), Indonesia (38), Turkey (39), Poland (41), Brazil (40), Philippines (48) and Kazakhstan (45).”

The United States narrowly edged the United Kingdom to take the top position in the Financial Development Index. The United Kingdom was second while China ranked 24 and India 31.

The Financial Development Index is based on three main pillars – Factors, Policies and Institutions, Financial Intermediation and Capital Availability and Access. These are further divided into sub – pillars.

Under Factors, Policies and Institutions pillar, Pakistan ranks 49th in institutional environment, 50th in business environment and 37th in Financial Stability. In the Financial Intermediation Pillar Pakistan ranks 25th in banks, 42nd in non banks and 17th in Financial Markets. Under Capital Availability and Access, Pakistan ranks 33rd.

Indicators showed that in business environment Pakistan had development advantage in Cost to Export, ranking 6th, Cost of closing business 5th.

In Financial Stability Change in Real Effective Exchange rate ranked 20th, External debt to GDP 10th, Frequency of banking crises 1st, stability index 15th.

In corporate governance Pakistan ranked at the very top in shareholder rights index, 14th in strength of investor protection.

In the Non banks pillar, Pakistan ranked 9th in the Real growth of direct insurance premiums. In equity market movement Pakistan ranked at the top again in equity market turnover.

Importance of Financial Services Sector:

Banks are often described as a nation’s economic engine, in part because they provide financial intermediation functions between savers/investors who are looking for safety and growth and consumers/businesses who are looking for access to credit and capital.Banks also play a major role as instruments of the government’s monetary policy aimed at regulating interest rates and money supply in the economy. The current economic crisis in the United States and Europe, marked by the ongoing weakness of major banks and the resulting credit and capital crunch, underlines the critical importance of the banking sector in national and global economies. Recognizing the crucial importance of the financial sector in global economic recovery, the Obama administration is allocating the bulk of the stimulus money to restore the health of major U.S. banks.

Banking in Pakistan:

In Pakistan, the total banking sector serves around 6 million borrowers and 25 million depositors, implying a penetration rate of 3.6 percent and 15 percent respectively. In terms of access to microfinance, which means the availability of small loans, micro deposits and micro-insurance services to low income households, the current penetration rate is only 10 percent. In other words, 85 percent of Pakistan’s population does not have access to any financial services at all, which inherently creates an uneven and an inequitable economic world, where the majority of people are financially marginalized. This situation drives the poor to rely on informal sources of funding like the unscrupulous moneylender, where the calculus of the relationship works to the detriment of the borrower. Well regulated banking and microfinance sectors are, therefore, absolutely to give hope to the poor in breaking the vicious cycle of dependence and poverty.

Between 2002 and 2007, Pakistan’s accelerated economic growth was underpinned by a strong banking sector. Classified as Pakistan’s and region’s best performing sector, the banking industry’s assets rose to over $60 billion, its profitability remains high, non-performing loans (NPLs) are low, credit is fairly diversified and bank-wide system risks are well-contained. Almost 81% of banking assets are in private hands. Likewise, the present foreign stake comes to 47% of total paid-up capital of all the financial institutions regulated by Pakistan’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s foreign reserves hit a record high of $16.5 billion in October 2007 but fell to $6.6 billion in November, largely because of a soaring import bill. As the commodity prices rose and inflation in Pakistan reached near 25%, the State Bank of Pakistan was forced to raise its discount rates to as high as 15%. However, there has been a dramatic decline in the cost of imports such as oil during the last few months, spelling relief for Pakistan and other non-OPEC developing nations. The price of oil has dropped to about a quarter of what it was last summer.

Pakistan signed a $7.6 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund in November to stave off a balance of payments crisis. It received its first tranche of $3.1 billion that month. In its first assessment since November, IMF has expressed satisfaction with Pakistan’s progress. “Initial developments under the program have been positive,” IMF spokesman David Hawley told a regular news briefing, according to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “The foreign exchange rate has appreciated somewhat and preliminary information suggests that end-December targets for net international reserves and net domestic assets at the State Bank of Pakistan were met,” he added.

Pakistan’s economy deteriorated sharply over the course of 2008, as inflation surged, and the current account deficits jumped on the back of rising oil and food prices, according to a World Bank report.

The report titled ‘Global Economic Prospects 2009’ says political turmoil and ongoing security concerns have also taken a toll on Pakistan’s economy, while the global financial crisis added substantial downward pressures on its financial markets. Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund agreed to lower the target for the gross domestic growth this fiscal year to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent but many analysts said even achieving this target would be very ambitious.

The general deterioration in regional trade balances has been offset by large remittance inflows, which represent a sizable, and generally increasing share of GDP: during 2007, 14 per cent in Nepal, 8 per cent in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, 4 per cent in Pakistan, and 3 per cent in India.

Given strong underlying growth dynamics in South Asia, the negative feedback effects of the global financial crisis are expected to be temporary. A relatively rapid rebound is expected in 2010, with a projected revival of GDP growth to 7.2 per cent.

During 2001-2007, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a banker by training and extensive experience in New York, understood the role of banking, finance, investment and consumer credit in economic growth of a nation. He focused on building strong banking, investment and finance sectors in Pakistan to underpin its economy. He strengthened capital availability, an essential and increasingly important economic input, in addition to labor and land improvements. With higher education budget up 15-fold and overall education spending up 36% in two years, he focused on education to improve the availability of skilled labor to fill new jobs. He pushed land development and public and private construction spending to improve infrastructure and facilities to attract greater business investment and create jobs. Mr. Aziz was largely successful in his efforts.

In general, there are primarily two types of banks in Pakistan: Commercial Banks and Investment Banks. Both types of banks provide financial services essential for Pakistan’s economy to function and grow.

Commercial Banks:

Commercial Banks are privately-owned institutions that, generally, accept deposits and make loans. Deposits are money people entrust to an institution with the understanding that they can get it back at any time or at an agreed-upon future date. A loan is money let out to a borrower to be generally paid back with interest. This action of taking deposits and making loans is called financial intermediation. A bank’s business, however, does not end there.

Most people and businesses pay their bills with bank checking accounts, placing banks at the center of our payments system. Banks are the major source of consumer loans — loans for cars, houses, education — as well as main lenders to businesses, especially small businesses. When banks are strong and the credit flows, it helps the overall economic growth. When banks are in crisis, the impact on business and consumers multiplies the weakness in the economy.

Following is an incomplete list of commercial banks in Pakistan:

* Allied Bank of Pakistan, Karachi
* Arif Habib Bank Limited, Karachi – (Formerly Arif Habib Rupali Bank)
* Askari Bank, Rawalpindi
* Atlas Bank, Karachi
* Bank AL Habib, Karachi
* Bank Alfalah, Karachi
* Crescent Commercial Bank, Karachi.
* Faysal Bank, Karachi http://www.faysalbank.com
* Habib Bank, Karachi
* Habib Metropolitan Bank, Karachi
* JS Bank
* KASB Bank, Karachi
* MCB Bank Limited (formerly Muslim Commercial Bank), Islamabad
* Mybank Limited, Karachi
* NIB Bank, Karachi
* PICIC Commercial Bank, Karachi
* Saudi Pak Non-Commercial Bank, Karachi
* Soneri Bank, Karachi
* Union Bank, Karachi – Standard Chartered Bank has acquired Union Bank
* United Bank, Karachi
* Bank Of Punjab, Lahore
* Citi bank,Islamabad
* Standard chartered Bank Ltd,Karachi
* ABN Amro Bank Ltd,Karachi Now merged in RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland)
* HSBC Ltd,Lahore

Investment Banks:

Investment banks provide four primary types of services: raising capital (private equity or public offerings of shares), advising in mergers and acquisitions, executing securities sales and trading, and performing general advisory services. Most of the major Wall Street firms are active in each of these categories. Smaller investment banks may specialize in two or three of these categories.

The list of investment banks in Pakistan includes the following:

* Al-Towfeek Investment Bank Limited
* Invest Capital Investment Bank Limited
* Atlas Investment Bank Limited
* Crescent Investment Bank Limited
* Escorts Investment Bank Limited
* First Credit and Investment Bank Limited
* First International Investment Bank Limited
* Fidelity Investment Bank Limited
* Franklin Investment Bank Limited
* Islamic Investment Bank Limited
* Jahangir Siddiqui Investment Bank Limited
* AMZ Securities
* Orix Investment Bank (Pakistan) Limited
* Prudential Investment Bank Limited
* Trust Investment Bank Limited

Finance Expo 2009:

Finance Expo Pakistan 2009 Exhibition was held last week in Karachi to showcase the most competent, dynamically growing and innovative companies that demonstrate the latest financial systems and methods stimulating the development of the banking and finance industry.

The Expo was an opportunity to network with decision makers, economists and experts of Banks, Takaful, Modaraba, Insurance Companies, Asset Management Companies, Stock Exchanges, Security Companies, Financial Education Institutes, & Leasing Companies and also of the fast growing industries like IT & Telecom, Oil & Gas, Alternative Energy & Power Industries, Agriculture, Pharma, Textile, Builders & Developers, Auto as well as Media.

The event is a platform for banking and financial institutions to come together and share ideas and the challenges presented to this rapidly growing industry.

The exhibition and conference highlighted the value that banking, financial institutions and other revenue generating industries bring to boost the economy of Pakistan. Moreover, the Event presents opportunities for displaying products, services and solutions towards the potential buyers.

Summary:

In spite of the international economic crisis, continuing political turmoil and rising militancy in Pakistan, the financial services sector has held up fairly well in the last year. Its future, however, remains tied to a measure political stability in the country that allows economic activity to occur unhindered. Let’s hope the nation’s political and ruling elites can find a way to find a peaceful way forward.

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4 Comments

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