The foreign exchange reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) decreased by $223 million during the week that ended on 6 August 2021.
The reserves had been recorded at $17.623 billion for the week as compared to $17.846 billion on 30 July 2021.
The SBP has made external debt repayments and payments for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine amounting to $245 million during the last week. Coupled with other official inflows, these costs showed a decline of $223 million in the reserves.
A breakdown of the reserves shows that the net foreign exchange reserves held by the SBP and commercial banks had improved slightly by $14 million, clocking in at $7.021 billion for the week in concern.
Out of this, the total liquid foreign exchange reserves held by the country were recorded at $24.644 billion. This shows a moderate decline from the $24.853 billion that had been recorded the week before.
The import of vaccines will further dent the foreign exchange reserves as the government recently allocated a whopping amount of $1 billion for the country, targeting the vaccination of 100 million people. The impact of the spending of $1 billion on vaccinations will also negatively impact the current account situation in the ongoing financial year.
The vaccination drive could hit the foreign exchange and the economy more but the free doses of vaccinations from various global agencies are mitigating the burden.
Besides the imports of vaccines, the country is being supplied doses of various brands of COVID-19 vaccines free-of-cost by the COVAX Facility that provided 14 million doses in the last three months. So far, it has brought 2.4 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, 100,160 doses of Pfizer vaccines, 6.1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines, and 5.5 million doses of Moderna vaccines that were donated by the United States under the COVAX dose-sharing mechanism.
In this regard, the first batch of the Sinopharm vaccines recently arrived in Islamabad via the COVAX Facility with UNICEF’s support. This batch contains 976,782 doses, and another 5.1 million doses will be delivered to the Government of Pakistan in the upcoming days as part of the commitment for 6.1 million doses. These vaccines will strengthen the ongoing national COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
To date, 11.6 million people have been fully vaccinated and nearly 33.3 million people have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan, according to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC).
The government is spending millions on the vaccination drive through its centers and hospitals to prevent people from contracting the deadly coronavirus infection. The provincial governments have also taken measures to set up vaccination centers in the government and private sector hospitals. Private sector hospitals are also providing vaccinations against charges but the number of their beneficiaries is very limited. Additionally, charitable organizations like JDC Pakistan and AlKhidmat Pakistan have established various centers in collaboration with the provincial governments in different districts.
Banks such as the JS Bank and Meezan Bank also stepped forward to support the provincial government in the commercial capital Karachi through drive-through vaccination facilities in different areas.
A vaccination drive set up especially for the workers of the food sector as a dedicated center is being run in Karachi in collaboration with Foodpanda and the All Karachi Restaurant Association.
The collaboration measures particularly through public-private initiatives have expedited the vaccination drive across Pakistan as millions of people are now receiving their doses on a daily basis.