In a bid to ease crisis, SBP advises banks to 'provide one-time facilitation' to importers.

In an attempt to ease the ongoing import crisis, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday removed the requirement of obtaining prior approval for imports falling under HS code chapters 84 and 85 and certain items falling under HS code chapter 87 - that deal with machinery and electrical equipment - of the Pakistan Customs Tariff.

Instead, the SBP issued a general guidance to the banks to prioritise the import of certain categories such as food, pharmaceuticals, and energy.

The central bank's decision comes days after businessmen flayed SBP Governor Jameel Ahmad in a town-hall meeting for letting 5,700 containers laden with food, medicine and industrial raw materials waste away at port for months on end.

Banks have been refusing to open letters of credit (LCs) for a majority of imports under explicit directives from the SBP as the country fights a serious shortage of dollars. Minimising dollar outflows has brought a wide section of import-dependent industrial activity to a standstill across the country.

Earlier this month, the central bank had eased imports of several essential items required as raw material and some basic needs of exporters.

However, it had directed banks to prioritise imports in the following order: food and pharmaceuticals; petroleum and coal; raw material and spare parts for export-oriented industries; seed, fertilisers and pesticides; deferred payment and self-funded imports; and plant and machinery for the export-oriented projects near completion.

In a press release...

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