Like a Central Bank in any developing country, State Bank of Pakistan performs both the traditional and developmental functions to achieve macro-economic goals. The traditional functions, which are generally performed by central banks almost all over the world, may be classified into two groups: (a) the primary functions including issue of notes, regulation and supervision of the financial system, bankers’ bank, lender of the last resort, banker to Government, and conduct of monetary policy, and (b) the secondary functions including the agency functions like management of public debt, management of foreign exchange, etc., and other functions like advising the government on policy matters and maintaining close relationships with international financial institutions.
The non-traditional or promotional functions, performed by the State Bank include development of financial framework, institutionalisation of savings and investment, provision of training facilities to bankers, and provision of credit to priority sectors. The State Bank also has been playing an active part in the process of islamization of the banking system. The main functions and responsibilities of the State Bank can be broadly categorised as under.
REGULATION OF LIQUIDITY
Being the Central Bank of the country, State Bank of Pakistan has been entrusted with the responsibility to formulate and conduct monetary and credit policy in a manner consistent with the Government’s targets for growth and inflation and the recommendations of the Monetary and Fiscal Policies Co-ordination Board with respect to macro-economic policy objectives. The basic objective underlying its functions is two-fold i.e. the maintenance of monetary stability, thereby leading towards the stability in the domestic prices, as well as the promotion of economic growth.
To regulate the volume and the direction of flow of credit to different uses and sectors, the Bank makes use of both direct and indirect instruments of monetary management. Until recently, the monetary and credit scenario was characterised by acute segmentation of credit markets with all the attendant distortions. Pakistan embarked upon a program of financial sector reforms in the late 1980s. A number of fundamental changes have since been made in the conduct of monetary management which essentially marked a departure from administrative controls and quantitative restrictions to market-based monetary management. A reserve money management programme has been developed. In terms of the programme, the intermediate target of M2 would be achieved by observing the desired path of reserve money - the operating target. While use in now being made of such indirect instruments of control as cash reserve ratio and liquidity ratio, the program’s reliance is mainly on open market operations.
ENSURING THE SOUNDNESS OF FINANCIAL SYSTEM:
REGULATION AND SUPERVISION
One of the fundamental responsibilities of the State Bank is regulation and supervision of the financial system to ensure its soundness and stability as well as to protect the interests of depositors. The rapid advancement in information technology, together with growing complexities of modern banking operations, has made the supervisory role more difficult and challenging. The institutional complexity is increasing, technical sophistication is improving and technical base of banking activities is expanding. All this requires the State Bank for endeavoring hard to keep pace with the fast-changing financial landscape of the country. Accordingly, the out dated inspection techniques have been replaced with the new ones to have better inspection and supervision of the financial institutions. The banking activities are now being monitored through a system of ‘off-site’ surveillance and ‘on-site’ inspection and supervision. Off-site surveillance is conducted by the State Bank through regular checking of various returns regularly received from the different banks. On other hand, on-site inspection is undertaken by the State Bank in the premises of the concerned banks when required.
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EXCHANGE RATE MANAGEMENT AND BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
One of the major responsibilities of the State Bank is the maintenance of external value of the currency. In this regard, the Bank is required, among other measures taken by it, to regulate foreign exchange reserves of the country in line with the stipulations of the Foreign Exchange Act 1947. As an agent to the Government, the Bank has been authorised to purchase and sale gold, silver or approved foreign exchange and transactions of Special Drawing Rights with the International Monetary Fund under sub-sections 13(a) and 13(f) of Section 17 of the State Bank of Pakistan Act, 1956.
The Bank is responsible to keep the exchange rate of the rupee at an appropriate level and prevent it from wide fluctuations in order to maintain competitiveness of our exports and maintain stability in the foreign exchange market. To achieve the objective, various exchange policies have been adopted from time to time keeping in view the prevailing circumstances. Pak-rupee remained linked to Pound Sterling till September, 1971 and subsequently to U.S. Dollar. However, it was decided to adopt the managed floating exchange rate system w.e.f. January 8, 1982 under which the value of the rupee was determined on daily basis, with reference to a basket of currencies of Pakistan’s major trading partners and competitors. Adjustments were made in its value as and when the circumstances so warranted. During the course of time, an important development took place when Pakistan accepted obligations of Article-VIII, Section 2, 3 and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement, thereby making the Pak-rupee convertible for current international transactions with effect from July 1, 1994.
After nuclear detonation by Pakistan in 1998, a two-tier exchange rate system was introduced w.e.f. 22nd July 1998, with a view to reduce the pressure on official reserves and prevent the economy to some extent from adverse implications of sanctions imposed on Pakistan. However, effective 19th May 1999, the exchange rate has been unified, with the introduction of market-based floating exchange rate system, under which the exchange rate is determined by the demand and supply positions in the foreign exchange market. The surrender requirement of foreign exchange receipts on account of exports and services, previously required to be made to State Bank through authorized dealers, has now been done away with and the commercial banks and other authorised dealers have been made free to hold and undertake transaction in foreign currencies.
As the custodian of country’s external reserves, the State Bank is also responsible for the management of the foreign exchange reserves. The task is being performed by an Investment Committee which, after taking into consideration the overall level of reserves, maturities and payment obligations, takes decision to make investment of surplus funds in such a manner that ensures liquidity of funds as well as maximises the earnings. These reserves are also being used for intervention in the foreign exchange market. For this purpose, a Foreign Exchange Dealing Room has been set up at the Central Directorate of State Bank of Pakistan and services of a ‘Forex Expert’ have been acquired.
DEVELOPMENTAL ROLE OF STATE BANK
The responsibility of a Central Bank in a developing country goes well beyond the regulatory duties of managing the monetary policy in order to achieve the macro-economic goals. This role covers not only the development of important components of monetary and capital markets but also to assist the process of economic growth and promote the fuller utilisation of a country’s resources.
Ever since its establishment, the State Bank of Pakistan, besides discharging its traditional functions of regulating money and credit, has played an active developmental role to promote the realisation of macro-economic goals. The explicit recognition of the promotional role of the Central Bank evidently stems from a desire to re-orientate all policies towards the goal of rapid economic growth. Accordingly, the orthodox central banking functions have been combined by the State Bank with a well-recognised developmental role.
The scope of Bank’s operations has been widened considerably by including the economic growth objective in its statute under the State Bank of Pakistan Act 1956. The Bank’s participation in the development process has been in the form of rehabilitation of banking system in Pakistan, development of new financial institutions and debt instruments in order to promote financial intermediation, establishment of Development Financial Institutions (DFIs), directing the use of credit according to selected development priorities, providing subsidised credit, and development of the capital market.