There are now several unexplained import numbers in November and December which require serious explanation from the government. The import bill of $15.6 billion in the last two months is simply hard to digest. There are gaps in petroleum imports and vaccine imports which are too big to ignore. It seems that something else is being parked in these figures.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS),5.1 million tons of petroleum products (petrol, diesel, furnace oil etc.) and crude oil was imported in the last two months. That is not possible. The country’s ports do not have capacity to handle such volumes. The data compiled by OCAC shows that 3.7 million tons of oil and products were imported in Nov and Dec 21.
OCAC data is based on ships being discharged at ports. PBS data is based on shipment imports. There could be a lag of 1-2 cargos. However, here in two months, estimated 24 cargos of petroleum products and 3 cargos of crude oil are being discharged on port according to PBS data.Where has all that oil disappeared? That is like missing one ship every second day. Is David Copperfield pulling a sleight of hand atthe ports?
The missing petroleum ships account for around $800 million. That is not a small number. OCAC data is cross-checked by the Ministry of Energy and it is in line with country’s average monthly imports in the past. For example, Pakistan imported 22.9 million tons of oil in 2019 and 18.7 million tons in 2020. This implies a monthly average of 1.7 million tons as against the monthly average of 2.5 million tons reported by the PBS in the last two months.
That is the story of oil imports where something is seriously wrong somewhere. The other element to note is COVID vaccines imports. The number is recorded in the medicinal imports withinthe sub-section of agriculture and other chemicals. Pakistan started importing vaccines in March of 2021. The total payment made or yet to be made is $1,590 million for the procurement of 157 million doses. This makes (excluding retroactive financing) $10 per average dose value.
There are another 87 million doses which are grants from COVAX and China. No payment are to be made against these. However, they are recorded in the imports number. The question is what value PRAL assigned to these vaccines. If the price is assumed at $10 (which is the average price of purchased doses), the import number should be $870 million. Add this to paid vaccine share, the total vaccine import bill should be $2.5 billion.
Pakistan imported $3,655 million worth of medicinal products in March-Dec2021.Covid vaccines are being recorded here. The average medicinal products imports in previous three years March-December period stood at $774 million. Assuming same number for non-COVID vaccine medicinal imports, the vaccine imports come at $2.9 billion. COVID vaccine imports were estimated at $2.5 billion. This implies, the value assigned to donor vaccines is higher by $400 million.
This makes donated vaccines at $14.7 per dose. Is something else being parked in the COVID vaccine figures?
Adding vaccine and oil anomalies, the unexplained number is around $1.2 billion. The good thing is that current account deficit would not count these anomalies.