A representational image of a money exchanger counting dollar bills and a stack of rupee notes is seen in the background. — APP/File

KARACHI: The rupee on Thursday gained ground in the open market against the dollar after the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) allowed commercial banks to buy the greenback at the interbank market to settle international card payments.

“This is for the first time in Pakistan that the dollar rate has fallen by Rs27,” Malik Bostan, Chairman Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), said and congratulated Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the SBP governor.

Bostan was all praise for Dar for taking prompt action on his advice that helped the rupee gain sharply versus the dollar.

The moneychangers’ trade body head said that commercial banks were purchasing dollars from the open market at a high rate for credit card settlements.

Bostan claimed Dar had contacted him when the dollar reached Rs315 asking the reasons behind the widening gap in interbank and open market rates.

“After hearing this, the finance minister took the decsion promptly and issued the circular yesterday.”

This is a testing period till July 31, said Bostan and hoped that the rupee rate will increase further.

He further said that pilgrims would benefit from the move as they were buying dollars at a rate of Rs315 and now they could procure the greenback at a much lower rate of Rs285.

ECAP in a prior statement had reported the dollar was changing hands at Rs300 in the currency market. The US currency closed at Rs311 a day earlier.

The SBP decision also followed the International Monetary Fund’s demand that Pakistan fixes its currency market prior to resuming a $6.5 billion bailout programme.

“In view of the representations received from stakeholders, it has been decided to allow Authorised Dealers to purchase USD from Interbank for settlement of card-based cross border transactions with IPS [international payment schemes],” the central bank has said in its circular.

The analysts were expecting a decline in rupee value following the implementation of new guidelines.

The SBP made the right decision at the appropriate moment, according to the general secretary of the ECAP Zafar Paracha, which will cause the open market currency rate to drop by 20 to 25 rupees.

The reduction in the official and kerb markets’ rates will also serve to increase remittance inflows, he said.

Any notable differential in rates between the official and kerb markets promotes transactions outside of the official banking system, Pracha added.

Rupee has fallen by 23.6% since January this year in the interbank market.

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