ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves will touch $21 billion benchmark within this year, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday.

He said the foreign exchange reserves are at historic height and hovering between $18.50 to 18.75 billion. Efforts are afoot to enhance the reserves to over $21 billion by the end of this calendar year, he added.

Finance minister made these remarks in a ceremony where memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to establish Pakistan Stock Exchange by merging Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad stock exchanges.

Ishaq Dar said efforts will now be made to enhance growth rate to six to seven percent as envisioned in the medium term framework. Pakistan had archived seven years highest growth of 4.24 percent during last year, which still needs to be further higher, he added.

He said that government would bring fiscal deficit to 4.3 percent during ongoing financial year, which was 8.8 percent when PML-N took the charge in June 2013.

On energy crisis, Ishaq Dar was confident that ten thousand megawatt of electricity will be added to the grid by December 2017. He said that the government, in collaboration with the SECP, is endeavouring to make Pakistan’s financial and capital market one of the best in the world. He reiterated the government’s commitment to the creation of a strong, vibrant and competitive financial and capital market that can prove as a basic building block for a strong economy. He expressed his resolve to improve the outlook of Pakistan’s capital market to attract investment and improve the standard of living of the common man.

Terming the scheme of integration among stock exchanges a landmark achievement, Senator Ishaq Dar said that formation of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE) is a win-win for all and it will go a long way towards sustainable development of our capital markets, in the best interest of all stakeholders and Pakistan.

Finance Minister said that it is a satisfying day for him that the task of demutualisation and integration of stock exchanges that could not be achieved in last 15 years was being accomplished now. He said that the full benefits of this exercise require completing the process of divestment of shares. He assured full support of the government to achieve divestment of PSE shares.

Among other areas, Ishaq Dar said, the government is committed to promoting standards of excellence for the corporate sector and capital market. While appreciating the robust reforms agenda followed by the SECP, the Finance Minister asked SECP to implement a strong enforcement and compliance regime and show zero tolerance for any market manipulation, inside trading, misconduct and abuse.

The efforts of the government and the regulators are bearing fruit and Pakistan has started doing really well, he added. PSE is going to be play major role in attracting foreign investment, Ishaq Dar anticipated.

Ishaq Dar also appreciated SECP’s efforts for getting Pakistan’s Index reclassified in upcoming Annual Market Classification Review of MSCI. He expected that Pakistan’s capital market would soon be reclassified a MSCI emerging market. He also acknowledged the SECP for achieving 62pc compliance with standards of the International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO) assessments.

Speaking at the occasion, the SECP Chairman, Zafar Hijazi said that the formation of Pakistan Stock Exchange is a major milestone in the history of Pakistan’s capital market that will lead to achieve the government’s vision of a fair, efficient and transparent market. He said that Pakistan’s capital market has enough potential to become a regional capital hub and the SECP aimed to build Pakistan as one of the best capital markets in the Asian region.

Chairman Hijazi said that the PSE would be in better position to invite reputed stock exchanges from all over the world to become its strategic partner.

The SECP Chairman further said having a single stock exchange in a country is not an astonishing phenomenon as many countries including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore have one stock exchange.

The Chairman, Demutualisation Committee ISE, Mukhtar Ahmed Jaffery, Chairman Demutualisation Committee LSE Yasser Mahmood and Chairman Demutualisation Committee KSE Haji Usman Ghani signed the MoU to integrate the three stock exchanges to create the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSE).

The Presidents of the NBP and ZTBL, Deputy Governor, SBP, Managing Directors of KSE, LSE, ISE and CDC, NCCP, Chairman CCP, NIT and PMEX, President Mutual Funds Association of Pakistan, members of the SECP Policy Board, members of the demutualisation committees, prominent business leaders from capital market, insurance, non-banking financial sector and CEO’s of leading banks attended the event.