ISLAMABAD- Pakistan's central bank on Tuesday left benchmark interest rates unchanged at 9.75%, saying the outlook for previously fast-rising inflation had improved but flagging that it could hold an extraordinary policy meeting due to Russia's war in Ukraine.
The State Bank of Pakistan would take any necessary "timely and calibrated action" to safeguard external and price stability, the bank said in its monetary policy statement.
"Since the Russia-Ukraine situation remains fluid, the MPC (monetary policy committee) noted that it was prepared to meet earlier than the next scheduled MPC meeting in late April, if necessary" it said.
Lower prices for subsidised fuel and electricity announced by the government this month as well as easing demand-side pressures were expected to moderate inflation, the bank said.
The bank left its inflation projections unchanged for the 2022 financial year at between 9% and 11% while noting the conflict was adding "a high degree of uncertainty" to the outlook for international commodity prices and global financial conditions.
The International Monetary Fund has warned supply disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine will lead to surging wheat, grains and energy prices that will have to be closely watched by monetary and fiscal policy makers to mitigate the effects on poor households.
Pakistan has been struggling with high inflation, but the headline figure fell to 12.2% in February from 13% the previous month.
The bank raised rates by 275 basis points between September and December to tackle inflation, a falling Pakistani rupee and a current account deficit. It signalled in December it was probably close to being done with increases in the near-term.
The bank on Tuesday maintained its growth forecast for 2022 around the middle of its previously forecast 4-5% range.
(Reporting by Islamabad newsroom and Swati Bhat in Mumbai; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Frank Jack Daniel)