With less than a week to go before Eid al-Fitr, the children are counting the hours until they can enjoy the festival with their new clothes, new shoes and lots of sweets.
What they are secretly looking forward to is collecting a lot of crisp banknotes, given to them by their elders as Eid, which they will later use to buy goods.
While parents are often concerned about completing a list of their children’s clothing and accessories, they are also concerned about securing bundles of new notes to distribute to their children and others. Then the problem is where to store these crisp new notes?
Generally, the State Bank of Pakistan estimates the increase in demand for Eid and manages to supply new notes to the public for this occasion either directly from its counters or through commercial banks.
As demand increased, the central bank developed a technical system to request notes so that demand and supply could be effectively managed. The system allows citizens to book their assigned bundle by sending a text message to their assigned short code.
But over the past two years, the SBP has suspended arrangements for the issuance of new currency notes to prevent public outcry due to the outbreak of the novel Chronovirus (COVID-19).
Although the government has lifted all CoVID-19 restrictions across the country, the SBP has not yet made dedicated arrangements for the issuance of new notes.
Commercial banks continue to supply their customers with new notes from their stocks, but banks have limited stock of notes.
Banking sources said that at the commercial level, branches usually have a large stock of large denomination notes. But they have very limited stock for small prices of Rs 10, Rs 20 and Rs 50. These are the notes that are most in demand on Eid and special arrangements have to be made to save ample stock of these notes.
So what if you are unable to get the crisp new bundle of notes you need?
Every year, even when the SBP makes adequate arrangements, it is impossible for it to meet the demand or reach all the people. Those who fail to obtain notes from banks have to resort to the unregulated black market of currency dealers to secure new notes.
One of the centers of these black market currency dealers is located near Bolton Market in Karachi. Sources said that dealers here start preparations for Eid several weeks in advance. They collect bundles of new currency notes from banks and store them till Eid when they sell them for a premium.
Sources further said that note makers are also involved in stockpiling notes.
SBP spokesperson Abid Qamar said that unlike previous years, the central bank has not yet made special arrangements for issuing new currency notes to the public but commercial banks will be able to provide new notes to customers from their stock.
“COVID-19 SOPs and restrictions are over,” he suggested, adding that one expects Eid al-Fitr to be celebrated with the traditional fervor and fervor, with the demand for new currency notes.
“The new currency notes have to be arranged in advance,” he explained before acknowledging that this could not be done this year.
The SBP had issued new currency notes of Rs 284 billion for Eid-ul-Fitr in 2019, the year before the spread of Cove 19. This is more than the Rs 185 billion notes printed in 2018.
But in the three years that followed, no special arrangements were made for the printing of new notes.