Pakistan has halted payments for in-app purchases including online video games bought by local customers using airtime from telecommunications companies, the latest sign of distress caused by the country’s depleted foreign-exchange reserves.
Telecom service providers were violating regulations by allowing payments to be made for customers under an arrangement with the government that permitted the phone companies to pay for IT-related services for their own use, State Bank of Pakistan said in a statement. The regulator has stopped the transactions and telecom operators to resubmit their requests.
The South Asian country’s economy is dealing with various pressures including a dollar shortage and a downgrade by rating agencies further into junk. The nation’s foreign-exchange reserves cover about one month of imports, less than the three-month benchmark.
Pakistan has been restricting overseas payments and imports to deal with its shortage of the US currency. Automobile companies including local units of Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co. have had multiple weeks-long shutdowns this year because have been unable to import parts.
The central bank issued the statement in response to a report in The News that it revoked payments to international service providers including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Meta Platforms, Inc. The central bank denied it had withheld any payments related to Google.