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ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday said that Pakistan requires to accelerate implementation of policies and reforms needed to address some of the long-standing challenges facing the country’s economy.

Director Communications Department IMF Gerry Rice, while responding to Business Recorder’s question at a press conference, stated that the Fund is holding open, constructive discussions with Pakistan as part of the sixth review of the country’s 39-month $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) programme.

Responding to another question when with regard to an opposition party leader’s assertion that the IMF has stopped its disbursements on the $6 billion programme, Rice declined to say if disbursements under the EFF programme had been halted, but said they are in discussions with the Pakistani authorities on the next review.

“The discussions are constructive and that is where we are,” he added.

“We welcome the open constructive discussions we are having with the Pakistani authorities. We stand ready to continue to support Pakistan in achieving its objectives of debt sustainability and strong sustainable growth. This will require continued discussions on the sustainable fiscal fast structural reforms particularly on the tax and energy sector and social spending enhancement envisaged in authorities’ reforms programme that is supported by the IMF resources,” said Rice.

Rice further said that as the recovery gains strength it will be important to accelerate implementation of policies and reforms needed to address some of the long-standing challenges facing the Pakistani economy.

Asked about the inconclusive talks on the 6th review, Rice said that the Fund remains fully engaged with the Pakistani authorities aiming to resume discussions in the period ahead.

“We are in discussion with Pakistan on the next review and the discussions are constructive,” he added.

Reuters adds: Rice declined to say if disbursements under that program had been halted, but said further discussions were needed about Pakistan's fiscal spending plans, structural reforms, particularly in the tax and energy sectors, and social spending.

IMF staff were unable to complete the talks during a recent mission, but the global lender remained "fully engaged" and aimed to resume the discussions in the period ahead, Rice told a regular IMF briefing.

Pakistan this month set a target of 4.8% growth in gross domestic product for the 2021-22 financial year and a fiscal deficit target of 6.3%.

The country, which borders India, Afghanistan and Iran, surpassed growth projections in the 2020-21 financial year despite a third wave of COVID-19 infections, reaching GDP growth of 3.96%, after a 0.47% contraction in 2019-20.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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