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ISLAMABAD: Finance minister, Ishaq Dar, on Tuesday told local broadcaster he was confident the International Monetary Fund’s ninth review would be done, which would unlock the disbursal of $1.1 billion from the lender to the cash-strapped South Asian nation.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday he hoped a bailout decision from the International Monetary Fund would come in a day or two, capping off protracted negotiations as the country faces an acute balance-of-payments crisis.

Islamabad is racing against time to unlock $1.1 billion under the lender’s ninth review of a $6.5-billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in 2019. The programme expires on June 30.

PM Shehbaz meets IMF MD Georgieva with hope of programme revival

Here are some facts about the importance of unlocking the funds for the cash-strapped South Asian country of 230 million people and the challenges it has faced:

DELAYED TRANCHE

Pakistan has cleared eight of the 11 listed programme reviews, with the ninth review pending since November last year. The delay is already the longest since at least 2008.

The ninth review is to release a tranche of $1.1 billion, leaving about $1.4 billion on the table in unlocked funds. It is unclear if an IMF agreement would release the entire amount.

The ninth review had been stalled due to differences between the fund and Islamabad over policy actions, including external financing needs and a budget that meets programme goals.

HOLE IN FINANCES

The government has earmarked $2.5 billion in external receipts from the IMF in its federal budget for FY24, which means the government is budgeting for the 10th and 11th reviews too, or a new IMF programme after the current one expires.

Pakistan needs upwards of $22 billion to service external debt, make interest payments, and finance its current account for FY24. Reserves, at $3.5 billion, are at a critical level, enough to cover barely one month of controlled imports.

Pakistan’s credit rating has suffered due to macroeconomic uncertainty: Three key rating agencies recently cut Pakistan’s ratings - Standard & Poor’s rating for Pakistan stands at CCC+, Moody’s at Caa3 and Fitch at CCC.

SECONDARY BENEFITS

A successful review would not only release much-needed funds, but also unlock credit from other financiers who are looking for a clean bill of health from the IMF for the ailing $350 billion economy. This includes raising money from the private market.

The country has received financing commitments from friendly countries Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of $3 billion, while China has granted rollovers on its debt payments due.

National elections are due by November this year and the government has said the decision to enter a new IMF programme will be a decision for the incoming administration.

TOUGH CONDITIONS

The initial draft of the budget presented in parliament earlier this month failed to meet IMF expectations but was hurriedly revised to introduce new taxes and expenditure cuts. -The country’s central bank also hiked the key rate by 100 basis points in an emergency meeting on Monday barely two weeks after keeping the rate unchanged in a scheduled meeting.

Hopes of a last-minute bailout rose following meetings between Sharif and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in Paris this month, followed by marathon meetings between IMF staff and finance ministry officials.

Comments

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Pakistani1 Jun 28, 2023 06:41am
Dar has said it so many times and it has not happened. He should stop saying it and focus on controlling expenses, reducing wastage and corruption.
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Ash Chak Jun 28, 2023 08:00am
I hope this time he’s saying the truth.
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Maqbool Jun 28, 2023 09:43am
Will be done ?…… 72 hrs to go ….. Dar control smuggling, control hawala, and stop allowing Non Tax filers to exit…. Do your job.
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Tulukan Mairandi Jun 28, 2023 10:03am
Will be done in his dreams. Pakistan will catastrophically default
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Builder Jun 28, 2023 01:26pm
@Tulukan Mairandi and rest of the india is extremely frustrated. They have been waiting so long for Pakistan to default.
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Ch. K A Nye Jun 29, 2023 09:41am
@Ash Chak, he has a history of lying. What makes you think that he will tell the truth now?
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