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Pakistan

Pakistan and IMF discussing new multi-billion-dollar programme, finance minister says

  • Pakistan seeks at least a three-year programme with the IMF, says Aurangzeb
Published April 16, 2024
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb speaks during an interview with AFP at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP
Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb speaks during an interview with AFP at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has initiated discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new multi-billion dollar loan agreement to support its economic reform programme, its new finance minister told AFP on Monday.

The South Asian nation is nearing the end of a nine-month, $3-billion Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF designed to tackle a balance-of-payments crisis which brought it to the brink of default last summer.

With the final $1.1 billion tranche of that deal likely to be approved later this month, Pakistan has begun negotiations for a new multi-year IMF loan programme worth “billions” of dollars, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said during an interview in Washington.

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“The market confidence, market sentiment is in much, much better shape this fiscal year,” said Aurangzeb, a former banker who took up his post last month.

“It’s really for that purpose that, during the course of this week, we have initiated the discussion with the Fund to get into a larger and an extended programme,” he added.

An IMF spokesperson told AFP that the Fund is “currently focused on the completion of the current SBA,” referring to the ongoing nine-month programme scheduled for completion shortly.

“The new government has expressed interest in a new programme, and Fund staff stands ready to engage in initial discussions on a successor program,” the spokesperson added.

‘Three-year programme’

During his visit to Washington, Aurangzeb will also attend the spring meetings organised by the IMF and World Bank, which kick off in earnest Tuesday, with two clear objectives: to help countries combat climate change, and to assist the world’s most indebted nations.

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The meetings – which bring central bankers together with finance and development ministers, academics, and representatives from the private sector and civil society to discuss the state of the global economy – will kick off with the IMF’s publication of its updated World Economic Outlook.

Pakistan held elections in February this year which were marred by allegations of rigging, with opposition leader Imran Khan jailed and barred from running, and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party subject to a crackdown.

The shaky coalition that emerged, led by Shehbaz Sharif, is now tasked with engineering an economic turnaround by implementing a raft of unpopular belt-tightening measures.

“I do think that we will at least be requesting for a three year programme,” Aurangzeb said. “Because that’s what we need, as I see it, to help execute the structural reform agenda.”

“By the time we get to the second or third week of May, I do think we’ll start getting into the contours of that discussion,” he added.

Balancing US-China rivalry

Pakistan has close economic ties to both the United States and China, which has put it in a tricky position as the two countries have embarked upon a costly trade war.

“From our perspective it has to be an and-and discussion,” Aurangzeb said when asked how the Sharif government plans to conduct its trading relationships with the world’s two largest economies.

“[The] US is our largest trading partner, and it has always supported us, always helped us in terms of the investments,” he said.

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“On the other side, a lot of investment, especially in infrastructure, came through CPEC,” he said, referring to the roughly 1,860-mile long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor designed to give China access to the Arabian Sea.

Aurangzeb said there was an “very good opportunity” for Pakistan to play a similar role in the trade war as countries like Vietnam, which has been able to dramatically boost its exports to the US following the imposition of tariffs on some Chinese goods.

“We have already a few examples of that already working,” he said. “But what we need to do is to really scale it up.”

Reform agenda

As part of the structural reform programme agreed to by the previous government, Pakistan is in the middle of a privatization drive to sell off its poorly-performing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The first SOE on the list is Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country’s flag carrier.

“We will get to know in the next month or so with respect to interest from prospective bidders,” Aurangzeb said.

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“Our desire is to go through with that privatisation and take it through the finishing line by the end of June,” he added.

“If the PIA privatisation goes well for the government, other companies could soon follow. We’re creating an entire pipeline,” he said. “Over the next couple of years we want to really accelerate that.”

Comments

200 characters
Shahzad Ali Apr 16, 2024 10:53am
Should.
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Humayun Akhtar, PhD, MBA Apr 16, 2024 11:20am
Form 47 appointments should be cancelled and Imran Khan released immediately to become PM.
thumb_up Recommended (0) reply Reply
Aamir Apr 16, 2024 03:00pm
So now it's this poor bankers job on how to borrow more to serve the mafias that require more and more.
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test Apr 16, 2024 08:25pm
The only way is local manufacturing. The only way is local industry. The only way is industrial exports of Vehicles Computers Smartphones Microchips Aircrafts Machines Weapons Satellite Electronics...
thumb_up Recommended (0) reply Reply
test Apr 16, 2024 08:28pm
The only way is local manufacturing. The only way is local industry. The only way is industrial exports of Vehicles Computers Smartphones Microchips Aircrafts Machines Weapons Satellite Electronics...
thumb_up Recommended (0) reply Reply