Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson
Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson

WASHINGTON: The United States said that it will examine closely Pakistan request for a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that “part of the reason that Pakistan found itself in this situation is Chinese debt”.

Asked at a Thursday news briefing how would the United States deal with Pakistan’s request, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “In all cases, we examine that closely from all angles of it, including Pakistan’s debt position, in evaluating any type of loan programme”.

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Ms Nauert also blamed Pakistan’s loan arrangement with China for the country’s economic woes.

“I think part of the reason that Pakistan found itself in this situation is Chinese debt and the fact that there is debt that governments have incurred that they maybe thought wouldn’t be so tough to bail themselves out of, but has become increasingly tough,” she said.

On Tuesday, IMF chief economist Maurice Obstfeld urged Pakistan to review the loans it was receiving from China and avoid “excessive debts which cannot be repaid”.

Recently, a bipartisan group of 16 US senators claimed in a joint statement that China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which also funds projects in Pakistan, was a debt-trap. The recipients often found themselves deeply in debt to China and were forced to make painful concessions, they warned.

In an interview to a US television network CNBC in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States would not allow Pakistan to use the US taxpayers’ dollars to repay China.

“Make no mistake: We will be watching what the IMF does,” he said.

Pakistani officials reject this argument, pointing out that their indebtedness to China is much smaller than imagined.

In an official statement issued in August, Islamabad pointed out that “China stepped forward to support Pakistan’s development at a time when foreign investment had dried up and economic activity was being crippled by energy shortages and infrastructure gaps”.

The United States is the largest contributor to the IMF and has 17.68 per cent of voting rights in major decisions. China is third, behind Japan, and controls 6.49 per cent of the vote.

In response to a separate question, Ms Nauert confirmed that an ambassadorial appointment for Pakis­tan “is in the pipeline”.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2018

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