WASHINGTON: The United States has not put any specific conditionalities on a $6 billion aid package the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is finalising for Pakistan, according to the country’s envoy Asad Majeed Khan.
At a recent congressional hearing in Washington, a senior US official also ruled out the possibility of blocking the IMF loan until Dr Shakeel Afridi — the physician who reportedly helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden — was released.
“I don’t think I have heard of any specific conditionalities that the United States has particularly pushed for,” Ambassador Khan said at a Washington think-tank this week. “It is so far a technical process that the IMF personnel are leading and steering,” he added.
“We have withheld $130 million in assistance to Pakistan already as a result of his incarceration,” said Alice G. Wells, who looks after South and Central Asian affairs at the State Department, when a Congressman advised linking the package to Dr Afridi’s release.
When pressed by lawmakers to slap additional conditionalities on the loan package at a recent congressional hearing, Ms Wells reminded them that the United States had already expressed its views on this issue even before the IMF and Pakistan reached an agreement.
“We have communicated our strong views and Secretary (Mike) Pompeo has also done so publicly on the need for any package to include a real structural reform to reinforce,” she said.
In an interview to CNBC television last year, Secretary Pompeo said that the United States did not want Pakistan to use IMF loans to pay off Chinese lenders. Since then, both Chinese and Pakistani officials have clarified that when repayments to China start, Islamabad would have used the funds it’s receiving for structural reforms.
At a discussion this week on the Pakistani economy, US scholar George Perkovich also asked Ambassador Khan if the United States was putting additional conditions on the IMF package and if those were different from the ones suggested previously.
“The IMF has its own board, it has its own technicalities and missions that go across to a country and engage with the people and decide the elements of the package,” said the ambassador, adding that he had not heard of any additional US conditionalities.
He agreed with Mr Perkovich that this was Pakistan’s 13th package in the last 30 years but reminded the US scholar that the IMF had approved the loan after carrying out a professional and technical evaluation, based on the country’s liquidity status.
“Coming to the IMF is not something very unusual. We have done that many times in the past,” said the Pakistani envoy. “Pakistan has never defaulted on its debt payments. Our debt to GDP ratio, if not better, is still as good as that of other countries at similar levels of development,” he added.
“Expanding the domestic tax-base, generating resources, stopping the bleeding of state-owned enterprises, rationalising tariffs, expanding exports, enhancing our competitiveness, these are tough decisions,” he said. “But the government is determined to take these measures independent of what the IMF conditionalities might be,” he added.
At the congressional hearing, Congressman Brad Sherman noted that the IMF could not have approved Pakistan’s request for loan without Washington’s endorsement because America is the Fund’s largest contributor.
Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019