WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged Pakistan to mobilise domestic tax revenues to ensure funds for social and development programs and to overcome its acute debt problem.

The IMF’s Acting Managing Director David Lipton said he discussed key economic issues confronting Pakistan with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday in Washington.

“I highlighted the need to mobilise domestic tax revenue now and on into the future to provide reliably for needed social and development spending, while placing debt on a firm downward trend,” Lipton wrote in a brief statement released after the meeting.

In May, the IMF agreed to a $6 billion bailout package for Islamabad after the government unveiled an austerity budget and introduced painful reforms to secure funding and address economic crisis.

The bailout allows for an immediate disbursement of $1bn and will unlock about $38bn in investment from Pakistan’s international partners.

Lipton’s meeting with the prime minister focused on Islamabad’s efforts to implement the bailout package and on how the IMF could help ease the country’s economic woes, a senior Pakistani official told Dawn.

Lipton also emphasised this point in his statement, saying: “We discussed recent economic developments and the implementation of the authority’s economic reform programme supported by the IMF.”

He said the government’s reforms program “aims to stabilise the economy, strengthen institutions, and thereby put Pakistan on a path of sustainable and balanced growth.”

The acting chief said his organisation, together with other international partners, is working closely with the government to support implementation of economic reform programme.

World Bank President David Malpass, who also met the prime minister on Sunday, said their talks focused on government’s policies to transform the Pakistani economy.

“Just concluded constructive meeting with Pakistan PM Khan where we discussed his important ideas on transformational policies to accelerate equitable growth and job creation for Pakistanis,” he wrote in a tweet.

Although the prime minister’s visit aims at rebuilding ties with the US, he seems equally focused on efforts to jump start the country’s ailing economy.

Besides the two chiefs of the World Bank Group, the prime minister also met scores of US and Pakistani-American businessmen.

Pakistan hopes the IMF programme will help rebalance its economy and strengthen its balance of payments position.

Pakistan is also seeking foreign direct investment as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects and loan packages from other international partners to further augment its economy.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2019