IMF programme off to good start, cannot be revised after only 3 months: Jihad Azour

Updated September 17, 2019

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International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Director Jihad Azour shaking hands with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance  Hafeez Shaikh ahead of a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID
International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Director Jihad Azour shaking hands with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Hafeez Shaikh ahead of a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday. — PID

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Director Jihad Azour on Tuesday said that the $6 billion IMF loan programme had been structured by the Pakistani government itself and its targets cannot be revised after the lapse of a mere three months.

Azour arrived in Islamabad today along with an eight-member delegation for talks with top government functionaries.

The visit is being described as “routine” by both sides. A finance ministry representative said the delegation, headed by Azour and Mission Chief to Pakistan Ernesto Ramirez-Rigo, is here “to review the programme as per schedule.”

Azour, during a press conference held in Islamabad along with finance adviser Hafeez Shaikh, said that the programme had got off to a good start while noting that very little time has gone by since its commencement.

"No changes are being made for the time being to the programme's targets," he said.

Azour acknowledged the efforts made by Pakistan in bringing stability to the economic imbalance the country was faced with. He said that adequate assurances by Prime Minister Imran Khan had been provided that the programme would be adhered to and said that this would bring further economic stability to the country.

He also said that a 30 per cent increase in revenues reported by the Federal Board of Revenue was encouraging.

"I have come to support the measures taken under the programme to bring in reforms," he said, noting that the programme was "headed in the right direction".

He said that he would also hold meetings with State Bank representatives and the business community.

The finance advisor on the occasion said that the government was taking all necessary steps to meet the targets of the programme. He said that institutional reforms were also being introduced to support these efforts.

"The first two months have seen an improvement in interest rates and exchange rates," noted Shaikh.

In the backdrop of the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia on Aramco's oil facilities, Azour said that "an uncertain future lies ahead for countries importing oil. Such countries need to reduce their reliance on oil for the production of energy."

He said that Pakistan's energy sector needs a complete revamp and stressed on the need to curtail the circular debt in the sector.

To a question, the IMF director said that it was unreasonable to compare Egypt and Pakistan, "which are two completely different countries and economies".

The IMF delegation will visit next in October or November for a review session, said Azour.