Miftah Ismail
Miftah Ismail

WASHINGTON: Newly-appo­inted Finance Minister Miftah Ismail arrived in Washington on Thursday evening to attend the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“I am off to Washington DC to try and put back on track our IMF program that PTI and Imran Khan derailed, endangering our economy,” Mr Ismail said in a tweet.

“And more happily, after 3 years of being on the exit control list, I will get to travel to London on the way and meet my leader Mian Nawaz Sharif,” he added.

The Pakistan Embassy in Washington said Mr Ismail will spend four days in the US capital, attending IMF and World Bank meetings. He will also discuss the continuation of a bailout package with the IMF. He may also have bilateral meetings with US officials.

The minister will begin his official engagements on Friday by attending a meeting of the US-Pakistan Business Council. Later, he will go to the World Bank headquarters to attend the spring meetings. He will also hold bilateral meetings with finance ministers of friendly countries and senior World Bank and IMF officials.

In February, the IMF released a stalled tranche of $1 billion to Pakistan, thus reviving the $6 billion bailout package negotiated in May 2019.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Islamabad, Mr Ismail said the IMF wants Pakistan to do away with the subsidies extended by the previous government as a precondition for continuing the package.

But last week, IMF assured Islamabad that there was “no concept of suspensions” within its programmes and that it will continue to support Pakistan and engage further “once a new government is formed” in the country.

On Tuesday, however, the IMF reduced Pakistan’s economic growth rate to four per cent, and predicted higher than estimated inflation and current account deficit during the ongoing fiscal year.

The growth forecast is in line with similar estimates by other development lenders — such as the World Bank’s 4.3pc and Asian Development Bank’s 4pc — and credit rating agencies — Moody’s 3-4pc — but significantly lower than a 4.8pc target set in the 2021-22 budget.

On his way to Washington, Mr Ismail exchanged several tweets with his predecessor Shaukat Tareen, blaming the PTI government for leaving behind a mess.

“You guys have increased our public debt by 80 per cent in 3 years and 9 months,” he wrote. “(Taking) Rs. 20tr in 3.75 year vs Rs. 25tr in 71 years.”

“Miftah Ismail, please do not deceive people. Total debt taken by the PTI government is Rs17.8tr. Of which Rs 8.9trn was interest payments,” Mr Tareen responded. “Of these, Rs 4.4trn was devaluation of rupee, Rs 0.4trn as buffer stock and only Rs3.9trn was net borrowing.”

Mr Tareen claimed that when the PTI came to power, the country’s debt/GDP was 71.5 percent & it has been reduced to 66 percent by PTI.”

“When computing debt to GDP, why are you using different bases on our year and yours? I mean seriously Shaukat bhai, don’t we have a right to expect better from you? If you use the same base your debt to GDP goes way up,” Mr Ismail wrote back.

Mr Ismail claimed that PTI admits leaving behind a gas circular debt of Rs1,500 billion.

Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2022

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