Ahsan Iqbal seeks early approval of IMF staff agreement

Published July 20, 2022
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal holds a meeting with International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh and other officials in Washington on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Embassy Twitter
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal holds a meeting with International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh and other officials in Washington on Tuesday. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Embassy Twitter

WASHINGTON: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has underscored Pakistan’s continued commitment to the International Monetary Fund’s programme, hoping that this would encourage the IMF to give early approval to its staff agreement with Islamabad.

In a meeting with Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh on Monday, the minister also sought the IMF’s assistance to the country’s agriculture sector, especially to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Currently on a US tour to seek support for the country’s failing economy, the minister spent a week in New York, meeting UN officials and representatives of key member states. Now in Washington, Ahsan Iqbal is also assuring the US administration to continue supporting the current setup in Pakistan which, he says, “is here to stay.”

The US media, however, has prominently reported the ruling coalition’s defeat in the by-election, noting that the consequent political instability had caused the currency to sink to a record new low of Rs. 222 to a dollar.

The minister, however, continued to project Pakistan as a stable economy, which offers enormous investment opportunities.

“Pakistan with its huge market, modern infrastructure and a unique geo-location offers great opportunities to the US businesses and tech entrepreneurs to undertake profitable business ventures and create a win-win partnership,” Ahsan Iqbal told a delegation of the US-Pakistan Business Council at the Pakistan embassy in Washington.

In his meeting with the IMF’s deputy managing director, he also underlined the difficult economic and fiscal decisions the government had taken to unfreeze the remaining tranches of a $6bn IMF package. “We did so because Pakistan’s economic stability and socio-economic development of its people is our first priority,” he said.

Some reports in the US media, however, noted that those difficult decisions had contributed to the government’s unpopularity, hurting it in the by-elections, and possibly in the national election as well.

The IMF and Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement last week that they hoped would stabilise the country’s economy and depreciating currency. The IMF also hoped that it would bring down high inflation and end Pakistan’s political instability.

IMF’s Communication Director Gerry Rice said at a news briefing on Thursday that the executive board, which would approve the package, is likely to meet in three to six weeks. He noted that the staff-level agreement brought the total disbursements from the IMF to Pakistan under the ongoing program to about $4.2 billion.

Ms Sayeh acknowledged the government’s efforts for the successful conclusion of the staff agreement and assured the minister that the IMF would continue to play its role in stabilising Pakistan’s economy.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2022

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