IMF to support Pakistan's flood relief, reconstruction efforts 'under current programme'

Published September 18, 2022
<p>Finance Minister Miftah Ismail speaking in his office on Sunday.—Reuters</p>

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail speaking in his office on Sunday.—Reuters

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Sunday said it would support flood relief and reconstruction efforts in Pakistan under the current programme agreed to between the two, according to a statement from the IMF's resident representative in the country, Esther Perez Ruiz.

The statement said that the IMF was "deeply saddened" by the devastating impact of the recent floods in Pakistan and extended its sympathies to the millions of flood victims.

"We will work with others in the international community to support, under the current programme, the authorities’ relief and reconstruction efforts, and especially their ongoing endeavour to assist those affected by the floods while ensuring sustainable policies and macroeconomic stability," the statement said.

Floods from record monsoon rains and glacial melt in the mountainous north have affected 33m people and killed more than 1,540 since June 14, washing away homes, roads, railways, livestock and crops, in damage estimated at $30 billion.

Both the government and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have blamed climate change for the extreme weather that led to the flooding, which submerged nearly a third of the country.

They have also negatively impacted the economy and market which were otherwise expected to improve after the IMF bailout package.

'Absolutely not' on default

Pakistan will "absolutely not" default on debt obligations despite catastrophic floods, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail told Reuters on Sunday, signalling there would be no major deviation from reforms designed to stabilise a struggling economy.

"The path to stability was narrow, given the challenging environment, and it has become narrower still," Ismail said at his office.

"But if we continue to take prudent decisions — and we will — then we're not going to default. Absolutely not."

Finance Minister Miftah Ismail speaking in his office on Sunday.—Reuters
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail speaking in his office on Sunday.—Reuters

Pakistan was able to bring an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme back on track after months of delay, thanks to tough policy decisions. But the positive sentiment was short-lived before the catastrophic rainfall hit.

Despite the disaster, Ismail said that most stabilisation policies and targets were still on track, including increasing dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Central bank reserves stand at $8.6 billion, despite the influx of $1.12 billion in IMF funding in late August, which are only enough for about a month of imports. The end-year target was to increase the buffer up to 2.2 months.

He said Pakistan will still be able to increase reserves by up to $4 billion, even if the floods hurt the current account balance by $4 billion in more imports, such as cotton, and a negative impact on exports.

However, he estimated the current account deficit will not increase by more than $2 billion following the floods.

"Yes, there has been substantial loss to the very poorest people and their lives will never be made whole again. But in terms of servicing our external and local debt, and being micro- macro-economically stable, those things are under control."

December payment to be met

He said global markets were "jittery" about Pakistan, given the economy had suffered at least $18 billion in losses after the floods, which could go as high as $30 billion.

"Yes, our credit default risk has gone up, our bond prices have fallen. But...I think within 15 to 20 days, the market will normalise, and I think will understand that Pakistan is committed to being prudent."

Pakistan's next big payment — $1 billion in international bonds — is due in December, and Ismail said that payment would "absolutely" be met.

Ismail said external financing sources were secured, including over $4 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and World Bank.

This includes $1.5 billion next month from ADB under the Countercyclical Support Facility — a budget support instrument.

The minister also said about $5 billion in investments from Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia would materialise in the current financial year.

The three announced interest in investing in Pakistan earlier this year, but no timelines or exact plans have been reported yet.

He said $1 billion in UAE investment will "definitely materialise" in the next couple of months in the form of purchases in the Pakistan stock market. Read full story

Some $3 billion in Qatari investment pledges will all come within the financial year to June 2023, he added. Read full story

"They're looking at the three airports in Pakistan, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad ... long-term leases. They're also looking at buying two plants that run on LNG (liquefied natural gas)... those I think will probably happen this calendar year," he said.

He said if the $3 billion figure was not reached as the financial year closed, the remaining amount would go into the stock market.

He also said Saudi Arabia's crown prince had assured Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that Riyadh would invest $1 billion before December. Read full story

Pakistan's central bank announced on Sunday that Saudi Arabia's development authority had also extended a deposit of $3 billion, to mature in December, by one year. Read full story

He said a legal instrument was going to be signed soon with a "friendly country" to activate a $1 billion deferred payment facility for oil.

Last month, the IMF’s Exe­cu­tive Board completed the combined seventh and eighth revi­ews of a loan facility for Pak­is­tan, allowing immediate disbursement of $1.1bn to the country.

An official IMF statement pointed out that the disbursement “brings total purchases (money made available) for budget support under this arrangement to about $3.9bn.”

This Extended Fund Facility (EFF) arrangement — signed in July 2019 — was to provide $6bn to Pakistan during a 39-month period. The IMF board had approved an extension of the programme until end-June 2023.

The board had also approved “rephasing and augmentation” of Pakistan’s access to the funds by SDR720m ($934m) which would bring the total access under the EFF to about $6.5bn.

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