Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday that he fully expects an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month, after which other multilateral lenders would also support the country to help mitigate its economic crisis.
“I fully expect that an agreement with the IMF will be signed this month and we will get out of these difficulties. And multilateral institutions will also support us.”
He made the comments while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the Green Line Train service in Islamabad. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Railways and Civil Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique and Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal also attended the ceremony.
The premier’s comments follow the IMF’s announcement of fielding its staff mission to Pakistan on Jan 31 for talks on the ninth quarterly review of a funding programme pending for almost four months. The completion of the review would release $1.2 billion for the country, which is facing a severe cash crisis as foreign exchange reserves deplete to a critical level.
It would also unlock inflows from friendly countries and multilateral lenders.
“This is a difficult time,” the premier acknowledged. He added, however, that the coalition government was trying day and night to bring the country out of the difficult economic situation.
Addressing the ceremony before PM Shehbaz, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that bringing back development and economic growth would be a “tough task” but the PMLN-led government would accomplish it under the premier’s guidance.
Dar blamed the previous PTI government for the economic turmoil in the country.
“This quagmire is not the result of this government’s eight months but the five years of the previous government. We are suffering from the consequences of the adventures that started then — Dawn drama, Panama drama and PML-N ko farigh karo (get rid of the PML-N).”
He urged the country to introspect how Pakistan’s economy had fallen to the 47th largest in the world, despite rapid growth during the PML-N’s previous tenure.
The finance minister said the premier had great qualities and the entire team was assisting him in pulling Pakistan out of the quagmire of economic woes. “God willing, we will come out of it. Pakistan was created to survive.
“[The right] intention and hard work are needed. We will try our best, under PM Shehbaz’s guidance, to bring as many improvements as we can before the upcoming general elections. You can see history to see who brings development and economic growth. We will get back on track. It is a tough task and the distance is long,” he said.
Talking about the country’s financial situation at the start of his address, the finance minister said Pakistan was declared a “macro-economic unstable country” when the PML-N government took over in 2013.
However, the PML-N government “totally turned around” the economy with food inflation down to two per cent, GDP growth rate at 6.1pc, foreign exchange reserves at the “highest” level in the world and the stock market performing the best in South Asia, he said.
He called for an analysis of why Pakistan had gone down to the 47th largest economy when it was the 24th largest at the end of the PML-N’s tenure. “PM Shehbaz got a legacy of a collapsed state of affairs,” he said.
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