Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that matters between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) related to the completion of the ninth review of a $7 billion loan programme were expected to be settled today.
“Everything is going alright,” he said in response to a question on how the discussions with the visiting IMF delegation were going. “The final round is going on right now. I meet them (IMF team) every day and will today as well.
“It is expected matters will be settled today,” Dar said. “We will give you the news very soon.”
The finance minister was responding to questions from reporters after addressing a road safety conference in Islamabad.
Later in the day, the minister also spoke to the media outside the Ministry of Finance where he was again asked about the progress of talks.
“They take place in this manner only. It’s not the first time [that they are being signed]; it always happens like this.
“There is still time till 12am tonight. We will go home after talking to you — that is my promise,” he told the reporters.
At the same time, the finmin refused to elaborate more on the matter. “There is an understanding between gentlemen that both sides will not talk so we have to follow it.”
He said that the matter concerned the country as a whole. “If we scandalise it and speculate […] it is not appropriate and harms the country’s interests.”
“God willing, there will be good and positive news today,” he said. Dar said that even if past rulers had made “wrong commitments”, the government would try to fulfil them and take the programme onward.
A delegation of the IMF, headed by Nathan Porter, is currently in Islamabad for discussions on the ninth review. The talks are scheduled to be concluded today.
The review’s completion would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.2bn from the IMF but also unlock inflows from friendly countries and other multilateral lenders that Pakistan needs to stave off default.
Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghaus Pasha told journalists on Wednesday that the government and the global lender were “very close to the finalisation” of a Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies (MEFP).
She said the MEFP would be handed over to Pakistan by the IMF once all issues are finally settled. She said a lot of things had been settled while the lender required clarity on some aspects, which the government team was trying to address.
This was also confirmed by the Ministry of Finance. In a written statement, the ministry said the talks with the IMF continued on Wednesday and “focused on fiscal table, financing, etc. There is a broad consensus on the reform actions and measures”.
It added the mission chief also called on the finance minister and briefed him about the talks. “The mission is working on putting it all together and will finalise the MEFP,” said the finance secretary, who declined to comment on whether the scheduled talks would be extended to achieve a staff-level agreement.
It is essential for Pakistan to reach an agreement with the IMF as the foreign exchange reserves have depleted to $3.09bn as of Jan 27, only enough to cover 18 days’ worth of imports.
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