ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday said that Saudi Arabia had conveyed its commitment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for its bilateral financial support to Pakistan and hoped similar assurance from the United Arab Emirates or some other source would lead to the much-delayed staff-level agreement (SLA) with the Fund and unlock multilateral disbursements.

Responding to questions from journalists, Minister of State for Finance & Revenue Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha said Pakistan had received an indication from the IMF that Saudi Arabia had confirmed its support for Pakistan to help bridge the external financing gap that has been hampering the SLA for almost two months in completing 9th review of the $7bn Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in limbo since October last year.

According to some media reports, Saudi Arabia has committed to IMF that it would extend a $2 billion loan to help Pakistan meet its external financing needs, but there is no word from the official sources when will the pledged amount credited to the State Bank of Pakistan’s account.

Responding to another question, she said UAE’s support will play an important role in reaching SLA with IMF but Pakistan was also in contact with other friendly countries like Qatar, China and others to bridge the financing gap. She said no other option except the IMF programme was currently under consideration by the government as the Fund’s requirements and reforms were in the interest of the country in addressing domestic and external deficits.

Expects similar support from other countries will lead to staff-level agreement

She said IMF wanted to take Pakistan towards structural reforms which are in Pakistan’s interests. We have to live within our means whether fiscal or external account, she said and added that the country was fully committed to the IMF programme.

She said a Pakistani delegation would be participating in spring meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Washington starting early next week and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was part of the delegation but could stay back home because of domestic issues.

However, she did not have a chance to see the senior minister to know if any change to his itinerary might have happened

Dar meets US envoy

Separately, Mr Dar had a meeting with US Ambassador Donald Blome and discussed deep-rooted historic and durable bilateral relations on economic and trade fronts.

The minister briefed the envoy about the economic outlook of the country and the challenges being faced and the policy decisions being taken by the government to steer the economy towards a positive trajectory leading to economic stability and growth.

“The finance minister also informed the envoy on the progress in talks held with the IMF and reiterated the commitment of the government to complete the programme”, said an official statement which quoted Mr Blome showing confidence in the policies and programmes of the government for economic sustainability and socio-economic uplift of the masses and extended support to further promote bilateral economic, investment and trade relations.

Appointments

Earlier, Dr Pasha assured the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance and Revenue of completing the process for appointments of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Ltd (ZTBL) presidents by end of the current fiscal year.

The appointment in NBP is pending since January 2022 and that of ZTBL is lying vacant for over six months as parliamentarians raised serious questions as to what was preventing the government from appointing presidents of the two state-run banks and members of the Competition Commission of Pakistan.

She conceded these were governance issues but said the entire cycle for the appointment of NBP president was completed which was subsequently re-advertised due to some issues and the selection was pending with the State Bank of Pakistan for clearance under fit and proper criteria.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2023

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