IMF official expresses confidence in reaching staff-level agreement 'soon'

Published April 12, 2023
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar speaks during an IMF meeting, which he joined virtually from Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: Finance Division Twitter
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar speaks during an IMF meeting, which he joined virtually from Islamabad. — Photo courtesy: Finance Division Twitter

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Middle East and Central Asia Director Jihad Azour on Wednesday expressed his confidence that the staff-level agreement between Pakistan and the international money lender would be signed "soon" following the board's approval.

The remarks came during the IMF’s spring meeting held in Washington, which Finance Minister Ishaq Dar attended via Zoom from Islamabad, a statement issued by the Finance Division said.

The meeting is seen as an opportunity for Islamabad to campaign for the renewal of the IMF's $6.5 billion bailout package agreed in 2019, of which the government has been trying to secure the final tranche of $1.1bn since February.

"He (Azour) hoped that Pakistan would continue towards its progress on the reforms in various sectors and complete the IMF Programme in time, and IMF will play its positive role in bringing economic stability in Pakistan," the press release said.

Meanwhile, the finance minister — who had cancelled his trip to the US due to political turmoil — assured the Fund the government was "fully committed" to fulfilling its obligations.

Dar informed the IMF team that all prior actions for the loan programme's ninth review had been completed and the Pakistan government was fully committed to fulfilling its obligations, as agreed with the IMF.

The statement said the discussion at the meeting focused on the progress of the ongoing IMF programme, particularly the talks held between the two sides when an IMF mission visited Pakistan earlier this year and the implementation of prior actions for the release of the package's final tranche.

During the meeting, Dar informed the IMF team about economic challenges being faced by Pakistan, the statement said, adding that he also shared with them the government's vision for bringing about macroeconomic stability in the country.

He also mentioned that the only IMF programme completed successfully by Pakistan was during his previous tenure as the finance minister, the statement said.

On his decision to attend the meeting virtually, Dar told the participants of the meeting that "due to local important commitments, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has asked him to stay in Pakistan". Therefore, he had to cancel his scheduled visit to Washington was attending the IMF/World Bank spring meetings via Zoom from Pakistan.

He thanked Azour and his IMF team for the "support extended by them in completing ninth review".

Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghous Pasha, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Finance Tariq Bajwa, SAPM on Revenue Tariq Mehmood Pasha also joined the meeting virtually from Islamabad while Ambassador of Pakistan to the US Masood Ahmad Khan, State Bank of Pakistan Governor Jamil Ahmad, and the finance and economic affairs secretaries attended the meeting in person.

With central bank reserves falling to critical levels, hardly enough for four weeks of imports, the IMF tranche is critical for the country as it will also unlock other external financing avenues, helping Pakistan avert a default on its obligations.

After cancelling his visit to the US, the finance minister had assured the nation that the IMF deal was on track and the government had already done all that was required from it to conclude the ninth review of the loan programme.

Last month, the finance minister had said that financing commitments from friendly countries were the last hurdle in securing the IMF deal. Subsequently, the state minister of finance had said that the Fund had received a commitment from Saudi Arabia regarding funding for Pakistan.

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