Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday thanked Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe for supporting and helping Pakistan to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), state-run Radio Pakistan reported.
According to the report, premier made the remarks in a telephone conversation with the president of Sri Lanka, which had secured a preliminary agreement with the IMF in September last year after defaulting on its foreign debt.
The phone call comes a week after the global lender’s executive board had green-lit a $3 billion nine-month standby arrangement (SBA) for Pakistan in order “to support the authorities’ economic stabilisation programme”.
The board had approved the bailout package for the country for an amount of $2.25bn Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) — reserve funds that the institution credits to the accounts of its member nations, the IMF said in a statement, adding that this amounted to about $3bn, or 111 per cent of Pakistan’s quota.
Subsequently, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the first tranche of $1.2 billion was deposited in the central bank, while the “balance amount” of $1.8bn would be handed over after two reviews in November and February.
According to Radio Pakistan, Shehbaz “acknowledged the role played by Sri Lanka as a friend and a well-wisher of Pakistan”.
The report said that the Sri Lankan president, on the occasion of the premier’s meeting with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva in Paris, had stressed that the Fund should help Pakistan.
It added that President Wickremesinghe had informed the IMF official about the problems faced by his country due to default and stressed that Pakistan should be saved from this situation.
It quoted PM Shehbaz as saying that the two countries were “close and reliable friends”. It also quoted the premier commending the fellow South Asian country’s role in “regional peace and prosperity”.
PM Shehbaz also expressed confidence that both countries would soon come out of the “vortex of current economic difficulties”, the report said.
“Reciprocating the prime minister’s sentiments of goodwill, the Sri Lankan president said Pakistan is our close friend and helping friends is friendship,” it further stated.
The report said President Wickremesinghe appreciated Shehbaz’s efforts in difficult situations and felicitated him on reaching an agreement with the IMF.
Later, PM Shehbaz tweeted that he had the “pleasure” of talking to the Sri Lankan president.
“Over the decades, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been close allies and friends and have stood by each other through thick and thin.
“I remember how a team of Sri Lankan doctors stayed in Lahore and helped the Punjab government deal with the dengue epidemic which was devouring precious human lives in Lahore.
“The bilateral ties are underpinned by reservoirs of goodwill and good neighbourliness between our two countries. I look forward to working with the president to further build on our friendly relations,” the prime minister said.