No quick fix to Pakistan’s economic problems: Elizabeth Horst

Published July 23, 2023
US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Elizabeth Horst. — Photo courtesy: State Dept website
US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Elizabeth Horst. — Photo courtesy: State Dept website

WASHINGTON: There’s no quick fix to Pakistan’s economic problems but following the arrangement it has made with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) can help it overcome the crisis, says US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Elizabeth Horst.

“We support the arrangement. It provides a breathing space” to Pakistan, Ms Horst said in a conversation with Washington-based Pakistani journalists on Friday.

“Pakistan should continue to work with the IMF,” said the US official who heads the State Department’s Pakistan bureau. “There’s no quick fix but there’s a fix.” Ms Horst acknowledged that the coming days would be very tough for the people of Pakistan, but they have to go through this difficult phase to improve the economy.

She assured Pakistanis that the United States and Pakistan “have an enduring partnership,” which would not be affected by the current political situation.

Top US official says IMF bailout provides breathing space

The United States, she said, was encouraged by the current Pakistani government’s promise to hold elections soon, but it had no favourites in the country.

“It’s for the Pakistani people to decide who they want to elect. We do not support one party against the other. We support the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan,” she said.

The United States and Pakistan, she said, had a bilateral trade of $9bn in 2022, which makes the US Pakistan’s biggest trading partner.

She also shared some statistics showing that US companies invested about $250 million in Pakistan in 2022, 120,000 Pakistanis are employed by US companies, and the US provided $215m in flood assistance in 2022. This does not include the $33m sent by Pakistani Americans.

Ms Horst said that the US has provided over $20bn to Pakistan in the last 20 years.

“Last year, we had a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting after eight years, climate, energy, health dialogues were also held. We are also working on a green alliance framework,” she said. “So, we are resetting the relationship.”

Ms Horst noted that there were at least 550,000 Pakistanis in the US, who could play a key role in maintaining the US-Pakistan partnership.

She said that climate change, economy, and terrorism were Pakistan’s most pressing issues, and the United States was helping Pakistan deal with these issues.

The US official noted that about 80,000 Pakistanis have been the victims of terrorism, and that’s why she believed Pakistan had a vested interest in combating terrorism.

Ms Horst pointed out that terrorism was both a regional and domestic issue for Pakistan, while the United States considers it a threat to world peace.

“The two countries have a common interest in countering terrorism,” she added.

Published in Dawn, July 23th, 2023

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