ISLAMABAD: PM Shehbaz Sharif poses for a group photo alongside chief ministers Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Ali Shah, Maryam Nawaz and Sarfraz Bugti, on the sidelines of the SIFC meeting on Thursday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: PM Shehbaz Sharif poses for a group photo alongside chief ministers Ali Amin Gandapur, Murad Ali Shah, Maryam Nawaz and Sarfraz Bugti, on the sidelines of the SIFC meeting on Thursday.—PPI

• Shehbaz says new programme to span two to three years; ‘tough’ structural reforms necessary
• Premier lauds Special Investment Facilitation Council, caretaker govt for investment initiatives

ISLAMABAD: A day after sealing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the release of the last tranche of a little over $1 billion under the Standby Arrangement (SBA), Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said Islamabad needed another bailout package from the Fund, which he linked to across-the-board structural and economic reforms.

“We cannot survive without a new IMF agreement which will span two to three years,” the prime minister said while presiding over a meeting of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), co-chaired by Chief of Army Staff Gen Syed Asim Munir. The premier said the last tranche of the IMF SBA would be received soon.

“The IMF has concluded the review for issuance of the last tranche of $1.1 billion that will hopefully be received next month. After this, Pakistan also wants to start another programme with the IMF for a period of three years during which the government will take strict measures to introduce deep-rooted structural reforms in the country,” he added.

According to the PM, there was a need for the continuation of policies and joint efforts by all the stakeholders for these reforms.

PM Shehbaz hailed the SIFC meeting, which was attended by civilian and military leaders, including all the chief ministers. “The presence of the chief ministers, army chief, and other officials from across the country has conveyed a clear message to the nation that all have gathered here for the cause of the country’s development, prosperity, and integrity,” he added.

The premier said the government was going to make “tough economic decisions” to steer the country out of crisis assuring to protect downtrodden segments of the society.

He said that the burden of these measures would primarily fall on the wealthy, with safeguards to be put in place to protect the interests of the poor and vulnerable groups. “We will gradually succeed in breaking the begging bowl and come out of the debt trap.”

The premier sought support from all political parties and provincial governments to successfully implement the agenda to bring macro-economic stability to the country. “For this, we will have to work together. With the support of all the provinces, we will together resolve all the challenges and difficulties faced by the country,” he added.

He said the SIFC was formed in June 2023 to remove bottlenecks in the investment process and since then nine meetings of the apex committee have been held, in addition to 200 other meetings.

He said a number of important decisions had been taken after the meetings and implemented under the umbrella of the special council.

PM Shehbaz pointed out that when the PDM government took over in 2022, Pakistan was on the brink of bankruptcy but the coalition partners decided to save the country from default by putting their political capital at stake.

The premier also blamed corruption for the country’s woes, which bled the country’s resources.

“This year’s target of tax collection is Rs9 trillion, but the potential is over Rs13trn,” the PM said while referring to the pending tax cases.

He said tax cases to the tune of Rs2.7trn were pending either in tribunals or courts which should have been resolved as soon as possible.

The prime minister added that electricity worth Rs400bn was stolen yearly while the circular debt in the electricity and gas sectors was over Rs5 trillion.

Speaking about achievements of the SIFC under the interim government, the premier said that the caretaker government saved Rs87 billion in its drive against power theft. Similarly, strict measures were also taken to curb smuggling, besides introducing reforms in the land information system.

Besides, it also successfully concluded the privatisation process of the Heavy Mechanical Complex in Taxila.

The prime minister highlighted that hundreds of billions of rupees were lost in the state-owned enterprises, pointing out the Pakistan International Airlines alone had liabilities of Rs825bn.

Likewise, he added, the interim government also signed many important agreements with different countries to bring investment in the country, including with the United Arab Emirates to the tune of $10bn.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2024

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