In meeting with IMF chief, PM Shehbaz reiterates commitment to put economy back on track

Published April 28, 2024
Managing Director of International Monetary Fund calls on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of a special meeting of the World Economic Forum on 28 April, 2024.—Photo courtesy: PID
Managing Director of International Monetary Fund calls on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on the sidelines of a special meeting of the World Economic Forum on 28 April, 2024.—Photo courtesy: PID
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a panel during WEF special meeting. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a panel during WEF special meeting. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser in Riyadh on Sunday. — PML-N/X
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser in Riyadh on Sunday. — PML-N/X

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif informed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director (MD) Kristalina Georgieva in a meeting on Sunday that his government was fully committed to putting Pakistan’s economy “back on track”.

In a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Special Meeting in Riyadh, the premier thanked Georgieva for her support to Pakistan in securing the USD 3 billion standby arrangement (SBA) from IMF last year that was now nearing its completion.

According to the state-run PTV News post on X, this was the first meeting between the prime minister and MD IMF since his re-election.

They last met in Paris in June 2023 on the margins of the Summit for New Global Financial Pact.

The IMF Executive Board is expected to meet tomorrow to decide on the final tranche of USD 1.1bn under SBA, the post said.

The pair discussed further programs to ensure gains made in the past year were consolidated and the economic growth trajectory remained positive.

Georgieva shared her institution’s perspective on the ongoing program with Pakistan, including the review process.

PM Shehbaz highlights ‘global inequity’ in healthcare

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif highlighted the “global inequity” in healthcare.

He made the remarks while speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Redefining Global Health Agenda’ during the special meeting of WEF.

The premier said that when he visited Saudi Arabia in 2003, he was “struck by a very nasty cancer”. He said that he was then flown to New York and had to undergo surgery costing “thousands of dollars”.

“And I wondered how many people in my country can afford this kind of expensive treatment — not very many,” he said. PM Shehbaz said that when he came back to Pakistan, he was elected the chief minister of Punjab and his government built hospitals specialising in kidney and liver diseases as well as cancer.

“Today, I think the first and foremost problem is global inequity,” he said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had “exposed” these imbalances and gaps.

“Imagine the global North and the global South; distribution of vaccines and so on and so forth,” he said.

He further said that climate change had “completely changed the landscape”. “Pakistan does not contribute [to] even a fraction of emissions. Yet we are on the red list of climate change and in 2022, we experienced the worst floods in Pakistan […] and we had to invest hundreds and billions of rupees to rehabilitate people.”

He said that as the Punjab chief minister, he was able to provide healthcare to the people of the province. He said that he also built a kidney and liver hospital, saying it was “probably the best in South Asia”.

Talking about the 2011 dengue outbreak, he said that it was “probably the biggest around the globe”.

“I must confess that I did not know much about dengue. But from six in the morning till late at night, I would have meetings […] it was a challenge of sorts. I had machines […] placed in hospitals […] and through a decree I made all labs responsible for providing tests at a meagre cost,” he said.

“I think this is how we can achieve results with meagre resources. But that does not mean that the yawning gap between global North and global South should not be addressed,” he said.

Talking about polio, he said that Pakistan was a “great beneficiary” of the Bill Gates Foundation. “If I did not acknowledge Bill Gates’ generosity here, it will not be fair to myself and fair to him.

“Despite the 2022 floods, which washed away large swathes of land, we — with great difficulty — were able to vaccinate children […] and I think one day soon we will be over the hump,” he said.

The prime minister — accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb — had landed in Saudi Arabia a day ago.

This is the prime minister’s second trip to Saudi Arabia in less than a month. He last went on a three-day visit to the kingdom, which was his first foreign visit since he was re-elected as premier.

The invitation was extended by Saudi Arabia’s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and WEF Executive Chairman Prof Klaus Schwab, the Foreign Office (FO) had said.

In a post on X this morning, PM Shehbaz said he looked forward to “important discussions on pressing challenges of our times” during the special meeting.

IDB to complete Pakistan projects at earliest

Separately, PM Shehbaz held a meeting on Sunday with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, where they both agreed upon the earliest completion of various ongoing projects of the IDB in Pakistan.

During the meeting, held on the sidelines of the WEF moot, the premier thanked the IDB for investing $1 billion in various projects during the previous PML-N-led tenure, a statement on PML-N’s X account said.

Both sides reviewed progress on ongoing projects and deliberated upon opportunities for future cooperation between Pakistan and the IDB.

According to Radio Pakistan, the prime minister praised the IDB’s partnership with Pakistan as instrumental in achieving the government’s sustainable development goals along with providing support for reconstruction and employment.

In the meeting, PM Shehbaz emphasised that the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) was fully functional to channelise foreign investment in the country, address all concerns of foreign investors and provide one-window operations.

While the prime minister thanked the IDB for its assistance in rehabilitation after the devastating floods of 2022, the bank’s president highlighted that Pakistan was blessed with rich natural and water resources.

Jasser noted that Pakistan’s large manpower was an asset to be utilised optimally and prayed for the country’s prosperity.

Foreign minister Dar, FM Aurangzeb, Information Minister Attaullah Tarar, Petroleum Minister Mossadegh Malik, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal Khan and Power Minister Owais Ahmed Khan Leghari were also present during the meeting.

PM Shehbaz praises SIFC role in Saudi investment

Meanwhile, in a consultative meeting with Saudi federal ministers and other Riyadh officials, PM Shehbaz lauded the SIFC’s role in the Kingdom’s investment in Pakistan, Radio Pakistan stated.

The premier stressed the need to work tirelessly day and night for the country’s progress and prosperity, warning that there was no room for laziness.

During the session, the prime minister received detailed briefings from various relevant ministries, regarding progress in investment with the Saudi government, the report added.

PM Shehbaz also consulted with the federal ministers on highlighting Pakistan’s stance at the WEF in a robust manner.

Gaza to be in focus

According to the FO, PM Shehbaz and the ministers will participate in WEF discussions on issues related to trade and investment measures, new investment frameworks, restructuring of supply chains, sustainable growth, and the energy landscape.

The FO said the high-level participation in the forum was an important opportunity for Pakistan to present its priorities “specifically in global health architecture, inclusive growth, revitalising regional collaboration and the need for striking a balance between promoting growth and energy consumption”.

FO Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch had said PM Shehbaz would express Pakistan’s grave concern on genocide in Gaza, advocate for their right to self-determination, the imperative of solidarity, besides deliberating on Islamophobia, terrorism, and the challenges faced by the world, particularly the Muslim world. She added that the prime minister would also hold bilateral meetings with the Muslim world leaders.

A Gaza-focused session on Monday is also set to feature newly appointed Palestinian PM Mohammed Mustafa, Egyptian PM Mostafa Madbouly and Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations aid coordinator for the Gaza Strip, the statement had added.

Besides the Turkish, Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers, French FM Stephane Sejourne and German FM Annalena Baerbock are among the foreign diplomats travelling to Riyadh during the summit for talks on Gaza.

A day ago, PM Shehbaz had held talks with Saudi Royal Court Adviser Mohammed bin Mazyad Al-Tuwaijri on boosting economic ties.

Both sides had expressed strong interest in deepening relations, reviewed Saudi investment progress, and discussed aligning with Saudi Vision 2030, the PML-N said in a post on X. A Saudi business delegation is set to visit Pakistan soon, it added.

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