An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission and Pakistan have made significant progress towards reaching a staff-level agreement for an extended fund facility (EFF), the global lender said on Friday.

The IMF’s comments helped the benchmark share index scale a record high and breach the key 76,000 level.

The IMF has opened discussions with Pakistan on a new loan programme after Islamabad last month completed a short-term $3 billion programme, which helped stave off a sovereign debt default.

An IMF team, led by mission chief Nathan Porter, concluded discussions with the authorities on Thursday after arriving in Pakistan on May 13, the lender said in a statement.

“The mission and the authorities will continue policy discussions virtually over the coming days aiming to finalise discussions, including the financial support needed to underpin the authorities’ reform efforts from the IMF and Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral partners,” Porter said.

“The authorities’ reform program aims to move Pakistan from economic stabilisation to strong, inclusive, and resilient growth,” the statement added.

It noted that the Pakistani authorities “plan to continue to strengthen public finances to reduce vulnerabilities by improving domestic revenue mobilisation through fairer taxation while scaling up spending for human capital, social protection, and climate resilience”.

They also plan to “secure energy sector viability, including reforms to reduce the high cost of energy; continue progress towards low and stable inflation by appropriate monetary and exchange rate policies; improve public service provision through state-owned enterprise (SOE) restructuring and privatisation; and promote private sector development, by securing a level-playing field for investment and stronger governance”, Porter added.

Terming the discussions as “fruitful”, Porter said the global lender and the Pakistani authorities will “continue policy discussions virtually over the coming days aiming to finalise discussions, including the financial support needed to underpin the authorities’ reform efforts from the IMF and Pakistan’s bilateral and multilateral partners”.

Pakistan is likely to seek at least $6 billion under the new programme and request additional financing from the IMF under the Resilience and Sustainability Trust.

The global lender has emphasised that prioritising reforms to revitalise the Pakistani economy outweighs the size of the new loan package being negotiated.

Ahead of the discussions, the IMF had earlier this month warned that downside risks for the Pakistani economy remained exceptionally high.

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