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Confident Dar says Pakistanis to hear 'good news' on IMF talks today

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says government will make headway, reaching a deal after "tough" talks today

February 09, 2023
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a ceremony in Islamabad. — Courtesy Radio Pakistan
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar addresses a ceremony in Islamabad. — Courtesy Radio Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: As reports surrounding the success of a staff-level agreement between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) heighten hopes, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Thursday that "good news" was likely today.

The government will make headway, reaching a deal after "tough" talks today as parleys with the global lender were "on track" and there were "no differences" with the IMF team, the finance czar said while speaking to the media in Islamabad.

The IMF mission has been in Islamabad since January 31 to sort out the differences over fiscal policy that has stalled the release of more than $1 billion from $6.5 billion bailout package signed in 2019.

The $350-billion economy is in dire need of IMF funding as it faces a balance-of-payments crisis with foreign exchange reserves dipping to less than three weeks of import cover.

"I am going to meet the IMF mission. The final round of talks with the Fund is currently underway,"

“Talks are on track and we will share good news today,” he added.

On Wednesday, IMF Mission Chief Nathan Porter held a one-on-one meeting with Ishaq Dar at PM House.

According to a finance ministry statement issued late in the evening, talks with the IMF continued on Wednesday and focused on the fiscal table, financing, etc.

"There is a broad consensus on the reform actions and measures. The mission chief also called on the finance minister and briefed him about the talks," the statement said adding that the IMF mission was working on putting it all together and would finalise the draft Memorandum of Financial and Economic Policies (MEFP).

The Shehbaz Sharif-led government is in a catch-22 situation due to tough conditions set by the lender and the political cost of these measures in an election year.

Prime Minister Shehbaz — while addressing the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad on Sunday — had said that the "country is facing substantial financial challenges", with the IMF "combing every book" and reviewing "everything" and "every subsidy" during the ongoing negotiations.

Keeping the last reviews in view, both sides took much time to strike a staff-level agreement even after getting the draft MEFP document and nine tables. But, according to the Pakistani authorities, now the IMF mission had changed its working style — they will finalise the agreement first and then share the MEFP.

According to The News, if consensus cannot be developed today, the IMF mission might extend its stay or announce continuing parleys through online meetings from Washington DC.