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Saturday March 02, 2024

‘Very close’ to signing IMF agreement, says Dar

“Staff level agreement with IMF unlikely this week," Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says, but assures Pakistan "very close" to sealing deal

By News Report & our correspondents
March 10, 2023
Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Ishaq Dar. PID
Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Ishaq Dar. PID

ISLAMABAD/ WASHINGTON: Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that the staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be struck in the next few days, adding that “everything is in order”.

“We have already satisfied the IMF and will continue doing it,” the minister said in a brief chat with journalists here after addressing a seminar.

Earlier, in his address at a seminar ‘Reviving Economic Stability through Strengthening of Public Financial Management’ organised by the Ministry of Finance, Dar said that a “dictator’s era could not complete any IMF programme as they ran away from implementing it.” He said: “The most effective government also ran away from the 8th and 9th reviews of the IMF programme. The one and only programme which was completed successfully by all 12 reviews was during the era from 2013 to 2016 under the PMLN-led government.

“I and my team are totally committed to honouring all these sovereign commitments no matter who made those in accordance with the best of our abilities. The IMF programme took longer than I thought because I have dealt with all 12 reviews of the one and only completed programme.

“We seem very close to the signing of the Staff Level Agreement in the next few days,” Dar added. He again invited all political parties for signing the Charter of Economy by shunning political differences aside.

Dar claimed a shattered economy was handed over to the coalition government; however, it showed commitment and sincerity to the state by acting upon all the tough conditions made by the previous government with the IMF.

He regretted that petty politics was still being played over Pakistan’s economy by spreading rumours about falling into default which, he said, was totally a nonsense attitude. He said the bad economic crisis which the coalition government inherited was even more deeper and complex than that in 2013 and 1990s but with utmost sincerity and prudent policies of the government, the country had come out of the quagmire.

“We are now in a position to move forward with full confidence,” he said, adding that Pakistan has the resilience to meet the challenges as it had huge resources to cope with the problems, but the only thing that had been lacking was lack consistency in policies and mismanagement in the fiscal sector. The minister informed the audience that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio improved from 73 per cent to 69 per cent in a few years, which meant that there was no need to worry about the debts of the country.

He said even the developed countries such as USA and UK had high debt-to-GDP ratios of over 100% and, therefore “We need not worry about”.

He said the country’s foreign exchange reserves got down due to the fact that the government had been only paying back the debts and not getting new debts for the last few months.

The United States, meanwhile, encouraged Pakistan to continue working with the IMF to improve the economy and the business environment to unlock funds from the global lender. US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, while talking to the media, said that the US was working with Pakistani partners and, in turn, it is working with international financial institutions, the IMF, to put itself on a sustainable growth path.

“Ultimately, it is going to have to be decisions on the part of our Pakistani counterparts to unlock this IMF funding. We encourage Pakistan to continue working with the IMF, especially on reforms that will improve Pakistan’s business environment,” Price said. “We believe that it will make Pakistani business more competitive, and will attract high-quality investment,” he said.

“They improve the competitiveness of partnering Pakistani firms, fuelling economic growth that increases employment and household incomes. We believe that by continuing down this path and continuing to make the necessary economic decisions, Pakistan can put itself on a path to sustainable growth,” Price said in response to a question. “When it comes to economic challenges, when it comes to security challenges, when it comes to political challenges, the United States is ready and able to continue to be a partner to the people of Pakistan,” he added.

Offering condolences to the recent lives lost in clashes in Pakistan, Price said that the US is aware of reports about clashes in Lahore, ahead of a planned rally by former prime minister Imran Khan and it encourages all to exhibit restraint. “We encourage all to exhibit restraints. We offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to those who are injured in this,” he said.