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Thursday May 30, 2024

IMF hints at clubbing 9th, 10th reviews: govt officials

Agreement on budgetary numbers elude Washington-based lender, finance ministry

By Mehtab Haider
June 06, 2023
This file photo taken on January 26, 2022, shows the seal for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC. — AFP
This file photo taken on January 26, 2022, shows the seal for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has hinted at clubbing 9th and 10th reviews under the $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF). However, the Washington-based lender and Pakistan have so far been unable to strike a broader agreement on budgetary numbers for the upcoming budget.

Both the sides held a virtual round of parleys on Monday evening in a bid to break the deadlock for the revival of the stalled Fund programme which is going to expire on June 30 this year.

The IMF side raised more clarifications on the budgetary framework for 2023-24 as well as for revised estimates for the outgoing fiscal year 2022-23, arguing that fiscal sustainability would remain risky under the increased budget deficit. “It’s the wish of the Pakistani side to sign Staff Level Agreement for completion of the 9th review as a standalone but the IMF has indicated to club 9th and 10th reviews. So far, both the sides could not strike a broader agreement on the budgetary numbers and chances are quite bleak to get the endorsement of the IMF on such proposed expansionary budget for 2023-24,” top official sources stated while talking to The News here on Monday night.

From Pakistani side the parleys were attended by Minister of State for Finance Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, SAPM on Finance Tariq Bajwa, SAPM on Revenues Tariq Pasha, the finance secretary, special secretary and other top officials. Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar did not attend the meeting.

A top official said that it was the first virtual meeting after sharing the budgetary framework for 2023-24 and for revised estimates of 2022-23 on which the IMF sought different clarifications during the last week. “As of today [Monday], they don’t seem to have any major objections,” he said. However, the official did not jump to a conclusion when inquired whether the broader agreement on the budgetary framework was struck or not yet.

No officials of the government were ready to say anything on the record as this scribe sent out messages to all top officials but got no official response till the filing of the report. The IMF side is still not satisfied with the budgetary framework for the next financial year and they are projecting that the budget deficit might exceed further in the wake of low revenue base and rigid expenditure fronts, so Islamabad will have to undertake major reforms on both fronts in order to bring the budget aligned with the Fund’s prescriptions.

The government has envisaged to fetch Rs9.2 trillion FBR’s tax collection target but the IMF is pitching the number on higher side keeping in view higher nominal growth projections coupled with pressing more on additional taxation measures. On taxation measures, the IMF did raise objections over the quality and sustainability of the taxation measures. “The qualitative taxation measures can help mobilisation of revenues instead of any patchwork,” said the official sources.

In totality, the IMF has asked the government to increase the FBR’s tax revenue target close to Rs10 trillion mark for the next budget, said the official, adding, but the FBR high-ups argued that how it would be possible for them to jack up the collection from Rs7 trillion to Rs9.8 or Rs10 trillion just in one go.

On other hand, the government is making plans for targeted subsidies on essential food items, increasing allocation for Ehsas and BISP programmes and unveiling small loans and laptops schemes at subsidised rates in the upcoming budget.

Although, the Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) for the next fiscal year has not yet been approved by the federal cabinet but the initial estimates of the budgetary framework envisage that the size of the budget will be hovering around Rs13.8 trillion for 2023-24.

The FBR’s revenue target has been envisaged at Rs9.2 trillion but the IMF is pitching upward number for the next budget. The debt servicing is all set to consume Rs7.6 trillion. On non-tax revenue target, the SBP profit is envisaged at Rs900 billion, Petroleum Development Levy of Rs750 billion for the next budget.

The National Economic Council (NEC) is scheduled to meet under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday (today) in order to approve the annual development outlay of Rs1.1 trillion as federal Public Sector Development Programme and Rs1.559 trillion for the four provinces. The NEC will also approve the macroeconomic framework for the next budget with real GDP growth rate of 3.5 percent and inflation target of 21 percent.

The sources said that the IMF was also projecting the CPI based inflation on higher side but no number was yet firmed up. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved appointment of former bureaucrat Mohsin Chandna as Director General (Debt), Ministry of Finance (MP-I Scale), for term of three years. Chandna possessed vast experience on macroeconomic issues. According to notification issued by the government, Mohsin Chandna will serve on contract basis for three years with effect from May 30, 2023.