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April 20, 2019

Pakistan to work out IMF mission’s visit next week


April 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: With the change of top guard at the finance ministry, Pakistan and the IMF will work out an exact schedule for the visit of IMF mission next week to develop consensus on staff level agreement for a fresh bailout, The News has learnt.

Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to remove Asad Umar after he agreed to a few such conditions that might not have been politically saleable for the government. In this scenario, the government was left with no alternative but to change the face to continue parleys with the IMF. “This sudden unceremonious removal of Asad Umar might delay the IMF mission’s upcoming visit,” a top official told this reporter.

He said the final decision to this effect would be taken Monday night when the IMF office would open in Washington DC. Earlier, the IMF in its official press release issued last Monday announced to send its mission to Islamabad by end of April.

The upcoming IMF mission might face some delay but the finance ministry high-ups insisted that the decision to this effect would be taken in consultation with the IMF next week. There are long week holidays in the US owing to Easter, and Adviser to the prime minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will contact the IMF team soon after assuming his charge on Saturday or coming Monday. IMF’s Resident Chief in Pakistan Teresa Daban Sanchez, who is currently in Washington DC, told this reporter on Friday that it was with the mission of IMF in the world that the IMF staff visit was finalised in consultation with the authorities of a country.

“We will consult with the authorities (Pakistani) on this matter in the coming days,” she said.

Asked if the upcoming visit will be next month, she said it would be decided jointly.

On the other hand, the government is considering constituting a high-powered board comprising Jehangir Khan Tareen, Shaukat Tareen, Shabbir Zaidi and others to assist the finance ministry on economic issues. Tax expert Shabbir Zaidi confirmed to this reporter that the government official had made contacts on establishment of committee/board but he did not exactly know its mandate.

Former finance minister Shaukat Tareen said he did not know about any such initiative but he would suggest the economic team to focus on four to five major areas of economy at this difficult time.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh Friday reached Islamabad and got an informal briefing on five initial things that he is supposed to do after assuming the charge. Dr Sheikh’s selection shows the prime minister’s confidence in his abilities to steer the economy out of the existing crisis. After his return from Dubai, the government Friday notified Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh’s appointment as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs.

Dr Sheikh will have to confront three major economic challenges and the ‘status quo’ and ‘cool’ approach will not work at a time when serious challenges such as the rising budget deficit possesses the potential to create more crises in next few months. The three major challenges confronting the national economy are striking a staff level agreement with the IMF, presenting the upcoming budget in tune with the IMF conditions and making it politically viable for the PTI and ensuring the country’s smooth sailing from next FATF review in next 30 days.

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