Miftah looking forward to early deal on seventh review

WASHINGTON: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said on Friday that he was looking forward to an early agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the seventh review of the bailout package for Pakistan.

“We had a good meeting with the IMF Executive Board,” he told Dawn.

The finance minister said that in his meetings in Washington he had reiterated the present government’s commitment to the reform process.

Minister of State Dr Ayesha Ghous Pasha, the finance secretary and the State Bank Governor also attended the meeting with IMF directors. The minister and his team also met Jihad Azour, who heads the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department.

Mr Ismail arrived in Washington on Thursday to attend spring meetings of the World Bank group, which includes the IMF. His talks are expected to focus on resumption of the IMF’s $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Pakistan.

In May 2019, Pakistan and the IMF had signed an agreement on a three-year EFF programme under which the country was to receive about $6 billion over 39 months.

In February, the IMF approved the sixth review of the programme, paving the way for an immediate disbursement of about $1 billion. So far, the IMF has disbursed about $3bn to Pakistan.

Islamabad is keen to resume talks on the seventh review as the programme has come to a standstill after the PTI government’s ouster.

Earlier, Mr Ismail told journalists in Islamabad the IMF wanted Pakistan to do away with subsidies given by the PTI government as a precondition for continuing the package.

The IMF has already assured Islamabad that there is “no concept of suspensions” within its programmes and that it will continue to support Pakistan and engage further with the new government.

Forex reserves

In two messages posted on Twitter on Friday, the finance minister said that after many weeks of “continuously decreasing foreign exchange reserves, last week we finally turned the corner and remained at a stable, albeit low position”.

He said he was “quite optimistic the coming weeks will see an increase in forex reserves”.

Mr Ismail said he would be “happy to share with academic economists whatever data they need that we can legally share” and promised to appoint a focal person in the finance ministry to help provide data to academics in usable and readable formats.

Earlier on Friday, Miftah Ismail and his team met representatives of M/s Moody’s at the Pakistan embassy in Washington.

On March 31, the rating agency termed the no-confidence motion against the former prime minister a credit negative for Pakistan.

The finance minister and his team had a separate meeting with a delegation of the US-Pakistan Business Council and urged them to benefit from the investment opportunities that Pakistan offers.

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