ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday acknowledged that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), delegation holding discussions on the ninth review of a $7 billion loan programme, was giving a “very tough time” to the government team.
“The IMF delegation is giving a “very tough time” to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team during discussions being on the ninth review of a $7 billion loan programme.” Without elaborating, the PM said: “Our economic challenge at this moment is unimaginable. The conditions we have to fulfil [to complete the IMF review] are beyond imagination.”
The prime minister admitted the conditions government has to fulfill are beyond imagination, but the country has no option but to accept them.
“You all know we are running short of resources,” Sharif said, adding the country was “facing an economic crisis”.
He made the comments while addressing an Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar.
The IMF delegation, headed by Nathan Porter, and the government began the make-or-break discussions on the completion of the ninth review on Tuesday. Pakistan needs to complete the review to stave off default.
The country’s reserves have depleted to a critically low level of $3.09 billion as of Jan 27, which can cover only 18 days of imports, according to Arif Habib Limited. Completing the IMF review would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.12bn but also unlock inflows from friendly countries and other multilateral lenders.
As meetings began, the IMF mission chief sounded adamant on upfront, calibrated and strong measures to bridge the daunting fiscal gap — between Rs2 trillion to Rs2.5tr.
“You don’t have any other option” was the critical message, as members of the mission engaged with the finance and power ministries led by Ishaq Dar and Khurram Dastgir Khan, respectively, sources close to the meetings told Dawn.
The government has taken a number of measures to complete the IMF review, including lifting an unofficial price cap on the exchange rate, hiking petroleum rates by up to 16 per cent and increasing the LPG price by 30pc.
The two sides would remain focused on technical-level deliberations in the first round, slated to run until Friday (today), then move on to the crucial policy-level negotiations over the next weekend until Feb 9.
On other hand, Pakistani rupee hit a record low against the US dollar in a steep slide since last week.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed Chinese investment and said China is interested in doing investment in Pakistan’s nuclear energy sector and delegation-level talks in this regard will be held in near future.
This was informed in a meeting held between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a delegation of China National Nuclear Corporation led by Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese embassy Pang Chunxue.
The meeting was also joined by federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Ahsan Iqbal, and Khurram Dastagir, PM’s Adviser Ahad Cheema, and Special Assistants Tariq Fatemi, Tariq Bajwa, and Jahanzeb Khan.
The prime minister welcomed the interest shown by China to invest in the country’s nuclear energy sector.
He mentioned that the inauguration of K-3, the third unit of Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUP) yesterday with the assistance of China, would help Pakistan overcome its energy needs.
He said the strategic relationship between Pakistan and China spanned over decades and would continue to strengthen with time.