No hurdle in IMF deal as all terms met: PM
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Friday hoped the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would resume the stalled bailout programme as Pakistan had already met all the prior conditions despite economic hardships. Speaking to the cabinet ahead of the budget session, Shehbaz said: “The Ninth Review will be completed soon.” He said political instability was the most alarming factor leading to deterioration of the economy. The state institutions were in agreement with the government to ensure the country was stable enough to forward. He said without political stability, even billions of budget could not make a difference in improving the economic situation. “There is a concerted effort to promote political instability in the country,” he said, adding foreign investments and local businessmen had both been discouraged by the political protests of the last year. Shehbaz said his government had fulfilled all the conditions laid down by the IMF, but the staff level agreement was yet to be signed. He had asked the IMF chief for a verbal commitment, so he could proceed with removing other hurdles to the budget.
“The previous government had abandoned the IMF programme,” Shehbaz said. He also blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for destroying the economy and said his government had worked hard in the last 14 months to set things right. The PM expressed satisfaction that the current deficit in 10 months was reduced to $3.3 billion and hoped that the agriculture sector would grow. He said it was a matter of satisfaction that the country had managed to bring down the current account deficit to $3.3 billion regardless of internal and external challenges. “Inflation is high everywhere in the world today,” he said. “The challenge before us is to make life easier for ordinary persons.” Shehbaz said the government had consulted businessman and exporters before finalising the budget. He added he had reached the conclusion that the agriculture sector in particular could give Pakistan higher returns quickly. The prime minister said that young men were losing interest in agriculture after getting education but the government had planned newer measures to incentivise agriculture. This, he added, would also lower rural to urban migration.
“We must look into raising salaries and pensions, so the ordinary man can survive in this economy,” Shehbaz said. He said the government was hopeful of signing a new gas contract to fulfil Pakistan’s energy needs. Referring to the devastating floods, triggered by climate change, the PM said it inflicted losses worth over $30 billion on the country’s economy. The Ukraine crisis also pushed the prices of commodities in the international market. The PM also appointed Rohail Sheikh as his adviser and expressed the hope that he would fulfil his responsibilities with diligence.