Pakistan met IMF performance benchmarks, economy getting better – Hafeez Shaikh

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh holds a meeting with IMF Mission Team led by Ernesto Ramirez Rigo on the conclusion of IMF Mission review at Islamabad on Nov. 8, 2019. (PID)
Updated 09 November 2019

Pakistan met IMF performance benchmarks, economy getting better – Hafeez Shaikh

  • Pakistan and the IMF reach staff-level agreement for $450 million second loan tranche
  • The Fund believes signs of economic stability are gradually beginning to emerge on the macroeconomic front

KARACHI: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the first economic review of the country under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), said Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in a Twitter post on Friday, adding that the international financial institution acknowledged that the country had met all performance benchmarks by significant margins.
“Positive for Pakistan!” Shaikh tweeted. “IMF Mission concludes successfully. IMF confirms that Pakistan met all First Quarter Performance Criteria by good margins and economy continuing to get better. Thank you PM and the entire team!”
Pakistan and the IMF also announced on Friday they had reached a staff-level agreement on the basis of the economic review, clearing the way for the second tranche of $450 million.
“The agreement is subject to approval by IMF management and the Executive Board of Directors,” Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the IMF mission chief to Pakistan, said in a statement. “Completion of the review will enable disbursement of SDR328 million (or around $ 450 million) and will help unlock significant funding from bilateral and multilateral partners.”

The IMF team was visiting the country to review progress on the $6 billion bailout program extended in July this year to stabilize the wobbling economy of the South Asian nation.
Pakistan had received the first tranche of $995 million in July 2019 following the implementation of prior actions that Islamabad agreed to as part of the conditions attached to the bailout program.
The fund acknowledged that Islamabad had met all performance criteria set for end-September with comfortable margins and progress continued toward meeting all structural benchmarks.
“Despite a difficult environment, program implementation has been good, and all performance criteria for end-September were met with comfortable margins. Work continues toward completing the remaining structural benchmarks for end-September,” Rigo said.
“Significant progress has been made in improving the AML/CFT [Anti-Money Laundering/Countering Terrorism Financing] framework, although additional work is needed before March 2020. International partners remain committed to supporting the authorities’ reform efforts, providing the necessary financing assurances.”, he added.
The IMF observed that signs of economic stability were gradually beginning to emerge on the macroeconomic front. It added that the external position was strengthening, underpinned by an orderly transition to a flexible, market-determined exchange rate by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and a higher-than-expected increase in the SBP’s net international reserves.
“Budgetary revenue collections are growing on the back of efforts on tax administration and policy changes, and despite the ongoing compression in import-related taxes,” Rigo said.
According to the IMF mission chief, inflation pressures are expected to recede soon, reflecting an appropriate monetary stance. Importantly, measures to strengthen the social safety net are being implemented, and development spending is being prioritized.
The mission chief at the concluding meeting of the review met with the government team, led by Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, and praised the “government for introducing far reaching economic reforms in a challenging environment,” the finance ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The IMF mission will arrive in Pakistan early next year to conduct the next program review.


Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

Updated 35 min 23 sec ago

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

  • People should not get scared of the surge in COVID-19 cases, insists the national health ministry
  • If rising trend of cases is not contained, health system may crumble, warns the Pakistan Medical Association

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s coronavirus infections have surpassed neighboring China as the national tally on Thursday reached 85,264 while doctors warned the government of a health crisis in the coming days if appropriate measures were not taken to flatten the curve.
China, where the virus emerged in December last year, has recorded 84,160 cases to date, according to the John Hopkins University. Pakistan’s death toll has reached 1,770 since February 26, when the country reported its first COVID-19 case, which is still considerably less than China where 4,638 deaths have so far been reported.
“People should not get scared by the surge in the number of cases. It’s a pandemic and we need to deal with it wisely and courageously,” Sajid Hussain Shah, spokesperson at the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Thursday.
A total of 4,688 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 82 deaths, the highest single-day rise ever, landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of the coronavirus cases, the health ministry’s data showed.
The country has also enhanced its daily testing capacity to over 20,000 and so far conducted 615,511 tests.
The spike in the COVID-19 cases was witnessed immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May, contrary to the recommendation of doctors and experts who advocated their extension to stem the spread of the virus.
Previously, the government had decided to shut down public places, transportation sector and markets on March 23. Now the authorities are blaming the people for not adhering to social distancing regulations and other precautions, pointing out that the negligence of the public has led to the growing outbreak.
“We have witnessed a spike in the cases after people violated the government’s prescribed precautionary measures,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News on Thursday.
The country’s federal capital has reported 3,544 positive coronavirus cases with 38 deaths and 5,680 tests so far.
“We are diligently working on contact tracing and surveillance in the high-risk population areas to contain the virus,” Zia said. “We are also ensuring smart lockdown in the areas where COVID-19 cases are reported to prevent its further spread.”
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), a professional organization of working doctors in the country, has blamed the government for the surge in the cases due to its “non-coherent and confusing policy” to deal with the disease.
“The government has failed to adopt a uniform policy on dealing with the virus from day one, so the result [the surge in the cases] is quite obvious,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, PMA secretary general, told Arab News.
He warned that the country’s health facilities had reached the brink of collapse with the sharp growth in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. “If the rising trend of the coronavirus cases is not contained or reversed, the health facilities may crumble in the coming days,” he said.
Another PMA worry relates to the increasing number of infections to doctors and paramedics working to treat the patients. At least 30 health care practitioners, including 26 doctors and four nurses, have died to date due to the virus while more than 2,100 have been infected so far, according to the PMA.
“Many private and public hospitals have already started refusing to admit coronavirus patients with ventilators and beds getting short in the medical facilities,” he said while urging the government to quell propaganda on social media that “coronavirus does not exist in Pakistan.”
There are 746 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities and 4,918 patients admitted in them across the country, according to the official data.
“We have been further extending our health facilities to deal with the pressure,” Shah of the health ministry said. “Our hospitals are fully equipped and coping with the need.”