ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Monday promised to return from Doha, Qatar after “finalizing” the resumption of $6 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan program, as the South Asian country desperately looks for ways to shore up its economy.
The IMF approved a three-year, $6 billion loan package for Pakistan in July 2019 to rein in mounting debts and stave off a looming balance-of-payment crisis, in exchange for tough austerity measures.
Pakistan and the IMF are currently negotiating the country’s seventh review under the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF), which has so far disbursed $3 billion. Islamabad is expected to receive another $1 billion after the completion of the review, which has been stalled since the previous government announced in February around $1.7 billion relief in energy prices.
“I want to tell the nation that God willing, I will return after finalizing an agreement with the IMF,” Ismail told reporters in Karachi, before leaving for Doha.
“Will bring some positive news from the IMF.”
Pakistan has been facing an economic crunch due to an increase in the current account deficit and depleting foreign exchange reserves, which in turn have been mounting pressure on the national currency.
Last week, the Pakistani rupee hit another historic low as the United States (US) dollar reached Rs200 in the interbank market, amid rising demand for import payments and uncertainty surrounding the IMF talks.
Ismail regretted the fact that the talks with the IMF were being held in Doha instead of Islamabad, for which he blamed former prime minister Imran Khan, who has announced an anti-government march on the Pakistani federal capital on May 25.
“You are holding sit-ins, doing political point-scoring, but this genuinely harms the country,” he said.
“Today, IMF is not in Pakistan and I am going to have to go to Doha because you announced a sit-in.”
The finance minister reiterated the government would not roll back energy subsidies as demanded by the IMF.
He said he would listen to the IMF’s conditions and discuss them with the prime minister upon his return.