Monday, 13 May 2019

Cashkrupt Pakistan receives $6 billion bailout from International Monetary Fund.

Security at China owned Port of Gwadar, Balochistan.

Failed economic policies, sponsorships for Islamic terror, high inflation and active corruption at all stages of government has taken down India's enemy neighbour, Pakistan at its knee. Pak PM Imran Khan has put the onus of degrading economic position on former PM Nawaz Shariff. The much touted economic corridor of prosperity, CPEC, has turned into an economic nightmare for taxpaying Pakistani citizens. For instance, the Chinese owned Gwadar Port in Balochistan rarely has any shipping calls. China has assured continuous economic help for the fulfillment of CPEC, as of now. After personally escorting Saudi King, Pakistan has received moratorium for deferred oil payments for one year. But this was not enough to save Pakistan's depleting economic reserves.

In April 2019, the finance minister of Pakistan requested the 13th bailout since the 80s from International Monetary Fund (IMF). In response to a request by the Pakistani authorities, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Mr. Ernesto Ramirez Rigo visited Islamabad, Pakistan from April 29 to May 11 to discuss IMF support for the authorities’ economic reform program.

The Pakistani authorities and the IMF team have reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies that could be supported by a 39-month Extended Fund Arrangement (EFF) for about US$6 billion. This agreement is subject to IMF management approval and to approval by the Executive Board, subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners’ financial commitments. The program aims to support the authorities’ strategy for stronger and more balanced growth by reducing domestic and external imbalances, improving the business environment, strengthening institutions, increasing transparency, and protecting social spending.

At the end of the visit, the IMF representative Mr. Ramirez Rigo made the following statement:

"Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lackluster growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position. This reflects the legacy of uneven and procyclical economic policies in recent years aiming to boost growth, but at the expense of rising vulnerabilities and lingering structural and institutional weaknesses. The authorities recognize the need to address these challenges, as well as to tackle the large informality in the economy, the low spending in human capital, and poverty. In this regard, the government has already initiated a difficult, but necessary, adjustment to stabilize the economy, including thorough support from the State Bank of Pakistan. These efforts need to be strengthened. Decisive policies and reforms, together with significant external financing are necessary to reduce vulnerabilities faster, increase confidence, and put the economy back on a sustainable growth path, with stronger private sector activity and job creation."

"The EFF aims to support the authorities’ ambitious macroeconomic and structural reform agenda during the next three years. This includes improving public finances and reducing public debt through tax policy and administrative reforms to strengthen revenue mobilization and ensure a more equal and transparent distribution of the tax burden. At the same time, a comprehensive plan for cost-recovery in the energy sectors and state-owned enterprises will help eliminate or reduce the quasi-fiscal deficit that drains scarce government resources. These efforts will create fiscal space for a substantial increase in social spending to strengthen social protection as well as in infrastructure and human capital development. The modernization of the public finance management framework will increase transparency and spending efficiency. Provinces are committed to contributing to these efforts by better aligning their fiscal objectives with those of the federal government."

"The forthcoming budget for FY2019/20 is a first critical step in the authorities’ fiscal strategy. The budget will aim for a primary deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP supported by tax policy revenue mobilization measures to eliminate exemptions, curtail special treatments, and improve tax administration."

What Next?

The State Bank of Pakistan has assured the IMF that it will focus on reducing inflation, which disproportionately affects the poor, and safeguarding financial stability. A market-determined exchange rate will help the functioning of the financial sector and contribute to better resource allocation in the economy.

While a $6 billion bailout comes as a breather for tumbling Pakistan. The question arises that till when will this $6 billion help last. Will Pakistan stop the financing of Jihad for the moment at least to avoid the hanging sword of Paris based FATF? Any adventure with the world's fastest growing economy, India could spell doomsday for Pakistan at this very moment.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni

Source: IMF.

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