US advises Pakistan to 'continue down the path of reform'

Web Desk
Wajid Ali Syed
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. — AFP/File
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. — AFP/File

  • US will continue to be a partner to Pakistan in all its priorities, says State Dept.
  • Advise comes after IMF delegation's meeting with Pakistani authorities.
  • PM Shehbaz asks IMF to give some breathing space.

WASHINGTON: While answering a question about Pakistan’s request to International Monetary Fund (IMF) to relax its conditions, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Monday said that Washington would like to see Pakistan “continue down the path of reform”.

Price was asked about Pakistan’s demand at the donors' conference in Geneva from the IMF to soften its stance and the restructuring of its bailout programme during a press briefing.

The spokesperson said it was for the IMF to ultimately decide if it wants to relax conditions.

“We of course want to see Pakistan continue down the path of reform. We want to be a partner,” said Price.

The State Department official said that Washington will continue to be a partner to Pakistan when it comes to all of their priorities, whether it’s security, whether it’s economic, or humanitarian.

Ned Price said that since last year’s devastating floods in the South Asian nation, the US government has worked closely with the country to provide funding assistance for flood response, food security, disaster preparedness, and capacity-building efforts.

“I am pleased to share that today the United States announced an additional $100 million of recovery and reconstruction funding, bringing our total contribution to over $200 million.”

The new $100 million in funding, the spokesperson added, will be used for flood protection and governance, disease surveillance, economic growth and clean energy, climate-smart agriculture, food security, and infrastructure reconstruction.

“The funding also includes humanitarian assistance to support flood relief and recovery efforts in refugee-hosting areas,” he said.

“Our flood-related assistance complements our broader efforts to form a US-Pakistan Green Alliance that looks at the range of climate and resilience issues central to Pakistan’s reconstruction. Pakistan’s recovery and reconstruction will be a continuing process in the months and years ahead, and we will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to build a more climate-resilient future for its people.”

PM Shehbaz asks IMF for restructuring 'pause'

On Monday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked IMF for a pause in its demands for economic reforms before releasing more financial aid, as the country tries to rebuild after catastrophic floods.

In a press conference in Switzerland's Geneva, PM Shehbaz said he was trying to persuade the Fund to give Islamabad some breathing space as it tackles the "nightmarish" situation.

The global lender wants Pakistan to withdraw the remaining subsidies on petroleum products and electricity, aimed at helping the masses.

In Geneva for a conference on Pakistan's recovery from last year's catastrophic monsoon floods, PM Shehbaz was asked by reporters about the block on IMF funds.

Pakistan's economy has crumbled alongside a simmering political crisis, with the rupee plummeting and inflation at decades-high levels, but the floods and the global energy crisis have piled on further pressure.

PM Shehbaz came to the office in April last year, ahead of the floods in July and August.

A $6-billion IMF deal negotiated by the previous government was restarted after Pakistan finally met conditions such as ending subsidies on fuel.

But Islamabad has so far only received half the funds — the last payment in August — with a further review of the package ongoing.

"Even before these floods hit Pakistan, we were already facing humongous challenges," he said.

"Yet we had to again connect with the IMF and resurrect an agreement which was violated by the previous government — and accept even harsher conditionalities," said PM Shehbaz.

He said Pakistan was complying with the IMF's conditions "as best as possible" but asked "how on Earth" the additional burdens could be shouldered by the country's poorest.

"Yet we are committed to IMF's programme. We will do everything to comply with the terms and conditions. Though I am constantly trying to persuade them: please give us a pause," he said.