Thursday, February 09, 2023
ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were "on track" and the government would share "good news" on the matter today.
The finance minister made these comments during a media talk in Islamabad following a road safety conference amid hopes that the two sides would soon reach a deal after "tough" talks.
The IMF mission has been in Islamabad since January 31 at Pakistan's request to finalise the fiscal policy that has stalled the release of more than $1 billion from the $6.5 billion bailout package signed in 2019.
Funding from IMF is crucial for Pakistan's $350-billion economy facing a balance of payments crisis with foreign exchange reserves dipping to less than three weeks of import cover.
While speaking to the media, Dar said, "I am going to meet the IMF mission. The final round of talks with the Fund is currently underway."
“Talks are on track and we will share good news today. There are no differences with the IMF team,” he maintained.
On Wednesday, IMF Mission Chief Nathan Porter held a one-on-one meeting with Dar at the PM House.
According to a finance ministry statement issued late in the evening, talks with the IMF focused on the fiscal table and financing amongst other key matters.
"There is a broad consensus on the reform actions and measures. The mission chief also called on the finance minister and briefed him about the talks," the statement said, adding that the IMF mission was working on putting it all together and would finalise the draft Memorandum of Financial and Economic Policies (MEFP).
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government is in a catch-22 situation due to tough conditions set by the lender and the political cost of these measures in an election year.
Addressing the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly in Muzaffarabad last Sunday, PM said that the "country is facing substantial financial challenges", with the IMF "combing every book" and reviewing "everything" and "every subsidy" during the ongoing negotiations.
Keeping the last reviews in view, both sides took much time for striking a staff-level agreement even after getting the draft MEFP document and nine tables. But, according to the Pakistani authorities, now the IMF mission had changed its working style — they will finalise the agreement first and then share the MEFP.
According to The News, if consensus cannot be developed today, the IMF mission might extend its stay or announce continuing parleys through online meetings from Washington DC.