Pakistan agrees to IMF terms on $1.1bn payout

 Pakistan says it has agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on conditions to release about $1.1bn in financial aid critical to escape an economic collapse.

As an IMF team left cash-strapped Pakistan on Friday after 10 days of talks with the government, finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said the payout was delayed due to “routine procedures”.

Pakistan had signed a $6bn bail­out package with the IMF in 2019, with another $1bn added to the programme a year later. The first payment of $1.1bn has been stalled since December.

“The prime minister has said we are committed … We will imple­ment whatever has been agreed upon between our teams,” Dar told reporters.

“We will try to make sure Pa­kistan completes its second IMF programme in its history,” he added.

In a statement, Pakistan IMF Mission Chief, Nathan Porter, said “considerable progress” was made in their talks with the Pakistani government, adding that the negoti­ations will continue.

Dar said the government will implement fiscal measures demand­ed by the IMF, including raising 170 billion Pakistani rupees ($627m) through new taxes.

Also, commitments to increase fuel taxes will be completed, with diesel levies to be doubled to 5 rupees a litre on March 1 and again on April 1 this year.

Pakistan is battling an economic meltdown, compounded by a bal­ance of payment crisis and record inflation.

Catastrophic floods last year worsened the crisis, with food security concerns due to the floods, continuing political chaos.

According to the central bank’s data on Thursday, the country’s foreign exchange reserves fell to $2.9bn during the week ending February 3.

Experts fear the reserves would last less than 20 days and any delay in an IMF payout could have seri­ous consequences.

Asad Sayeed, a Karachi-based economist with the research firm Collective for Social Science Re­search, told Al Jazeera that while both the IMF and the government appear “moderately positive” over their talks, the next week is going to be critical for Pakistan.

“There are a lot of decisions to be made and they need to be done as soon as possible, which makes the next week so important. If the government does what the IMF wants, perhaps then we can see the completion of their agreement. But if it does not, it will be a red signal for the country.”

Economist, Haris Gazdar, point­ed towards a “technical-political dichotomy” regarding the IMF deal.

“The technical agreement would already signal an IMF nod and the advantage it confers upon the government. The IMF obviously needs ‘political’ commitment before it confers that advantage,” he told Al Jazeera.

Gazdar said the IMF conditions are not unfamiliar to Pakistan, which has entered into more than 20 of such programmes with the global lender since 1958.

“The things they have asked us include revenue collection, phasing out untargeted subsidies, non-in­terference with exchange rate etc. Since the relationship between these variables and actual economic outcomes is never precise, there is room for genuine disagreement on targets that must be met,” he said. —Al Jazeera

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