Bailout package to stabilize Pak economy: IMF

IMF next review to be held on March 6, 2020

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Out of boom & bust cycle

KARACHI

International Monetary Fund IMF on Tuesday said with the achievements of all the performance criteria set for the first quarter the fund’s bailout program now moves to the structural reforms to get the country out of boom and bust cycle.

We see that the authorities remain strongly committed to all the objectives of the program. We are now at the stage in the program where we move to the area of structural reforms. These are really important to build an institutional framework for the country so that there is no repetition of the boom bust cycles of the past, Ramirez Rigo, Mission Chief for Pakistan at International Monetary Fund, said in a conference call.

The IMF mission chief identified the three areas for continued progress that Pakistan needs to focus including the quality of the fiscal adjustment that will require continued work on the tax revenue side, energy sector reforms for more automaticity capacity implementation by legislation for National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), and the independence of central bank.

The fund on Monday released report of the first review of the bailout program under which it agreed to extend $6 billion to Pakistan. The IMF has documented progressed made by the authorities and revised targets including the revenue collection target for current fiscal year.

Islamabad had targeted Rs 5.5 trillion tax collection for the current fiscal year FY20 through Federal Board of Revenue FBR but the fund projects agency’s tax collection would be Rs 5.238 trillion, showing a reduction of Rs 265 billion.

The report highlights that the country has met around 6 performance criteria while two are continuous and the Islamabad has missed 5 indicative targets that include cumulative floor on targeted cash transfers spending Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) as only Rs 5 billion were released against target of Rs 45 billion.

Real GDP growth is projected at 2.4% in FY 2020, but net exports are now expected to provide a larger contribution to growth mainly due to greater import compression. Growth is projected to strengthen to around 3% in FY 2021, and 4.5–5% over the medium-term. Average CPI inflation is projected to decelerate slightly to 11.8 percent in FY 2020 as administrative and energy tariff adjustments are expected to offset the effects from weak domestic demand.

The Fund views that the Pakistan has made progress on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism AML/CFT deficiencies, although much remains to be done. With assistance from capacity development providers (including the IMF), the authorities are committed to completing the actions in the structural benchmark by end-June 2020.

Analysts say the funds appraisal is positive for Pakistan though some targets were missed. “We believe overall IMF’s staff appraisal is positive, though some indicative targets were missed. In fact, on some accounts (like Net international reserves (NIR), Net Domestic Assets (NDA),budget deficit), the authorities have achieved over performance,” Muhammad Sohail, senior financial analysts and CEO of Topline Securities, said.

Economists say the fund has identified the important area where if the government fails to focus the situation may lead to agitation. The IMF has reported that the job creation is need which has been hampered by the slowing growth. The fund has expressed its concerns that it could lead to agitation as you already see due to inflation. The solution they have provided is that they have suggested to increase the allocation for development spending to create more jobs, Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said. The IMF will hold the next review of the bailout program from March 6, 2020 for the disbursement of another $452.4 million tranche.

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