IMF bailout agreed on low interest rates: Shaikh

Finance Advisor questions stagnant export rate

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OUR CORRESPONDENT

KARACHI

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Adviser on Finance, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, on Thursday said that the government has agreed on low interest rates for the $6 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The finance adviser was speaking in Karachi alongside Governor Sindh Imran Ismail, Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman Shabbar Zaidi, and others.

“On the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan, his entire economic and financial team arrived in Karachi today and met with the prominent businessmen and members of the representative bodies from the city,” Ismail told reporters at the press conference. Hafeez Sheikh said that the country’s economic condition was in turmoil when the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power last year.

When this government took control, the total debt on the country was at Rs.31 trillion. In the past two years, foreign exchange reserves have come down from $18 billion to less than $10bn. The country’s trade deficit, the difference between exports and imports, was more than $20bn annually, said the finance adviser, adding that the country was facing a very tough situation.

Speaking further about the $6bn IMF bailout, he said the government had agreed on low interest rates for the economic package from the global lender. He said that the World Bank and Asian Development Bank were also expected to provide an additional $2bn to $3bn following the IMF package.

He said the agreement with the IMF included a few points that would be beneficial for the poorest segment of the country’s population. It has been decided that the low usage consumers would not be affected if electricity prices ever rise. We have set aside Rs216bn in budget for this purpose, he said.

Hafeez Sheikh has said that the government has taken a few important and tough decisions to improve economy after it’s foreign reserves fell to their lowest, $10 billion. Shaikh said that the government was looking to borrow $2-3 billion from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to support the rapidly-declining reserves.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday rejected a petition challenging the appointment of Dr Abdul Hafeez Shiekh and Raza Baqir as PM’s Adviser on Finance and Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) respectively. A bench of the high court dismissed the petition for being non-maintainable

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