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IMF to review PM Imran Khan’s relief package in talks with Pakistan this week

IMF to review PM Imran Khan’s relief package in talks with Pakistan this week

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Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are meeting this week to review the relief package Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to lower POL and electricity prices in the face of a difficult international environment. Both sides will talk about the benefits of the package, The News reported.

The IMF team will kick-start virtual parleys with Pakistani authorities on March 4, 2022, and these talks will continue for two weeks for the completion of the 7th Review under the $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program.

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When contacted about the relief package announced by PM Imran Khan, the IMF’s Resident Chief in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said that Pakistani authorities and the IMF would discuss during the upcoming 7th review of the EFF the merits of the recently-adopted relief package and other measures to promote macroeconomic stability amidst a challenging external environment.

This scribe also contacted the Ministry of Finance high-ups and got confirmation that the IMF team would hold virtual review talks from March 4, 2022, which would last for a two-week period.

Premier Imran Khan announced a reduction in petrol and diesel prices by Rs10 per litre and the electricity tariff by Rs5 per unit. It is estimated that the government will dole out Rs 360 billion on these two fronts of POL and electricity during the remaining four-month (March-June) period of the current fiscal year.

During the current fiscal year, the government will provide a direct subsidy of Rs200 billion on electricity and Rs160 billion on POL prices.The PTI-led government is going to replicate one old program, first introduced during the Musharraf government and later on during the PPP-led government in 2008 and 2009, which was known as Price Differential Claims (PDCs), to reduce the prices of POL products. However, these claims were largely never reimbursed to Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and the amount was still due after a 12-year period. With these measures, it seems that the government has entered into election mode. It is yet to be seen how the IMF will respond to this massive doled out package, as apparently it seems like a total reversal of the Fund-sponsored program. The initial estimates suggested that the cost of other measures such as the internship programme for almost 150,000 graduates with a monthly stipend of Rs30,000 and the doling of interest-free loans under the much-hyped Kamyab Pakistan Program were not included in the cost estimation of the relief package announced by the PM in his televised speech on Monday night.

One member of the high-profile Macro Economic Group, Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, told this scribe that the relief package was discussed in detail in the last two months and claimed that it would have no negative impact on the budget deficit nor the ongoing IMF program. He said that the relief package was fully financed and that savings would be utilised to finance the relief package.

The IMF provided $1 billion for COVID-19, which would be diverted towards the relief package. A second unnecessary development project-related allocation would be provided for execution of the package. Thirdly, he said that the BISP money would be fully utilised, and fourthly, the FBR’s increased collection of Rs281 billion would be utilised for this package. He said that there were some suggestions to provide targeted subsidies during the Macro Economic Group meeting, but he had asked for a general subsidy by reducing the prices for all because the government did not have the capacity to provide targeted subsidies.

When contacted, Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former Director-General, Economic Reform Unit, Ministry of Finance, said general subsidies are less welfare-enhancing for the vulnerable, and that is the reason governments should always promote targeted subsidy regimes. Pakistan has just completed a National Socio-Economic Registry in June 2021 with a door-to-door survey of 33 million households. A good initiative indeed. This should be the right data to use for any future subsidy targeting.

Dr. Khaqan emphasised that a general subsidy on fuel and electricity can have substantive fiscal implications. Electricity consumption in the summers (March to June) is the highest during the year. The Rs5 subsidy will be used to adjust the fuel price adjustment monthly for residential and commercial consumers. In a sense, the government has temporarily abolished the fuel price adjustment for four months.

Assuming a sale of 40 billion GWh of electricity in four months, this can translate into a subsidy of Rs200 billion. If not paid for, this would be taken as a prior year adjustment in the next year’s electricity tariff, thereby increasing it further. He concluded that if there was a reduction in the price of oil, its consumption could further impact the high $7MFY22 $11.6 bn current account deficit, which the government has been trying to curtail through various measures. In the short run, the government can reduce the Petroleum Development Levy for the Rs10 reduction. However, a funded subsidy from the current budget would have to be created to fund this.

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have initiated discussions at the policy level.

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan will commence policy-level discussions today (Monday), as financially-strained Islamabad aims to secure another agreement with the Washington-based lender while satisfying all the stringent requirements associated with it.

The negotiations will primarily focus on deciding the magnitude of the upcoming IMF programme, establishing the corresponding terms and conditions, and defining the objectives and aims for the next budget.

Simultaneously, both parties will establish the macroeconomic objectives for the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. The IMF is determined to enforce policies such as monetary tightening (raising interest rates), increasing energy tariffs, adopting a market-based exchange rate, and implementing privatisation.

The expectation is that both parties will conclude the negotiations during the current week and finalise a staff-level agreement, which will then be subject to the ultimate approval of the IMF Executive Board.

A significant number of experts argue that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed a misguided policy of increasing interest rates, which has severely damaged the economy of the country. Consequently, it is imperative for the State Bank of Pakistan to promptly initiate a cycle of reducing interest rates.

They believe that the existing monetary policy will result in an overwhelming accumulation of debt and taxes, which will hinder the revival of economic activity and investment. This outcome has already been evident to all.

Despite the prevailing cost of living crisis in Pakistan, the IMF is insisting on raising the minimum energy bill, citing its necessity in managing the escalating circular debt.

However, due to the stringent conditions imposed by the IMF and Pakistan’s inability to address the issues in the energy sector, as well as the nature of agreements made with independent power producers (IPPs), the country is unable to benefit from the decline in global prices of solar panels and related equipment.

Further information: Should I choose solar power or not? The inefficiency of the energy sector provides a compelling reason to reconsider the solar energy policy.

Pakistan and the MF initiated discussions on both the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and climate funding. Pakistan is seeking a larger and more extensive bailout package to stabilise and revitalise its economy.

According to sources, it has been stated that the two parties have reached an agreement on the significant objectives outlined for the forthcoming budget, which encompass the punctual settlement of foreign debt obligations.

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Pakistan’s gold prices are still declining; see the most recent

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The price of 10-gram gold reduced by Rs943 to settle at Rs207,733, while the price of gold dropped by Rs1200 to close at Rs242,300 a tola, according to the Sindh Sarafa Jewellers Association.

In the global market, the price of the precious metal fell by $10 to $2,349 per ounce, resulting in losses.

At 04:48 GMT, the spot price of gold had dropped by 0.2% to $2,354.77 per ounce. In the previous session, prices reached a two-week high.

American gold futures dropped 0.6% to $2,361.

Spot silver decreased by 0.4% to $28.03 per ounce, while palladium remained steady at $978.03 and platinum decreased by 0.1% to $992.89.

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Pakistan and the IMF begin talks for a new loan.

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Pakistan is requesting a $6 to $8 billion bailout package from the international lender over the next three to four years to address its financial troubles.

A mission team led by Nathan Porter, the IMF’s Mission Chief in Pakistan, is meeting with a Pakistani delegation led by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Islamabad may face more difficult options, such as raising power and gas bills.

Mr. Aurganzeb informed the IMF team that the country’s economy has improved as a result of the IMF loan package, and Islamabad is ready to sign a new loan programme to further develop.

The IMF mission expressed satisfaction with Islamabad’s efforts to revive the country’s struggling economy.

The IMF praised Pakistan’s economic growth in its staff report earlier this week, but warned that the outlook remains challenging, with very high downside risks.

The country nearly avoided collapse last summer, and its $350 billion economy has stabilized since the end of the last IMF program, with inflation falling to roughly 17% in April from a record high of 38% last May.

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