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Pakistan signs fresh loan agreement with IMF

ISLAMABAD (Eshfak Mughal):- Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached on a fresh loan agreement worth $3 billion for nine months under the Stand-By Arrangements program to avail the support for financial assistance from multilateral and bilateral partners.

The IMF staff and the Pakistani authorities have reached a staff-level agreement on policies to be supported by a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). The staff-level agreement is subject to approval by the IMF Executive Board, with its consideration expected by mid-July.

The Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) provides short-term financial assistance to countries facing balance of payments problems. Historically, it has been the IMF lending instrument most used by advanced and emerging market countries. Through the years, the SBA has been upgraded to be more flexible and responsive to countries’ needs.

The new SBA will support the authorities’ immediate efforts to stabilize the economy from recent external shocks, preserve macroeconomic stability and provide a framework for financing from multilateral and bilateral partners. The new SBA will also create space for social and development spending through improved domestic revenue mobilization and careful spending execution to help address the needs of the Pakistani people.

The IMF staff team led by Mr. Nathan Porter held in person and virtual meetings with the Pakistani Authorities to discuss a new financing engagement for Pakistan under an IMF Stand-by Arrangement (SBA).

At the conclusion of the mission, Mr. Porter issued the following statement:

“I am pleased to announce that the IMF team has reached a staff-level agreement with the Pakistani authorities on a nine-month Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) in the amount of SDR 2,250 million (about $3 billion or 111 percent of Pakistan’s IMF quota). The new SBA builds on the authorities’ efforts under Pakistan’s 2019 EFF-supported program which expires end-June. This agreement is subject to approval by the IMF’s Executive Board, which is expected to consider this request by mid-July, said Nathan Porter.

“Since the completion of the combined seventh and eight reviews under the 2019 Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in August 2022, the economy has faced several external shocks such as the catastrophic floods in 2022 that impacted the lives of millions of Pakistanis and an international commodity price spike in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. As a result of these shocks as well as some policy missteps—including shortages from constraints on the functioning of the FX market—economic growth has stalled. Inflation, including for essential items, is very high. Despite the authorities’ efforts to reduce imports and the trade deficit, reserves have declined to very low levels. Liquidity conditions in the power sector also remain acute, with further buildup of arrears (circular debt) and frequent loadshedding, said in the statement.

“Given these challenges, the new SBA would provide a policy anchor and a framework for financial support from multilateral and bilateral partners in the period ahead. The authorities have already taken a series of important actions ahead of the new program:

• Parliament has approved FY24 budget in line with the goals of supporting fiscal sustainability and mobilizing revenue, which will enable greater social and development spending. The FY24 budget advances a primary surplus of around 0.4 percent of GDP by taking some steps to broaden the tax base and increase tax collection from undertaxed sectors, as well as improving progressivity, while ensuring space to strengthen support for the vulnerable through the BISP program. It will be important that the budget is executed as planned, and the authorities resist pressures for unbudgeted spending or tax exemptions in the period ahead.

• The SBP has withdrawn the guidance on import prioritization and is committed to ensuring the full market determination of the exchange rate. Going forward, the SBP should remain proactive to reduce inflation, which particularly affects the most vulnerable, and maintain a foreign exchange framework free of restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions and multiple currency practices.

Continued efforts to mobilize financial support from multilateral institutions and bilateral partners. In addition to generous climate-related pledges from the January 2023 Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan held in Geneva, the authorities’ efforts have focused on obtaining new financing and securing the rollover of debt falling due. This will support near-term policy efforts and replenish gross reserves, with the aim of bringing them to more comfortable levels. “The authorities’ program also includes ongoing efforts to strengthen the viability of the energy sector (including through a timely FY24 annual rebasing), improving SOE governance, and strengthening the public investment management framework, including for projects needed to build resilience to climate change.

The full and timely implementation of the program will be critical for its success in light of the difficult challenges.

“The IMF team would like to thank the authorities for the open and constructive dialogue and collaboration that have brought us to today’s successful conclusion.”

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