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IMF approves final loan tranche of $1.1bn for Pakistan

Pakistan meets IMF bailout requirements
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April 29, 2024 (MLN): Following the completion of the final review of Pakistan’s economic reform program supported by the IMF’s Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), the Executive Board allowed an immediate disbursement of around $1.1 billion to Pakistan, bringing total disbursements under the arrangement to SDR 2.25bn or about $3bn.

The said amount will help bolster the foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan. At present, the total foreign exchange reserves stand at around $8bn.

Pakistan’s 9-month SBA, approved by the Executive Board on July 12, 2023, successfully provided a policy anchor to address domestic and external imbalances and a framework for financial support from multilateral and bilateral partners, the statement issued by the Fund said. 

The program focused on necessary fiscal adjustment and maintenance of debt sustainability, protection of critical social spending, buffering external shocks and eliminating FX shortages, making progress on disinflation and furthering progress on structural reforms, focused on energy sector viability, SOE governance, and climate resilience, it added. 

Macroeconomic conditions have improved throughout the program. Growth of 2% is expected in FY24 given continued recovery in the second half of the fiscal year.

The fiscal position continues to strengthen with a primary surplus of 1.8% of GDP achieved in the first half of 2024, well ahead of projections and putting Pakistan on track to achieve its end-FY24 target primary surplus of 0.4% of GDP.

While still elevated, inflation continues to decline, and, with appropriately tight, data-driven monetary policy maintained, is expected to reach around 20% by end-June.

Assuming ongoing sound policies and reform efforts, inflation should return to the SBP’s target with growth continuing to strengthen over the medium term. Gross reserves have increased to around $8bn, up from $4.5bn at the start of the program, and are projected to continue being rebuilt over the medium term. 

Following the Executive Board discussion, Antoinette Sayeh, Deputy Managing Director and Chair said that Pakistan’s determined policy efforts under the 2023 SBA have brought progress in restoring economic stability.

Moderate growth has returned; external pressures have eased; and while still elevated, inflation has begun to decline. Given the significant challenges ahead, Pakistan should capitalize on this hard-won stability, persevering—beyond the current arrangement—with sound macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to create stronger, inclusive, and sustainable growth.

Continued external support will also be critical, he further stated. 

He went on to say that the authorities’ revenue performance, as well as federal spending restraint, helped achieve a sizeable primary surplus in the first half of FY2024, in line with program targets.

Continued revenue mobilization efforts and spending discipline at both federal and provincial levels remain critical to ensure that the primary surplus target is achieved.

Beyond FY2024, continued fiscal sustainability and additional space for social and development spending depend on further mobilizing revenues, especially from non-filers and undertaxed sectors, and on improving public financial management.

The authorities have stabilized the energy sector’s circular debt throughout the SBA through timely tariff adjustments and enhanced collection efforts. While these actions need to continue, it is also critical that the authorities undertake cost-side reforms to address the sector’s underlying issues and viability, he said. 

While appreciating the State Bank of Pakistan’s decision related to interest rates, he added that  tight monetary policy stance remains appropriate until inflation returns to more moderate levels.

Further improvements in the functioning of the foreign exchange (FX) market, together with a market-determined exchange rate, will help buffer external shocks and attract financing, thereby supporting competitiveness and growth. The significant rebuilding of FX reserves under the SBA needs to continue.

Moreover, stronger action to address undercapitalized financial institutions and, more broadly, vigilance over the financial sector are needed to ensure financial stability.

“Achieving strong, long-term inclusive growth and creating jobs require accelerating structural reforms and continued protection of the most vulnerable through an adequately-financed Benazir Income Support Program," he noted. 

Priorities include advancing the reform of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), including ensuring that all SOEs fall under the new policy framework; strengthening governance and anti-corruption institutions; and continuing to build climate resilience. 

To note, the South Asian nation is seeking a new long-term and larger IMF loan to plug its external financing gaps.

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Posted on: 2024-04-29T22:35:17+05:00