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The IMF bailout package and economic survival

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By Ashab Baig


The situation is so acute on Pakistan’s economic front that a bailout package from IMF has become integral to provide lifeline to the economy. The situation is alarming because of the USD/PKR exchange rate that is all time high at 212, single digit USD reserves of less than 9 billion barely enough to afford 45-day import bill; inflation soaring at more than 15%, and fuel prices high at nearly 250/L, and more.

IMF is not merely a lender. It more importantly assesses the economic and financial situation before releasing its loan funds to the borrowing country; and Pakistan is no different as it needs to be taught lessons in fiscal and financial discipline. After presenting the federal budget a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Miftah had to vet his progress report from IMF. As expected, the IMF has imposed a few more conditions.

The good news is that IMF has principally agreed to funnel $ 1 billion into the economy. Although, it has asked the government to increase the revenue target by PKR. 450 billion, thus the total budget volume will go up to nearly 10 trillion from the previously held 9.5 trillion. The IMF has also asked to impose a petroleum levy of PKR 5/Litre per monthly incrementally and jack it up to PKR 50/Litre in next ten months. A hard pill it is, but what options do we have other than to comply with IMF terms and conditions?

A green signal by IMF means a lot for Pakistan, as it will restore confidence of other lenders including WB, ADB and other friendly countries including China and others. Thus, a $1 billion from IMF, likely to be available in July, will bring in another $ 8 billion of loans from different sources, sufficient to save the country from default, at least for the time being. Gradually, the situation will improve but the things will never be the same again. It will take at least three to four years for the situation to be back to the normal.

Pakistan is a resource rich country and has tremendous potential. But country is lost in obscurantism that hinders it way towards progress and development. The country has developed taste for expensive imported toys with no substantive industrial base of its own. On the other hand, notable exports out of the country are towels and curtains. Thus, a huge trade deficit of more than $ 50 billion. Also, we have huge government machinery that feeds on state resources, and creating lots of spillage leading to huge fiscal deficit. And more importantly, we are a wasteful nation. Expecting that IMF and other lenders will clean up every time we create the mess is imbued with dangers. Mending our ways was never so important!

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