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EditorialIMF meeting deferred, again

IMF meeting deferred, again

After failing to get the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) amendment act passed by the Senate on Wednesday, the ruling PTI has once again requested the IMF to defer its case for completion of the sixth review, which was supposed to be taken up by the end of this month. The Executive Board of the Fund on the government’s request has now postponed the meeting till February 2. The passage of both the SBP bill and the Finance Supplementary Bill 2021 – generally known as the mini-budget – are prerequisites for the revival of the IMF’s $6 billion funding programme. However, while the mini-budget was bulldozed in the National Assembly’s joint session last month, the SBP bill, which will grant the central bank ‘complete autonomy’ has been vehemently opposed by the opposition parties.

But Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has categorically stated that the government will not back off from passing the bill. Insiders also state that the government is now considering wooing the opposition senators behind the scenes, requesting them to skip the Senate session in which the bill will be tabled next. It is also planning to pass the SBP bill in a supplementary agenda as opposed to the regular agenda as the latter will alert the Opposition. All these gimmicks to ensure the revival of the programme the ruling PTI itself had delayed in an attempt try and strengthen its position during negotiations with the Fund. Clearly, the tactic backfired and the reality today is that Pakistan’s economic growth is dependent on the revival of the IMF programme.

Successive governments have been unable to strengthen the economic system by devising long-term policies to boost existing industries as well as set up new ones. Today, the country imports even those commodities it once used to export or had a sufficient supply of. Case in point: our depleting natural gas reserves. In November last year, Pakistan accepted a liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo at the highest-ever price of $30.6 per unit to stave off a possible gas crisis in the country. The weaker the country’s economic position gets the stiffer IMF’s conditions. It’s time that both the opposition parties and the incumbent government keep their egos aside and come together to devise economic reforms to strengthen the system. Mudslinging will only dig the economic hole deeper.

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