Pakistan and IMF reach staff-level agreement on revival of $6 billion Loan

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached a staff-level agreement on revival of $6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) that was suspended in April this year.

“The Pakistani authorities and IMF staff have reached a staff-level agreement on policies and reforms needed to complete the sixth review under the EFF,” read a statement issued by the Fund.

“The agreement is subject to approval by the Executive Board, following the implementation of prior actions, notably on fiscal and institutional reforms. Completion of the review would make available SDR 750 million (about US$1,059 million), bringing total disbursements under the EFF to about US$3,027 million and helping unlock significant funding from bilateral and multilateral partners.

An additional SDR 1,015.5 million (about US$1,386 million) was disbursed in April 2020 to help Pakistan address the economic impact of the COVID-19 shock.”

Despite a difficult environment, the IMF noted that progress continues to be made in the implementation of the EFF-supported programme. All quantitative performance criteria (PCs) for end-June were met with wide margins, except for that on the primary budget deficit, it added.

“Notable achievements on the structural front include the finalization of the National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) update, parliamentary adoption of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Act Amendments, notification of all pending quarterly power tariff adjustments, and payment of the first tranche of outstanding arrears to independent power producers (IPPs) to unlock lower capacity payments fixed in renegotiated power purchase agreements (PPAs),” the statement said.

“The authorities have also made progress in improving the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework, although some additional time is needed to strengthen its effectiveness.

On the macroeconomic front, available data suggests that a strong economic recovery has gained hold, benefiting from the authorities’ multifaceted policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has helped contain its human and macroeconomic ramifications.

The Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) tax revenue collection has been strong. At the same time, external pressures have started to emerge: a widening of the current account deficit and depreciation pressures on the exchange rate—mainly reflecting the compound effects of the stronger economic activity, an expansionary macroeconomic policy mix, and higher international commodity prices.

In response, the authorities have started to adjust policies, including by gradually unwinding COVID-related stimulus measures. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has also taken the right steps by starting to reverse the accommodative monetary policy stance, strengthening some macroprudential measures to contain consumer credit growth, and providing forward guidance.

In addition, the government plans to introduce a package of fiscal measures targeting a small reduction of the primary deficit with respect to last fiscal year based on: (i) high-quality revenue measures to make the tax system simpler and fairer (including through the adoption of reforms to the GST system); and (ii) prudent spending restraint, while fully protecting social spending.

These policies will help safeguard the positive near-term outlook, with growth projected to reach, or exceed, 4 percent in FY 2022 and 4.5 percent the fiscal year after that.

However, inflation remains high, although it should start to see a declining trend once the pass-through of rupee depreciation is absorbed, and temporary supply-side constraints and demand-side pressures dissipate. However, the current account is expected to widen this fiscal year despite some export growth, reflecting the rising import demand and international commodity prices. However, this economic outlook continues to face elevated domestic and external risks, while structural economic challenges persist.”

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