IMF giving us tough times, says Pak PM

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was giving a ‘tough time’ to the government during talks for the restoration of the loan. The IMF mission led by Nathan Porter began talks on January 31 with the Pakistan side headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for the ninth review of the USD 7 billion assistance package. The prime minister made his remarks while addressing an Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar. The committee is the highest provincial body to deal with militancy. While talking about the security situation, Sharif highlighted the economic challenges faced by the country and said that the “situation is in front of the entire nation”. “As I speak, the IMF delegation is in Islamabad and they are giving Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team a tough time,” he said. The economic challenge at this point was unimaginable, Sharif said, adding that the IMF conditions that the country has to meet are ‘beyond imagination’, but it is mandatory to fulfil the demands of the fund. He didn’t provide details about the talks with the IMF team that coincide with Pakistan’s reserves falling to a critically low level of USD 3.09 billion as of January 27 just enough to cover only 18 days’ worth of imports. Pakistan’s central bank said on Friday that its foreign exchange reserves have dropped by 16.1 per cent to USD 3.09 billion at the end of the last fiscal week, the lowest in nearly 10 years. The IMF after a successful ninth review would provide over USD 1.1 billion and the gesture would open venues for bilateral loans from different friendly countries and multilateral institutions.