Debt relief to help arrest meltdown: PM

-Lauds special measures taken by G-20, IMF, WB
-Seeks Ulema’s cooperation to contain COVID-19 spread

By Uzma Zafar

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated on Thursday the debt relief measures by G-20 countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for developing countries, including Pakistan.
The premier lauded the debt relief measures after Finance Advisor Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh called on PM Imran and informed him about the planned approval of an additional $1.4 billion concessionary financing from IMF to deal with the economic impact of coronavirus.
In the meeting, the finance advisor also updated the premier about the progress on various components of the Economic Stimulus Package announced by the government.
The meeting between the prime minister and his advisor was in connection with a meeting of the IMF’s executive board scheduled to be held on April 16, to consider an extra loan of $1.4 billion for Pakistan to boost the country’s foreign exchange reserves and extend budgetary support in the wake of the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was earlier reported that the government had requested the IMF last month for a low-cost, fast-disbursing loan under the fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to deal with the adverse economic impact of Covid-19.
“We have been working with the Pakistani authorities since the request was placed. This $1.4 billion disbursement is scheduled to happen next week,” IMF Resident Representative in Pakistan Teresa Daban Sanchez had said last week.
The official had said that the IMF was working with the Ministry of Finance to make sure that Pakistan had “enough resources to navigate through this difficult time”.
Under RFI, IMF member countries can get financial assistance on an urgent basis without entering into a full-fledged program. The instant loan would be in addition to the earlier $6 billion bailout package.
On April 12, PM Imran had appealed for a “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” to deal with a global recession in the wake of the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
The premier had appealed to the international community, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and international financial institutions to respond positively to the dilemma confronting developing counties in the face of the pandemic.
While noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented health and economic challenges, PM Imran had underlined that a global recession was certain, one worse than the ‘Great Depression’.
“A global pandemic cannot be contained without strong, coordinated and well-crafted global response,” he had stressed. In a televised speech, the premier had said that the global initiative on debt relief would bring together stakeholders on a platform to promote coordinated health and economic response.
A statement issued from his office had noted that various announcements were made by multilateral actors such as the UN, the IMF, and the World Bank.
The announcements made included initial relief packages of US$1.4 billion by the IMF and $1 billion by the World Bank. Imran had proposed that developing countries be provided with fiscal space and financial relief through enhanced debt relief and restructuring as well as other additional measures that could help them manage the unfolding crisis.
As part of his diplomatic outreach, Imran had said that he would be approaching the heads of state and governments from a wide range of countries notably from the Paris Club, Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), heads of international organisations and others concerned to join him in this endeavour.
In another meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said that cooperation of religious scholars (Ulema) was required to contain the spread of coronavirus and added he would soon meet a delegation of Ulema-e-Kiram in that regard.
The prime minister was talking to renowned religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jamil, who called on him at the PM Office.
The prime minister lauded public awareness campaign of Maulana Tariq Jamil to contain coronavirus. Imran Khan said that purpose of governments’ efforts was to save the people from the pandemic which had engulfed the entire world. He said the religious scholars had always guided the government in every difficult time. The prime minister said that the government in consultation with Ulema would formulate guidelines for the month of Ramzan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday has said Pakistan is expected to get debt relief from the 1st of May.
In a statement regarding decision of G-20 countries and IMF to provide debt relief to the developing countries, the foreign minister said about seventy countries including Pakistan will benefit from it.
He said this relief will be for a period of one year. He said Pakistan is expected to get a major relief from the International Monetary Fund. The foreign minister recalled that Prime Minister Imran Khan had appealed to the world leaders and institutions to restructure loans of the developing countries to cope with the coronavirus challenge.
He said this will enable the developing countries to divert their resources to the protection of lives of the people and make their health systems more effective to respond to the challenge.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi said this appeal of the Prime Minister was endorsed by the UN Secretary General, the IMF and the G-20 countries.