FM Hafeez vows to accelerate talks with IMF

ISLAMABAD: The newly-appointed head of Pakistan’s finance ministry has vowed to speed up talks with the International Monetary Fund as Islamabad seeks a crucial bailout deal for a cash-strapped economy facing a balance-of-payments crisis.

The government named Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, a former World Bank official who was federal finance minister from 2010-2013, as “adviser on finance” replacing Asad Umar a day earlier.

“I have spoken to IMF director and given commitment from my government to proceed the talks,” Sheikh said, speaking to media after a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“They have also given a commitment with regard to this programme. So we are looking forward to the IMF mission to come to Pakistan soon,” he said.

“We want to accelerate and complete this process.”

Later, Sheikh spoke to IMF mission chief for Pakistan Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the ministry of finance said.

The two figures discussed the progress of negotiations for an IMF-supported program for Pakistan, and expressed their commitment for moving the discussions forward. 

It was also agreed upon that an IMF delegation would visit Pakistan in April.

Sheikh was earlier tasked with holding talks with the IMF during a meeting of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders, presided over by PM Khan at his Bani Gala residence, according to official.

Describing Sheikh as an “important opening batsman”, government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan said the prime minister empowered the finance adviser today.

She said the premier had given a few targets to the new economic team and advised them to bring down inflation.