Govt focuses on foreign reserve management

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar on Friday said the interim government would go for a rollover of the deposits from other countries upon their maturity. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad with other caretaker federal ministers after a meeting of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, Akhtar said the interim government needed to revive the economy and it was important to remove import restrictions “across the board” since Pakistan was an import-intensive country.
“Management of foreign exchange reserve is a very high priority for us and we are closely monitoring the situation. We are in discussions that that inflows are brought in on a timely basis and we will also go for the rollover of deposits that we have in place right now on their maturity,” she said, adding that the situation was “reasonably okay” for now.
Questioned about the inflow of dollars from the country, she said the situation was not “unusual” since imports needed to be opened up for industrial revival, exports had declined and there was a shortfall in remittances.
The finance minister said discussions were underway with multilateral development banks such as the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), adding that the government was hopeful of fast-tracking the process.
She also said a review of the International Monetary Fund was due in November, after which the second tranche of its programme with Pakistan was expected, as well as a tranche from the ADB and some loans from the WB.
“What the actual precise amount of [total inflows] will be will take some time in discussions but if you ask for the full year, we are hoping it will be close to about $6 billion cumulative inflows” from various sources.
Commenting on her ministry, Akhtar said the meeting had decided to adopt a “whole-of-government” approach to the finance ministry’s various divisions and would operate “holistically [and] consistently as a team”.
She said it would be an “important change” so the segments in charge of managing the economy would work together. “Our cabinet subcommittees have been institutionalised … so now we are having full-fledged intergovernmental discussions,” Akhtar added.
“We are making a sincere effort to define our roadmap for augmenting the country’s macroeconomic management for which the anchor is fiscal stability and coordination with monetary police, as well as external policy.”
Akhtar further said the government wanted to revive the economy and was beginning the process to determine the necessary steps to “jumpstart” it.
She added that the interim government was also attempting to enhance the various aspects of the social safety net amid the implementation of a structural adjustment reform programme.
Akhtar pointed out that financial inclusion was the most important and “far-reaching” sphere of the social safety net and work on it would be expedited to provide opportunities for financial empowerment to citizens, the agriculture sector and small and medium enterprises.
The finance minister said the government was establishing a central monitoring unit for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that would help ministries strengthen the corporate governance of SOEs and take forward the entities that were ready for privatisation.
Meanwhile, Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi said ordinarily a press release was issued on the particulars of the SIFC meeting for the day but federal ministers would now regularly hold press conferences and provide details on what was discussed.
Solangi said today’s meeting focused on reducing government expenditure, reducing the circular debt, removing obstacles to foreign investment and improving the performance of state-owned enterprises.
A lot of time was spent today [in discussions] on curbing smuggling in the country, whether of finished products or petroleum products or foreign exchange,” he said.
Solangi said the meeting also had a detailed discussion on the “misuse” of international agreements that the country was a signatory to and measures to stop it. –Agencies