IMF demands tough decisions, gives hard time during talks: PM

-Says economic challenges at this moment are unimaginable
-Adds conditions to be fulfilled for 9th IMF review are beyond imagination
-Acknowledges country has no choice but to implement all conditions
-Government asks public servants to make assets public on IMF demand

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation, which is visiting the country for discussions on the ninth review of a $7 billion loan programme, was giving a “very tough time” to Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his team.
“Our economic challenge at this moment is unimaginable. The conditions we have to fulfil [to complete the IMF review] are beyond imagination,” he said without elaborating.
However, the country had no choice but to implement the conditions, PM Shehbaz acknowledged. He made the comments while addressing an Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar.
The IMF delegation, headed by Nathan Porter, and the government began the make-or-break discussions on the completion of the ninth review on Tuesday. Pakistan needs to complete the review to stave off default. The country’s reserves have depleted to a critically low level of $3.09 billion as of Jan 27, which can cover only 18 days of imports, according to Arif Habib Limited. Completing the IMF review would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.12bn but also unlock inflows from friendly countries and other multilateral lenders.
As meetings began, the IMF mission chief sounded adamant on upfront, calibrated and strong measures to bridge the daunting fiscal gap — between Rs2 trillion to Rs2.5tr.
“You don’t have any other option” was the critical message, as members of the mission engaged with the finance and power ministries led by Ishaq Dar and Khurram Das­tgir Khan, respectively, sources close to the meetings told media.

The government has taken a number of measures to complete the IMF review, including lifting an unofficial price cap on the exchange rate, hiking petroleum rates by up to 16 per cent and increasing the LPG price by 30pc.

The two sides would remain focu­sed on technical-level deliberations in the first round, slated to run until Friday (yesterday), then move on to the crucial policy-level negotiations over the next weekend until Feb 9.

Accepting the demand of the IMF, the federal government has finally agreed to allow banks access to asset declarations of civil servants of BS17-22, as a prior condition for the opening of bank accounts as part of good governance and anti-corruption measures.

A notification, issued on Friday titled “Sharing of Declaration of Assets of Civil Servants Rules, 2023” says that commercial banks will access the asset data of federal employees in the first phase at the time of opening bank accounts.

The IMF has been insisting on the public declaration of Public servants’ assets. An IMF mission arrived in Islamabad on January 30 to discuss the stalled ninth review of the $7 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF). In the meeting, the international lender also demanded details of the overseas assets of the bureaucracy.

The notification regarding the disclosure of assets of public servants said, “All 17 to 22 Grade officers have to provide all information before open-ing a bank account.” FBR will furnish details of assets of civil servants to banks in this regard.

“Bureaucrats’ will be checked prior to the opening of a bank account and Banks will get information from the FBR for the opening of accounts of bureaucrats. However, the banks will keep the information confidential from the public and will not release it at any cost to the general public.

State Bank of Pakistan will supervise the movement during sharing details of bank accounts. The banks will appoint focal persons to assist the FBR and all bank officers shall be bound to preserve the account details data.

The IMF has also demanded the establishment for forming an authority to make public the government officers’ assets. The lender demanded to make movable and immovable assets of bureaucrats in rseas to ensure transparency and accountability. It has demanded to set up an Electronic Assets Declaration System for transparency. –Agencies