-Shehbaz claims govt’s prudent policies saved nation from default
-Hopeful of signing an agreement with IMF soon
-Pakistan, US reaffirm commitment to promote economic growth, energy security
-Washington shows willingness to cooperate with Pakistan over IMF deal
-Pakistan desperately needs IMF loan to stave off default risk
By Anzal Amin
ISLAMABAD: An over-optimistic Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Wednesday asserted that the government’s prudent policies reversed the looming risks of Pakistan’s default on its international obligations, reported Radio Pakistan, the state broadcaster.
But the prime minister’s views were contrary to more than two dozen economists, who be-lieve that Pakistan faces the renewed risk of recession amid a deepening political and eco-nomic crisis and a delay in the revival of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout programme.
In the last few months, the cash-strapped nation has failed to meet several deadlines to se-cure funds to stave off a default, which has raised concerns that Pakistan might have to pause debt repayments.
The premier — who came into power last year in April — told a delegation of Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors in Islamabad that the coalition government is making all-out efforts to bring the economy out of the prevailing “quagmire” and put the country on the path of development and prosperity.
The political crisis has also deepened this week after clashes erupted as the police tried to arrest former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, who is demanding early elections since his ouster via a no-confidence motion in April last year. Pakistan needs funds to revive its $350 billion economy, ease widespread shortages and rebuild its foreign currency reserves. The nation’s dollar stockpile has fallen to less than a month’s worth of imports, restricting its ability to fund overseas purchases, stranding thousands of containers of supplies at ports, forcing plant shutdowns and putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.
In order to kickstart the $350 billion economy, the prime minister expressed the confidence that agreement with the IMF would be inked very soon — a claim that he and Finance Min-ister Ishaq Dar have been making back and forth, with no results.
PM Shehbaz said the government is cognizant of the sufferings of common people due to the prevailing situation — which has sent inflation to a historic high.
The prime minister also lauded the role of all coalition partners for running the govern-ment’s affairs effectively and said that the government is united and moving ahead to bring the country out of turmoil.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome wished for a deal between Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assuring Washington’s willingness to support the country in its efforts to resume a stalled $6.5 billion bailout programme.
Ambassador Blome also indicated that the IMF bailout package for Islamabad will take its final shape in a couple of days.
“The United States is ready to cooperate with Pakistan to help on the issue,” Blome said, while speaking to journalists at an event on Tuesday.
The envoy also expressed Washington’s willingness to help Islamabad with the ongoing challenge of terrorism.
Blome, who has been visiting Pakistan’s important cities recently for meetings with groups belonging to different walks of life, said there had been significant progress in diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Pakistan and the United States on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to promoting economic growth, energy security, partnership in long-term flood rehabilitation efforts and strengthening their overall relationship.
The bilateral ties were discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Geoffery Pyatt, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources at the US Depart-ment of State, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Pyatt is leading a delegation to Pakistan for the Pak-US Energy Security Dialogue. The Pak-US Energy Security Dialogue is a joint initiative aimed at promoting energy security and serves as a platform for high-level discussions between the two countries on bilateral energy priorities, advancing the transition to renewable energy and exploring economic and commercial opportunities in the energy sector.
The prime minister appreciated the holding of the dialogue on promoting energy security, saying that it would be beneficial for both countries.
He encouraged further investment in the country’s energy infrastructure, adding that it would also help the transition towards clean energy. Likewise, Pyatt appreciated Pakistan for its “forward-looking” renewable energy policy.
PM Shehbaz also welcomed the ongoing dialogues and cooperation between the two coun-tries in areas such as trade and investment, health, security and climate change.
Meanwhile, US State Department Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment, and Sci-ence Monica Medina, who is also in Pakistan on an official visit, informed the prime minis-ter during the meeting that she was leading a delegation for meetings of the Pak-US Climate and Environment Working Group.
She praised the “commitment and dedication with which the government of Pakistan had responded to the consequences of the last year’s devastating floods”.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Central Asia Elizabeth Horst, Development Finance Corporation Chief Climate Officer Jake Levine and US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome also attended the meeting.
The senior US diplomats affirmed the Biden administration’s desire to enhance Pakistan-US cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, health, security and climate change.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Economic Affairs Minister Sar-dar Ayaz Sadiq, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Power Minister Khurram Dastgir and other senior officials.