Bailout agreement with IMF to be reached soon: Asad Umar

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  • ‘PTI govt only had 15 days of reserves left when it came to power’, finance minister laments

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar said on Monday that the government has made progress in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as the two sides managed to bridge the gap between their varied stances.

“Today we are much closer to the IMF,” he said while speaking to journalists in Islamabad. “The position of IMF has changed, while that of the Government of Pakistan remained static.”

He said during the talks, the IMF had informed that the terms of their agreements were much softer in 2008 and 2013, as the situation was far better than it was today.

“The Pakistan People’s Party government had four and half months of reserves with it when it came to power, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had reserves of seven months and 27 days, while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government only had 15 days of reserves left with it,” he lamented, adding that the new IMF chief would be visiting Pakistan on Tuesday, but “not for formal talks”.

Umar said the government had successfully curtailed its imports and managed to bring them down to 72pc. The government is focusing on closer integration between NADRA, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited (PRAL) so as to generate more revenue and expand the tax net, he added.

On the occasion, Task Force on Energy Reforms Chairman Nadeem Babar gave a detailed briefing on the position of natural gas and regretted that over the past five years, not even a single license was issued to gas explorers. He said the local fields were facing a decline of 5-7pc in production and the government has tendered ten new blocks; of which six were processed, while 30 more were underway.

He said the country had to import excess LNG in December and January to meet its growing domestic demand, adding that Pakistan was getting LNG at Rs1,400 per MMBTU while it was selling at Rs610 MMBTU, signifying that the government was paying over 50pc as a subsidy.

He said the government was negotiating with some other countries and was likely to get the LNG at a price 20pc lesser than the existing agreement.

Nadeem Babar said there was high hope from the ongoing offshore exploration by Exxon and urged the country to pray to Almighty Allah for success.

Regarding over-billing of gas bills, he said the issue of computation of gas tariff at higher rates of next slab, has been rectified. He said, unlike the past where subsidies were given, without allocations in the federal budgets, the Prime Minister had directed that the subsidy would only be given if a proper allocation has been made in the budget.

Referring to the power sector performance, he pointed out that the country did manage to generate additional 3,700MW, but was unable to feed it to its consumers owing to the poor transmission and distribution system.

He said Rs42 billion had been recovered from defaulters and 20,000 FIRs have been registered against those involved in pilferage and there had been 2pc reduction in losses.

He said the prime minister did not give a nod to an increase Rs4.50 in per unit power tariff, adding that the government has decided, in principle, to launch smart-meters for electricity users and all existing ones would be replaced in 4-5 years.

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