ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Monday said that the outlook for the economy was strong and pick up in exports and remittances were supporting growth momentum.

“In December 2019, the large scale manufacturing output expanded by 16 per cent on month-on-month basis, indicating that growth was starting to pick up,” he said while talking to a group of television anchorpersons at his office on Monday.

The meeting was part of the finance adviser’s efforts to update the media and public on key economic policies and progress on reforms.

The meeting was also attended by MNA Kanwal Shauzab and Special Secretary Finance Omar Hamid Khan.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh shared updates on the recently-concluded second review of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by saying that the IMF staff concluded that “all end December performance criteria were met, and structural benchmarks have been completed”.

“This has led to the IMF staff and Pakistan authorities reaching a staff-level agreement which has paved the way for the IMF board to release the next tranche of $450 million in April 2020″, he added.

The adviser also highlighted that the government had achieved a primary surplus of 0.6 per cent of GDP (Rs286 billion) in first half of the fiscal year 2020, first time in over 10 years.

“This has been achieved through stronger revenue collection with FBR tax collection rising by over 16.5 per cent and through austerity in expenditure,” he said.

He further said that the non-tax revenue collection during the first half of the FY2020 had also gone up by 170 per cent on year-on-year basis to reach Rs876 billion (Rs323 billion in same period last year) which would help reduce the build-up in debt. “During the first two years of the current government, over Rs5 trillion in debts had been repaid to domestic and international creditors.

Shaikh expressed concern over high inflation and apprised the participants on government efforts to reduce the burden on public.

He highlighted that inflation has declined in the last seven weeks and CPI inflation has declined to 12.4 per cent in February 2020, down from 14.6 per cent in January 2020 as a result of proactive measures by the government to allow imports and increase supply through utility stores.

He said that the government had doubled allocation in social safety programs under the Prime Minister’s Ehsas Programme to Rs192 billion in FY2020. However, many challenges remain particularly in resolving the energy sector challenges, he added.