IMF wants external financing commitments fulfilled to release funds, PM says

Lender wants Islamabad to explain fuel scheme before progressing any further

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants external financing commitments fulfilled from friendly countries before it releases bailout funds, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Tuesday.

The lender has been negotiating with Islamabad since early February to resume $1.1 billion in funding held since November, which is part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019.

The funding is very critical for Pakistan to unlock other external financing avenues to avert a default on its obligations with its central bank reserves falling to as low as to cover hardly four weeks of imports.

“Now we are being told that the commitments from friendly countries be fulfilled and God willing we will,” Sharif told parliament in a live telecast speech.

Several friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, have made commitments to help Pakistan fund its balance of payments.

An agreement would be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are settled, an IMF official said on Friday.

Sharif had earlier announced the government’s plan to charge affluent consumers more for fuel, with the money raised used to subsidise prices for the poor, who have been hard-hit by inflation. In February it was running at its highest in 50 years.

The IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said earlier that the government had not consulted the fund about the scheme.

The lender wants Islamabad to explain the fuel scheme before any loan deal.

The IMF has not responded to Reuters request for a comment on the fuel pricing scheme.

Several friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates, have made commitments to help Pakistan fund its balance of payments.

An agreement would be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are settled, an IMF official said on Friday.

Sharif had earlier announced the government’s plan to charge affluent consumers more for fuel, with the money raised used to subsidise prices for the poor, who have been hard-hit by inflation. In February it was running at its highest in 50 years.

The IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said earlier that the government had not consulted the fund about the scheme.

The lender wants Islamabad to explain the fuel scheme before any loan deal.

The IMF has not responded to Reuters request for a comment on the fuel pricing scheme.

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