‘Pakistan awaits China’s decision on rollover of $2b loan that matured last week’

Support from friendly countries followed by IMF tranche would unblock flows cash from other multilateral agencies

KARACHI: China is working on a request by Pakistan to roll over a $2-billion loan that matured last week, a top finance ministry official told Reuters.

The rollover is critical for the country as its foreign exchange reserves have dipped to just four weeks’ worth of imports at a time when it is locked in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure bailout funds.

“It is a work in progress,” the official said in a text message on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity. “Formal documentation is underway.”

A formal announcement will be made, the source added, but gave no further details. The loan matured on March 23.

As Pakistan struggles to avert a default on its obligations, the only help so far has come from longtime ally Beijing, through a refinancing of $1.8 billion already credited to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The IMF funding is critical to unlock other external financing avenues, and the two have been negotiating since early February to resume $1.1 billion in funding held since November, part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019.

One of the lender’s last remaining conditions for the release of the tranche is securing an assurance on external financing to fund the country’s balance of payments.

Meanwhile, the government on Wednesday said to have achieved “progress” in external financing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The statement came from Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha before a parliamentary panel on a day UAE’s ambassador in Islamabad Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salim Al-Zaabi met Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and expressed UAE’s interest “in augmenting and furthering investment in various sectors of the economy of Pakistan”.

Testifying before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and later talking to journalists, Dr Pasha said “there has been some progress from Saudi Arabia and UAE on external financing” — the only pending thing after the completion of technical negotiations.

“There are some indications that something is coming very shortly and the matters with IMF are close to settlement as the Fund had been looking for commitments from the brotherly countries. There has been some progress on that,” she reiterated without elaborating but added that a trust deficit had been delaying the SLA with IMF.

Responding to a question, she said Pakistan’s external financing needs were higher but support from friendly countries followed by the IMF tranche would unblock flows from other multilateral agencies and the matters would move forward towards normalcy.

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