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‘Pakistan will have to agree to IMF conditions’

Published : 03 Feb 2023 10:19 PM | Updated : 04 Feb 2023 04:04 PM

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Friday that the government would have to agree to IMF bailout conditions that are "beyond imagination".

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation landed in Pakistan on Tuesday for last ditch talks to revive vital financial aid which has stalled for months. The government has held out against tax rises and subsidy slashing demanded by the IMF, 

fearful of backlash ahead of elections due in October."I will not go into the details but will only say that our economic challengeis unimaginable. The conditions we will have to agree to with the IMF arebeyond imagination. But we will have to agree with the conditions," Sharifsaid in televised comments. Pakistan's economy is in dire straits, stricken by a balance of paymentscrisis as it attempts to service high levels of external debt, amid political chaos and a deteriorating security situation.

The country's central bank said Thursday its foreign exchange reserves haddropped again to $3.1 billion dollars, which analysts said was enough for

less than three weeks of imports. On Wednesday, year-on-year inflation had risen to a 48-year high leaving Pakistanis struggling to afford basic food items. Ahead of the IMF visit, Islamabad began to bow to pressure with the prospect of national bankruptcy looming and no friendly countries willing to offer less painful bailouts. The government loosened controls on the rupee to rein in a rampant blackmarket in US dollars, a step that caused the currency to plunge to a record low. Artificially cheap petrol prices have also been hiked. The world's fifth-biggest population is no longer issuing letters of credit, except for essential food and medicines, causing a backlog of thousands ofshipping containers at Karachi port stuffed with stock the country can no longer afford.

-Political chaos -

The tumbling economy mirrors the country's political chaos, with former primeminister Imran Khan heaping pressure on the ruling coalition in his bid forearly elections while his popularity remains high. Khan, who was ousted last year in a no-confidence motion, negotiated a multi- billion-dollar loan package from the IMF in 2019. But he reneged on promises to cut subsidies and market interventions that had cushioned the cost-of-living crisis, causing the programme to stall. It is a common pattern in Pakistan, where most people live in rural poverty, with more than two dozen IMF deals brokered and then broken over the decades.

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