IMF, Pakistan Reach Staff-level Agreement Under EFF
Muhammad Irfan 11 days ago Fri 08th November 2019 | 11:34 PM
Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Friday reached a staff-level agreement on the first review under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF).
"The authorities and the IMF mission reached staff level agreement on the first review under the Extended Arrangement (EFF)," an IMF press release released at the conclusion of its mission's visit to Pakistan said.
It said all performance criteria for end-September were met with comfortable margins and progress continued towards meeting all structural benchmarks, with the government's policies had started to bear fruit, helping to reverse the buildup of vulnerabilities and restore economic stability.
The external and fiscal deficits were narrowing, inflation was expected to decline, and growth, although slow, remained positive, the IMF added.
It said sustaining sound policies and advancing structural reforms remained key priorities to enhance resilience and pave the way for stronger and sustainable growth.
The IMF mission led by Ernesto Ramirez Rigo visited Islamabad from October 28 to November 8 to conduct discussions on the first review under the EEF.
"The Pakistani authorities and IMF staff have reached a staff-level agreement on policies and reforms needed to complete the first review under the EFF. The agreement is subject to approval by IMF management and the Executive Board of Directors. Completion of the review will enable disbursement of SDR 328 million (or around US$ 450 million) and will help unlock significant funding from bilateral and multilateral partners," Ramirez Rigo said in a press statement.
Rigo said despite a difficult environment, the programme's implementation had been good, and all performance criteria for end-September were met with comfortable margins.
"Work continues towards completing the remaining structural benchmarks for end-September while significant progress has been made in improving the AML/CFT framework, although additional work is needed before March 2020," he added.
Rigo said international partners remained committed to supporting the authorities' reform efforts, providing the necessary financing assurances." "On the macroeconomic front, signs that economic stability is gradually taking hold are steadily emerging.
The external position is strengthening, underpinned by an orderly transition to a flexible, market-determined exchange rate by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and a higher-than-expected increase in SBP's net international reserves.
"Budgetary revenue collections are growing on the back of efforts on tax administration and policy changes, and despite the ongoing compression in import-related taxes. Inflation pressures are expected to recede soon, reflecting an appropriate monetary stance. Importantly, measures to strengthen the social safety net are being implemented, and development spending is been prioritized," Rigo added.
The near-term macroeconomic outlook, he said, was broadly unchanged from the time of the programme's approval, with gradually strengthening activity and average inflation expected to decelerate to 11.8 percent in FY2020.
"However, domestic and international risks remain, and structural economic challenges persist," he added.
Rigo said discussions focused on policies to support Pakistan achieve strong and balanced growth.
"Fiscal prudence needs to be maintained to reduce fiscal vulnerabilities, including by carefully executing the FY 20 budget, implementing the new Public Finance Management legislation, and continuing to broaden the tax base by removing preferential tax treatments and exemptions, while protecting critical social and development spending.
"Advancing the strategy for electricity sector reforms, agreed with international partners, is important to put the sector on a sound footing, and remove recurrent arrears and accumulation of debt.
"Further efforts to strengthen SOE governance and operations, advance anti-corruption reform, and improve the business environment are key to mobilize investment and support growth and job creation.
"The authorities recognize that decisive implementation of these policies is indispensable for entrenching macroeconomic stability and restoring robust and balanced growth."The IMF team, Rigo said, was grateful to the Pakistani authorities for open and constructive discussions and their hospitality.