Islamabad: Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have finally reached a staff-level agreement to complete the combined 7th and 8th reviews of Pakistan’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with an increased size of $7 billion.
According to a statement released on Wednesday by the Fund, the IMF staff team, led by Nathan Porter, finalized discussions with Pakistan for the combined seventh and eighth reviews of Pakistan’s economic program supported by the IMF Extended Fund Facility.
Now, the agreement remains subject to approval by the IMF’s Executive Board, and the staff team will prepare a report that will be presented to the IMF’s Executive Board for discussion and decision.
Following the discussion, Nathan Porter issued the following statement:
“The IMF team has reached a staff-level agreement (SLA) with the Pakistan authorities for the conclusion of the combined seventh and eighth reviews of the EFF-supported program. The agreement is subject to approval by the IMF’s Executive Board. Subject to Board approval, about $1,177 million (SDR 894 million) will become available, bringing total disbursements under the program to about $4.2 billion. Additionally, to support program implementation and meet the higher financing needs in FY23, as well as catalyze additional financing, the IMF Board will consider an extension of the EFF until end-June 2023 and an augmentation of access by SDR 720 million that will bring the total access under the EFF to about US$7 billion.”
The statement further said that to stabilize the economy and bring policy actions in line with the IMF-supported program, while protecting the vulnerable, policy priorities include:
Steadfast implementation of the FY2023 budget
The budget aims to reduce the government’s large borrowing needs by targeting an underlying primary surplus of 0.4 per cent of GDP, underpinned by current spending restraint and broad revenue mobilization efforts focused particularly on higher-income taxpayers. Development spending will be protected, and fiscal space will be created for expanding social support schemes. The provinces have agreed to support the federal government’s efforts to reach the fiscal targets, and Memoranda of Understanding have been signed by each provincial government to this effect.
Catch-up in power sector reforms
On the back of the weak implementation of the previously agreed plan, the power sector circular debt (CD) flow is expected to grow significantly to about PRs 850 billion in FY22, overshooting program targets, threatening the power sector’s viability, and leading to frequent power outages. The authorities are committed to resuming reforms including, critically, the timely adjustment of power tariffs including for the delayed annual rebasing and quarterly adjustments, to improve the situation in the power sector and limit load shedding.
Proactive monetary policy to guide inflation to more moderate levels
Headline inflation exceeded 20 per cent in June, hurting particularly the most vulnerable. In this regard, the recent monetary policy increase was necessary and appropriate, and monetary policy will need to be geared towards ensuring that inflation is brought steadily down to the medium-term objective of 5–7 per cent. Importantly, to enhance monetary policy transmission, the rates of the two major refinancing schemes EFS and LTFF (which have over recent months been raised by 700 bps and 500 bps respectively) will continue to be linked to the policy rate. Greater exchange rate flexibility will help cushion activity and rebuild reserves to more prudent levels.
Reducing poverty and strengthening social safety
During FY22, the unconditional cash transfer (UCT) Kafalat scheme reached nearly 8 million households, with a permanent increase in the stipend to PRs 14,000 per family, while a one-off cash transfer of PRs 2,000 (Sasta Fuel Sasta Diesel, SFSD) was granted to about 8.6 million families to alleviate the impact of rampant inflation. For FY23, the authorities have allocated PRs 364 billion to BISP (up from PRs 250 in FY22) to be able to bring 9 million families into the BISP safety net, and further extend the SFSD scheme to additional non-BISP, lower-middle class beneficiaries.
To improve governance and mitigate corruption, the authorities are establishing a robust electronic asset declaration system and plan to undertake a comprehensive review of the anti-corruption institutions (including the National Accountability Bureau) to enhance their effectiveness in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases.
“Steadfast implementation of the outlined policies, underpinning the SLA for the combined seventh and eighth reviews, will help create the conditions for sustainable and more inclusive growth. The authorities should nonetheless stand ready to take any additional measures necessary to meet program objectives, given the elevated uncertainty in the global economy and financial markets.”
“The IMF team thanks the Pakistani authorities, private sector, and development partners for fruitful discussions and cooperation during the discussions.”