Pakistan needs IMF bailout, make ‘tough political choices’ — Habib Bank CEO

Residents watch Pakistani Prime Minister Imran’s televised address after his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, where he received a $6 billion rescue package. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018

Pakistan needs IMF bailout, make ‘tough political choices’ — Habib Bank CEO

BEIJING: Pakistan needs to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and make “hard decisions” to avoid going back again, said Muhammad Aurangzeb, chief executive officer of Habib Bank, the country’s biggest lender.
The bank is also urging Pakistan to tap China’s nascent “panda bond” market, which enables oversees issuers to raise yuan-denominated bonds there, as soon as possible after IMF funding is secured.
“They are clearly very interested, because the overall stance the current government has is to move and diversify away from USD into RMB,” Aurangzeb told Reuters in an interview in Beijing on Tuesday.
The potential size of panda bond issuance would be equivalent to $1.5 billion to $2 billion, he said. China Development Bank and China International Capital Corp. would be HBL’s domestic partners on such a project.
Habib Bank received an RMB license from Beijing two weeks ago and is seeking approval to upgrade its representative office in the Chinese capital to a branch as soon as next year, he added.
An IMF rescue package would be Pakistan’s 13th from the multilateral lender since the late 1980s.
“The advantage of a program which IMF brings to the table is that it pushes the government to bring in their fiscal discipline and move with the reform agenda,” Aurangzeb said.
Last month, Pakistan received a $6-billion rescue package from Saudi Arabia, but officials say it still plans to seek a bailout from the IMF to avert a balance of payments crisis.
Pakistan’s foreign reserves have plunged 42 percent since the start of the year to about $8 billion, or less than two months of import cover.
“Both on the fiscal side and on the current account side, some very tough political choices need to be made,” said Aurangzeb.
These include moves to increase the tax base, boost exports — particularly to neighboring China, let the currency find its fair market value, actively work to narrow deficits, and get the structural reforms agenda going, he said.
“If they can do that, they can get on a more sustainable path without relying on the IMF,” Aurangzeb said. “But if they don’t follow through, the likelihood is that there will be another (IMF) program.”
The focus of new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s talks with Beijing is less about debt or loans, and more about increasing investment, industrial activity, exports to China, and the creation of local jobs, Aurangzeb said.
Khan began a visit to China late last week.
Though China is Pakistan’s closest ally, Khan has sought to rethink a signature project, the $60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship of Beijing’s vast Belt and Road Initiative.


Oil recoups losses as OPEC, US Fed see robust economy

Updated 14 November 2019

Oil recoups losses as OPEC, US Fed see robust economy

  • US-China trade deal will help remove ‘dark cloud’ over oil, says Barkindo

LONDON: Oil prices reversed early losses on Wednesday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it saw no signs of global recession and rival US shale oil production could grow by much less than expected in 2020.

Also supporting prices were comments by US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said the US economy would see a “sustained expansion” with the full impact of recent interest rate cuts still to be felt.

Brent crude futures stood roughly flat at around $62 per barrel by 1450 GMT, having fallen by over 1 percent earlier in the day. US West Texas Intermediate crude was at $56 per barrel, up 20 cents or 0.4 percent.

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” Powell said.

OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said global economic fundamentals remained strong and that he was still confident that the US and China would reach a trade deal.

“It will almost remove that dark cloud that had engulfed the global economy,” Barkindo said, adding it was too early to discuss the output policy of OPEC’s December meeting.

HIGHLIGHT

  • US oil production likely to grow by just 0.3-0.4 million barrels per day next year — or less than half of previous expectations.
  • The prospects for ‘US crude exports had turned bleak after shipping rates jumped last month.’

He also said some US companies were now saying US oil production would grow by just 0.3-0.4 million barrels per day next year — or less than half of previous expectations — reducing the risk of an oil glut next year.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday Washington and Beijing were close to finalizing a trade deal, but he fell short of providing a date or venue for the signing ceremony.

“The expectations of an inventory build in the US and uncertainty over the OPEC+ strategy on output cuts and US/China trade deal are weighing on oil prices,” said analysts at ING, including the head of commodity strategy Warren Patterson.

In the US, crude oil inventories were forecast to have risen for a third straight week last week, while refined products inventories likely declined, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.

ANZ analysts said the prospects for US crude exports had turned bleak after shipping rates jumped last month.