Pakistan “engaged” with IMF for bailout package: Ministry of Finance

Pakistan has been negotiating a deal with the IMF since November last year to shore up the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves and avert the possibility of a balance-of-payments crisis. (Reuters/photo)
Updated 04 March 2019

Pakistan “engaged” with IMF for bailout package: Ministry of Finance

  • IMF program expected to be signed in April, says an EAC member
  • Pakistan’s urgency for IMF loan was somewhat reduced by $6 billion cash assistance from Saudi Arabia, UAE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance said on Sunday that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package have been in progress and the deal may mature in the coming week.

“We are still engaged with the IMF,” Saeed Javed, Media Director at the Finance Ministry, told Arab News without revealing further details.

Pakistan and the IMF will reach an agreement over a bailout soon, with a potential bailout size of about $12 billion, said FitchSolutions, a statistical rating organization headquartered in New York, in a statement issued last week.

However, Javed neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying “the volume of the loan from the IMF will become clear in the next few days.”

Pakistan has been negotiating a deal with the IMF since November last year to shore up the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves and avert the possibility of a balance-of-payments crisis. But the agreement is yet to be reached due to “tough economic conditions” the Fund may impose before it offers financial assistance.

“We expect to see a bailout package that focuses on fiscal consolidation, a review of monetary and exchange rate policy, financial reforms, and structural reforms, similar to measures implemented in the previous loan agreement,” the FitchSolutions said.

Hopes for the expected bailout package soared in the second week of February, when Prime Minister Imran Khan called on IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Dubai and they both agreed to “work together” on policy priorities and reforms to fix the country’s fledgling economy. But Finance Minister Asad Umar has repeatedly said that Pakistan would sign the financial deal with the IMF only if it “gets the loan on favorable conditions.”

Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan, senior economist and a member of the Economic Advisory Council of the government, said the prime minister and his team have been looking for a “good deal,” thinking that this is the way forward to “steer the economy out of crisis.”

“I personally feel the deal with the IMF will be signed in April this year and it will be applicable from July,” he told Arab News.

This will be the country’s 13th loan program since the late 1980, though the government claims that this will be the last one to support the economy. Until now, Islamabad has managed to successfully complete only one IMF program – meaning that it received all the disbursements as planned – that ended in 2016.

Muzamil Aslam, senior economist and former CEO of EFG-Hermes Pakistan, said the government’s urgency for the IMF package was somewhat reduced by $6 billion direct cash assistance ($3 billion each) from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and it had bought itself some “bargaining time” to deal with the Fund.

“If the government signs a financial package with the IMF by accepting all its terms and conditions, then Pakistan is likely to plunge deeper into the economic crisis instead of coming out of it,” he told Arab News.

SAMA to become Saudi Central Bank, with full independence

Updated 25 November 2020

SAMA to become Saudi Central Bank, with full independence

  • New central bank to be linked directly to king but its president independent of government
  • Bank’s core responsibilities to maintain monetary reserves, boost confidence, trust in financial sector

RIYADH: The Council of Ministers on Tuesday approved a new law which includes changing the name of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to the Saudi Central Bank.

Under the legislation, the new Saudi Central Bank will be linked directly to the monarch and will enjoy full financial and managerial independence.

The Saudi Central Bank Law set out three core objectives for the new institution namely, to maintain cash stability, boost confidence and trust in the financial sector, and support economic growth.

The new legislation states that the central bank is responsible for setting and managing monetary policy and it outlines the relationship between the bank, the government, and other international important organizations and bodies. It also sets a framework to govern the bank’s operations and decisions.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, an economic expert and member of the Shoura Council, said one of the important aspects of the Saudi Central Bank Law was that it was linked directly to the king.

“This enhances its full independence with respect to setting the monetary policy and the bank’s relationship with the government and global organizations,” he added.

The law states that the abbreviation SAMA, which was established in 1952, would remain unchanged due to its historical importance domestically and internationally.

“The fact that the bank will keep the SAMA abbreviation unchanged is important and reflects a wise decision because the abbreviation is widely-known,” Al-Buainain said.

While the SAMA acronym will remain, Hassan Alwatban, an economic consultant, outlined the differences between the monetary authority and the central bank.

For the central bank to perform its duties properly, he said it needed to be fully independent when it came to decision-making, especially decisions related to managing state funds.

Another difference was that the president of the central bank would not be under the state’s authority and their nomination would be made by a legislative authority. The government or state could not appoint or remove the president except by the most supreme judiciary authority.

Thirdly, he added, a government agency could not interfere in the bank’s affairs because the bank enjoyed full monetary power.

Alwatban told Arab News: “Therefore, changing the monetary authority to a central bank is healthy for the national economy.

“The tasks of the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for financial policies, will be set apart from the tasks of the central bank, which is responsible for setting the monetary policies. Before the change, the tasks of the Ministry of Finance and SAMA overlapped.

“Besides, the Ministry of Finance was in charge of the financial policy and the monetary policy at the same time, a fact that made SAMA focus on serving the banks’ interests more than focusing on serving the interests of citizens,” he added.