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

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

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.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: A mixed week for oil with investors regaining confidence

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: A mixed week for oil with investors regaining confidence
Updated 17 January 2021

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: A mixed week for oil with investors regaining confidence

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: A mixed week for oil with investors regaining confidence
  • For 2021, OPEC forecast global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million bpd

It was a very mixed week, with oil prices remaining relatively steady despite mixed bearish developments. The commodity market is seeing renewed confidence from investors who have pushed oil prices more than 40 percent since the end of October 2020 after a series of coronavirus vaccine breakthroughs, which raised expectations for a sustained recovery in oil consumption.

On the week closing, Brent crude price made the first weekly decline in three weeks when it fell to $55.10 per barrel. The WTI ended the week slightly up at $52.36 per barrel. The Brent crude weekly price drop came amid the highest increase in COVID-19 cases in China in more than 10 months, which have led to isolation measures and weighed on oil market sentiment.

This week bearish news came mostly from China (the largest oil importer) after its crude oil imports slumped to 9.1 million barrels per day (bpd) in December 2020, from 11.1 million bpd in November 2020. That is the lowest oil import level in 27 months.

The US is planning a stimulus package that some hope will revive its economy and help oil market recovery. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported the latest US crude inventories were lower for the fifth straight week, dropping by 3.2 million barrels. The EIA also surprised the market with its pessimistic forecast for US crude oil production to average 11.1 million bpd in 2021, down by 200,000 bpd from the 2020 average production level.

On the other hand, the OPEC monthly oil market report gave an optimistic oil supply outlook for US shale oil in 2021. With oil prices increasing, OPEC expects oil output to recover more in the second half of 2021 but this is very unlikely to hamper OPEC+ efforts to rebalance if oil demand goes to pre-pandemic levels.

The OPEC monthly report shows total commercial oil stocks for the OECD were at 163.1 million barrels above the latest five-year average for November 2020, which is the latest available data.

OPEC left its forecast for world oil demand unchanged, which has declined by 9.8 million bpd to an average of 90 million bpd in 2020. For 2021, OPEC forecast global oil demand to increase by 5.9 million bpd to average 95 million bpd.

OPEC reported mixed results for global refining margins in December 2020, slightly improving in the US but weaker in Europe. The surge in crude oil prices weighed further on Asian refining economics after returning from the autumn peak maintenance season. That contributed to a slight rise in available spare capacity as it awaits the right economic incentives.

OPEC reported US refinery use rates increased in December 2020 to average 79.14 percent while European refinery use averaged 65.32 percent. In selected Asia countries — China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea — refinery use rates increased, averaging 89.83 percent in December, corresponding to a throughput of 25.52 million bpd.

• Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq