Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

Special Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 
Saudi Arabia’s strides in technological innovation has placed it 48 among 132 featured economies on the Global Innovation Index 2023. Shutterstock
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Updated 12 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

Saudi Arabia’s tech landscape flourishes with innovative initiatives 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s strategic location, thriving economy, and strong government support have attracted a diverse range of funding partners keen on assisting startups and entrepreneurs.

The Kingdom, according to Houssem Jemili, partner at management consulting firm Bain and Co., has one of the highest technology spends in the Middle East and North Africa, approximately 2.5 times that of the next country, and is growing year-on-year. 

Speaking to Arab News, Jemili said: “Saudi Arabia has a mature and diverse set of funding partners — government entities and programs (e.g., Monsha’at), large investment funds, and venture capitalists that provide access to both direct and indirect funding to startups and entrepreneurs.”  

Highlighting the Kingdom’s emergence as a dynamic tech hub in the region, he added: “KSA has a large domestic captive audience (the largest in MENA) that demands technology products and services.”   

Talat Zaki Hafiz, a Saudi-based economist, told Arab News that the Kingdom’s rise as a tech hub in MENA was greatly influenced by its status as the largest economy in the region, accounting for over 30 percent of the its gross domestic product, and ranking 16th among the G20 countries. 

“The technology strategy of Saudi Arabia includes ambitious targets and action plans based on attracting leading international companies mainly specialized in advanced and emerging technologies to enable the Kingdom to develop mega tech projects,” he said. 

Global Innovation Index  




Global Innovation Index 2023 Launch Event. WIPO/Violaine

Saudi Arabia’s strides in technological innovation are underscored by its position on the Global Innovation Index 2023, where it ranks 48th among 132 featured economies. 

“It (Saudi Arabia) has certainly made improvements, from 51st and 66th (position) in 2022 and 2021 respectively,” Jemili explained. 

He went on to say that the Kingdom recognizes that innovation is a “key driver of economic development,” and efforts will result in significant improvements across innovation input sub-indices like human capital and infrastructure, as well as output sub-indices such as knowledge and technology outputs, and creative outputs of the Global Innovation Index. 

Within the high-income group economies, Saudi Arabia ranks 41st, further solidifying its status as a burgeoning tech hub in the region.  

Moreover, the Kingdom’s ranking fifth among the 18 economies in North Africa and West Asia highlights its growing influence as a beacon of innovation in the Middle East.  

Hafiz believes that since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, Saudi Arabia has been focusing on tech-related industries in general and the digital economy in particular.  

“Since the digital economy is becoming the new trend in the 21st century, especially in Saudi Arabia, where over 60 percent of its citizens are youth less than 35 years old, they heavily use the internet to purchase goods and services,” he said.  

The economist explained that statistics revealed the Kingdom is witnessing a significant increase in the size of e-commerce, with expectations to reach $15 billion in 2025 and online sales projected to reach 66 percent.  

Saudi Arabia’s increasing prominence in technological advancement and innovation localization was showcased at the LEAP conference held in Riyadh. The event, which concluded in early March with great success, included agreements worth over $12 billion.  

“LEAP has made a tremendous effort to act as a node of the technology and innovation ecosystem in KSA — a node that connects the ecosystem and brings all the players together, through building a community,” Jemili said. 

Strategic investments 

Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a digital powerhouse can be attributed to its strategic investments in research and development, supportive policies, and a thriving startup ecosystem.   

With initiatives such as Vision 2030 and the establishment of the Digital Government Authority, the Kingdom is laying the groundwork for a technologically advanced future.  




Houssem Jemili, Partner at Bain & Co. Supplied

According to Jemili, the presence of global technology giants in Saudi Arabia is a testimony to the growth of the technology and innovation landscape in the Kingdom.  

“Such players provide the necessary minimum infrastructure that startups and entrepreneurs need to succeed,” he added.  

Jemili further elaborated: “They provide a world-class physical and digital infrastructure, like software labs and production studios, and even cloud credits to enable innovation at scale. Such advanced offering helps startups accelerate their ideas from early-stage to large-scale commercialization.”  

Global tech giants are investing billions in Saudi Arabia, highlighting its attractiveness as an investment destination, with Microsoft investing $2.1 billion in a global super-scaler cloud and Oracle committing $1.5 billion to build a new cloud region in Riyadh, as earlier revealed by Minister of Communication and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha. 

Hafiz emphasized that the integration of technology in the Saudi traditional economy “is going so well.”  

“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is built on making significant changes in the Saudi economy not only to diversify its sector base but also to push for transformation to technology,” he added. 

Regulatory framework 

Saudi Arabia’s efforts to foster innovation extend to the regulatory realm, where the government has introduced initiatives such as regulatory sandboxes and fintech hubs.  

These initiatives provide a platform for startups and tech companies to test innovative products and services in a controlled environment, thereby facilitating compliance with regulatory requirements while fostering innovation.  

“Flow of and access to incentives is a big dimension that has helped Saudi Arabia drive its innovation landscape,” according to Jemili.  

He highlighted that the Kingdom has a rapidly evolving business environment that requires a structured regulatory system that is mature, growth-driven, and easy to navigate.  

“In addition, it is critical to enact clear and predictable regulations that enhance innovation, bring ease of doing business, and continue to build the trust of both the business community and investors,” he added.  

Jemili emphasized the importance of having a “phygital center of gravity” for the startup community, highlighting its critical role in providing firsthand ecosystem orientation and guidance to new entrepreneurs and foreign startups in the Kingdom.  

Phygital refers to a combined physical and digital center that serves as a pivotal hub for the startup community, offering both in-person and online resources, guidance, and orientation to new entrepreneurs and foreign startups.

With a diverse pool of founders and over 1,600 startups supported by a network of venture capital firms, Saudi Arabia is poised to become a global leader in technological innovation.   

Hafiz continued, emphasizing, “It is important to note that Saudi Arabia is the third worldwide and very advanced in digital industries, leader and ranked the first regionally according to the data of GOVTECH Maturity Index for 2022 issued by the World Bank Group.”   

He noted the government’s backing of advanced technologies in Saudi Arabia, which has driven significant progress toward Vision 2030’s goals by delivering high-quality digital services that bolster the national economy.  

Startup ecosystem  

Within the vibrant startup scene in Saudi Arabia, several companies have emerged as pioneers in innovation.  

Notable among them are startups enrolled in the Saudi Unicorns Program, exemplifying the Kingdom’s commitment to nurturing homegrown talent and fostering entrepreneurship.   

“Saudi Unicorns Program is a one-stop-shop solution to support and enable high-growth technology companies to reach the unicorn stage by providing an integrated set of services and offerings,” Jemili noted.   

The program provides unparalleled solutions to start-ups and entrepreneurs by providing access to connect with different stakeholders — international customers, talent, investors, and private sector, and experts for mentorship and guidance.   

He added that the objective of the program is in line with the overall Vision 2030, as it strives to increase the number of unicorns and create both direct and indirect impacts on the local GDP.  

“A differentiating aspect of Saudi Unicorns Program is its differentiated offerings based on the degree of readiness of the startups,” Jemili explained.  

Lean Tech, Mrsool, Quant, and Mozn are just a few examples of startups making waves in Saudi Arabia’s tech ecosystem.  

These companies represent the Kingdom’s vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, actively shaping its dynamic business landscape.  

With strategic investments, supportive policies, and a thriving startup ecosystem, the Kingdom is poised to lead the charge toward a digitally empowered future.  

By fostering collaboration, nurturing homegrown talent, and embracing emerging technologies, Saudi Arabia’s current momentum is promising for technology and innovation.   

Jemili cited the Magnitt report, stating that the Kingdom has emerged as the leading market for venture capital funding in the MENA region, attracting over $1.38 billion in investments in 2023. 

“This was the second year in a row that KSA has recorded a billion-dollar-plus figure in VC funding,” he said.  

Jemili gave examples of mega-rounds witnessed by Saudi-based platforms like Tabby and Tamara, which helped both companies secure unicorn status. “With continued efforts to improve livability aspects, improvements in ease of doing business, and continued growth and maturity of the funding institutions, KSA is on track for continued success.” 

As more of these elements come to life, the maturity of the ecosystems in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah can move from an early activation stage to a globalized stage.  

Hafiz concluded: “I don’t believe that the Kingdom is facing any pressing economic challenges to establish a tech ecosystem, simply because it is blessed with encouraging leadership.” 

He emphasized the encouragement to use technology at a large scale, which he believes has helped to “create an excellent ecosystem, especially when considering that more than 60 percent of the Saudi population are young, below 35 years old, and we are among the highest users of the internet in the Arab world and globally.” 


Nearly all Gazans in poverty, Palestinian Authority facing ‘imminent fiscal collapse’ - World Bank

Nearly all Gazans in poverty, Palestinian Authority facing ‘imminent fiscal collapse’ - World Bank
Updated 24 May 2024
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Nearly all Gazans in poverty, Palestinian Authority facing ‘imminent fiscal collapse’ - World Bank

Nearly all Gazans in poverty, Palestinian Authority facing ‘imminent fiscal collapse’ - World Bank

RIYADH: Nearly every Gazan is living in poverty as the Israel-Hamas war continues to have a “devastating impact” on the Palestinian economy, according to the World Bank.

An analysis by the organization sets out how the economic consequences of the conflict have spread beyond Gaza and into the West Bank, with widespread unemployment and underemployment combined with inflation causing a rapid decline in purchasing power for households in both areas.

Nearly half a million jobs across the territories have been lost since October 2023, and per capita gross domestic product declined by 12 percent in 2023.

Israel has bombarded the densely populated Gaza Strip following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israeli communities. Israel says Hamas killed some 1,400 people including children, and took more than 200 hostages, some of them infants and older adults.

The fiscal situation of the Palestinian Authority has dramatically worsened, according to the World Bank, with a financing gap expected to reach $1.2 billion heightening the risk of disorderly adjustments and a potential imminent fiscal collapse.

In May 2023, the World Bank forecast the Palestinian economy to grow about 3 percent by the end of the year, after a 4 percent post-COVID-19 boost in 2022.

That analysis has been completely reversed by the conflict, with the organization now forecasting the Palestinian economy will contract anywhere between 6.5 percent and 9.4 percent during 2024. 

“The northern governorates of Gaza are experiencing a full-blown famine, with food insecurity reaching catastrophic levels, particularly in the northern areas and extending southward,” said the World Bank’s latest report, adding: “At least one in four Gazan is experiencing catastrophic hunger, and 95 percent of the population is suffering from food insecurity.”

Most children in Gaza are at risk of “stunting” because of the famine, the analysis added.

Reflecting on the economic impact of the conflict, the report said the outlook of the Palestinian territories for the full year of 2024 “remains highly uncertain, depending on the severity and duration of the conflict, changes in Israeli policies in the West Bank, including those related to access to the Israeli labor market, and the outcome of the clearance revenue dispute.” 

The Palestinian Authority is facing a significant decrease in clearance revenue transfers and shrinking domestic resource mobilization, coupled with a rigid current expenditure envelope, the World Bank said.

“The PA’s financing gap after aid for 2023 reached $682 million or 3.9 percent of GDP, and the situation is expected to worsen further in 2024, with a potential financing gap of up to $1.2 billion. A focus on fiscal policies, especially those improving spending efficiency, particularly regarding the unsustainable wage bill and enhancing tax mobilization, must remain a top priority in the reform agenda,” said the report.

The World Bank argued that the banking sector across the territories is “well regulated” by the Palestine Monetary Authority, which has “steadily been building the capabilities and resilience of local banks.”

The report added: “Presently, the banking system is well capitalized, liquid, and compliant with the Capital Adequacy Requirements set by the PMA. At the same time, institutional and economic difficulties are tilting the risks upward for the financial sector. Actively avoiding further instability is crucial to allow the financial sector to maintain its established function as a stable pillar during periods of economic challenges.”


Startup Wrap – regional startup activity flourishes  

Startup Wrap – regional startup activity flourishes  
Updated 24 May 2024
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Startup Wrap – regional startup activity flourishes  

Startup Wrap – regional startup activity flourishes  

CAIRO: The startup ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa region saw a flurry of activity as venture investments and acquisitions bloom. 

Saudi Arabia-based Software-as-a-Service provider Merit has raised $12 million in its pre-series B funding round, led by Alistithmar Capital i-Cap and followed by existing series A investors Tech Invest Com and Hambro Perks Oryx Fund. 

Founded in 2016 by Julie Barbier-Leblan and Thrishan Padayachi, Merit assists businesses in increasing customer and employee engagement via a suite of cloud-based SaaS platforms, enterprise solutions, applications, and software.  

This new round will help Merit develop its technology to enhance customer engagement. In 2021, Merit raised $5 million in a series A round led by Saudi Arabia’s Impact46, along with Tech Invest Com, Arzan VC, Hambro Perks Oryx, and several regional angel investors. 

Riyad Capital launches 1957 Ventures to support digital transformation 

Riyad Capital, backed by Riyad Bank, has launched the 1957 Ventures investment fund to drive transformative growth in Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector. 

The fund aims to accelerate the Kingdom’s digital transformation by creating opportunities for innovative fintech business models. 

Abdullah Alshwer, CEO of Riyad Capital, stated, “The 1957 Ventures Fund embodies a forward-thinking financial vision aligned with the Kingdom’s ambitious digital transformation goals; this fund signifies a strategic investment in the future of Saudi fintech.”  

“Our institutional approach will unlock new levels of innovation, driving both sector growth and sustainable economic impact,” he added. 

Saudi logistics startup MDD closes $1.3m series A round 

Saudi Arabia-based logistics startup MDD has closed its series A round with $1.3 million in funding for a 5 percent stake with a valuation of $26 million. 

Founded in 2019, MDD provides supply chain solutions for businesses. 

Saudi startup Sorbet’s raises funding round from web3 VC Adverse 

Saudi web3 startup Sorbet raised an investment round from the Kingdom’s recently announced venture capital firm Adverse. 

Founded by Rami Djebari and Maher Ayari, Sorbet aims to simplify business processes for freelancers by cutting fees and intermediaries. 

“Receiving support from an experienced partner like Adverse will accelerate our development and enhance our market strategy. This collaboration is a milestone in breaking down financial barriers and enabling limitless growth opportunities for professionals in the region,” Djebari said. 

Egyptian fintech e-Finance acquires stakes in Al Ahly Momken and EasyCash 

Egypt-based fintech e-Finance for Digital and Financial Investments has acquired a 25 percent stake in Al Ahly Momken and a 13 percent stake in EasyCash for Digital Payments for an undisclosed deal value. 

Founded in 2005, e-Finance is involved in the development of digital payment infrastructure and digital space to help achieve social development goals.  

Al Ahly Momken, based in Egypt, is a digital payment provider, serving over 90,000 merchants and more than 5 million customers.  

Meanwhile, EasyCash, also based in the north African country, provides payment services for individuals, merchants, and businesses. 

These acquisitions align with e-finance’s strategy to expand its footprint in the digital payments market and support Egypt’s Vision 2030 for digital transformation. 

Egypt’s OneOrder closes $16m series A round 

Egypt-based logistics startup OneOrder has raised $16 million in a series A round in a mix of equity and debt, led by Delivery Hero Ventures, with participation from Norrsken22 and existing investors, Nclude and A15. 

Founded in 2022 by Tamer Amer and Karim Maurice, OneOrder is a tech-enabled supplier and wholesale distributor that offers the food and beverages industry a supply of quality goods with embedded financing.  

The company plans to expand into the Gulf Cooperation Council region by the fourth quarter of 2024. In December 2022, OneOrder closed a seed round at $3 million. 

Jordan’s fintech liwwa takes $5m loan 

Jordan-based fintech liwwa has secured a $5 million loan from the US International Development Finance Corp.. 

Founded in 2013 by Ahmed Moor and Samer Atiani, liwwa is a peer-to-peer lending network that connects investors and small businesses through smart business loans.  

The latest cash influx will enable liwwa to finance further small and medium sized enterprises across various sectors. Liwwa’s last funding round was in 2022, when it raised $18.5 million in a pre-series B round of equity and debt. 

Egyptian investment bank EFG Hermes acquires stake in Danish wealth management firm 

Egypt’s investment bank, EFG Hermes, a subsidiary of EFG Holding, has acquired a minority stake in the Danish digital wealth manager Kenzi Wealth for an unknown value. 

The new partnership will enhance EFG Hermes’ digitalization vision. By combining EFG Hermes’ client network and Kenzi Wealth’s AI tools, EFG Hermes will be able to offer its clients a more efficient and personalized investment experience.  

Founded in 2021 by Mohamed El-Masri, Kenzi Wealth specializes in tailoring investment features to meet the needs of investors. 

Mohamed El-Masri, founder of Kenzi Wealth. Supplied

UAE’s Plain Tiger raises funding round 

UAE-based business-to-business marketplace Plain Tiger has raised an investment from UAE’s venture capital firm AngelSpark for an undisclosed amount. 

Founded in 2021 by Alexandra Polson and Oliver Baillie, Plain Tiger connects hotels with eco-friendly suppliers, saving them time, money, and reducing their environmental impact.  

The investment is part of Plain Tiger’s $1.5 million seed round, which will be used to expand into Saudi Arabia and accelerate more hotels’ pathway to net zero procurement. 

UAE’s Revent closes $900k in pre-seed round 

UAE-based electronics marketplace Revent has raised $900,000 in a pre-seed round, provided by Techstars and a group of angel investors. 

Founded in 2022 by Baldeep Singh and Dhananjay Choubey, Revent offers SMEs pre-owned devices on monthly subscriptions across the UAE and Saudi Arabia.  

The funds will be used to build a self-service platform for businesses, along with growing Revent’s client base in Saudi Arabia. 

UAE’s proptech Keyper closes $4m equity round 

UAE-based proptech Keyper has raised $4 million in equity in a pre-series A round, led by BECO Capital and Middle East Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors Vivium Holding, Jabbar Group, Signature Developers, and new investors Annex Investments, Pin Investment, and Al Qahtani Investment, among other angels. 

The company has also received an additional $30 million in Shariah-compliant sukuk financing from global asset manager Franklin Templeton Investments Ltd., bringing its cumulative capital raised to-date to over $40 million.  

Founded by Omar Abu Innab and Walid Shihabi in 2022, Keyper offers a property management platform where tenants can track their expenses and charge online, and investors get real estate portfolios and access to data-driven insights.  

Keyper will invest the fresh funds into digitizing the rental experience in the UAE and scaling its innovative rent now, pay later solution. Last October, Keyper raised a $6.5 million seed round. 

UAE’s proptech Huspy raises investment round 

The app of proptech firm Huspy. Supplied

UAE-based property technology firm Huspy has raised a fresh investment round led by Balderton Capital, with further participation from existing investor Fifth Wall, amongst other investors. 

Founded in 2020 by Jad Antoun and Khalid Ashmawy, Huspy facilitates the home buying and financing process through its online marketplace.  

The company claims that this round of funding is at a higher valuation than the $37 million series A raised in 2022. The newly acquired capital will be deployed to build a super app for real estate. 

Egypt’s proptech Birdnest raises pre-series A round 

Egypt-based proptech Birdnest has closed an undisclosed pre-series A funding round for a 20 percent stake in the company, led by Beltone Venture Capital and CI Venture Capital. 

Founded in 2020 by Mostafa El-Nahawy and Ahmed Fadda, Birdnest offers furnishing services and rental management solutions to ensure maximum returns for real estate investors and value for tenants.  

The funds are earmarked for the expansion of the regional quality team, the enhancement of proprietary technologies, and marketing initiatives to reinforce Birdnest’s market position.


Oil Updates – crude steady as investors weigh US rate fears, firmer seasonal demand

Oil Updates – crude steady as investors weigh US rate fears, firmer seasonal demand
Updated 24 May 2024
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Oil Updates – crude steady as investors weigh US rate fears, firmer seasonal demand

Oil Updates – crude steady as investors weigh US rate fears, firmer seasonal demand

SINGAPORE: Oil prices were stable on Friday as investors considered the latest comments from the US Federal Reserve on interest rates amid sticky inflation, while signs of firming seasonal US fuel demand lent support, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures rose 2 cents at $81.38 a barrel at 6:15 a.m. Saudi time, while US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 1 cent at $76.86.

Both benchmarks settled at multi-month lows on Thursday, with Brent crude futures closing at their weakest point since January and US crude futures hitting a three-month low.

Brent futures were headed for weekly declines of more than 3 percent, while WTI futures were poised for a slide of nearly 4 percent from last week as ongoing macroeconomic constraints in the US held prices in the balance.

“The sore demand sentiment owing to the hawkish Fed outlook at rates and the backdrop of ‘possibly higher-for-longer rates’ weighed significantly on oil prices this week,” said Priyanka Sachdeva, a senior market analyst at Phillip Nova.

Minutes released on Wednesday from the Fed’s latest policy meeting showed policymakers questioning whether current interest rates are high enough to tame stubborn inflation.

Some officials said they would be willing to hike borrowing costs again if inflation surged. However, Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers have since said they feel further rate hikes are unlikely.

Higher rates could slow economic growth and crimp fuel demand.

Meanwhile, strengthening US gasoline demand was helping to stabilize prices ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, which is considered the start of the US summer driving season.

Gasoline demand in the US reached its highest level since November, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. That helped support the market as US drivers account for around a tenth of global oil demand, “making the upcoming driving season a pillar of the recovery in global demand growth,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

All eyes are now on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, set to meet on June 1, where they are expected to discuss whether to extend voluntary oil output cuts of 2.2 million barrels per day.

“The market is also tentative about taking an aggressive positioning ahead of next week’s OPEC meeting, where supply policy will be discussed,” ANZ analysts added. 


Oil creeps back up after three days of losses

Oil creeps back up after three days of losses
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oil creeps back up after three days of losses

Oil creeps back up after three days of losses

Oil prices crept up on Thursday, clawing back some of the previous three days’ losses.

The gains were made despite the US Federal Reserve entertaining a further tightening of interest rates if inflation remains sticky, a move that could hurt oil demand.
Brent crude futures were up 92 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $82.82 a barrel by 1317 GMT. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were 97 cents, or 1.3 percent, higher at $78.54. Both benchmarks fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday for their third straight day of losses.

Saudi crude exports
Saudi Arabia’s crude exports reached 6.41 million barrels per day in March, according to an analysis from the Joint Organizations Data Initiative.
This figure increased by 96,000 bpd, or 1.52 percent, compared to the previous month, marking a nine-month high. Furthermore, the data indicated that the Kingdom’s crude production fell to 8.97 million bpd, reflecting a monthly decrease of 0.42 percent.
This can be linked to the voluntary oil production cuts adopted by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+. Saudi Arabia announced in March the extension of its 1 million bpd cut, initially implemented in July 2023, until the end of the second quarter of 2024.
The Ministry of Energy said that the Kingdom’s production will be approximately 9 million bpd until the end of June.
Meanwhile, refinery crude output, representing the processed volume of crude oil yielding gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil, fell by 4 percent compared to the previous month, reaching 2.56 million bpd, according to JODI data.

 

 


IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official

IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official
Updated 23 May 2024
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IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official

IMF demands Pakistan secure parliamentary approval on reforms for loan agreement— official
  • Government will present “prior actions” needed to secure IMF loan in federal budget next month, says finance ministry official 
  • Leading economist says Pakistan left with no option but to secure IMF bailout to meet external financing needs of $80 billion 

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked Pakistan to seek parliamentary approval on major economic reforms related to the energy, power, tax sectors and on the privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) before starting formal talks for another loan program, a finance ministry official said on Thursday. 

Facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, Pakistan last month completed a short-term $3 billion IMF program that helped stave off a sovereign default. However, the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stressed the need for a fresh, longer-term program with the global lender. 

An IMF mission reached Islamabad last week to negotiate with Pakistani authorities for a fresh bailout program, holding talks with officials on reforms in key economic sectors. The mission is wrapping up its visit today, Thursday, without reaching any staff-level agreement with Islamabad. 

The government would present the economic reforms demanded by IMF or “prior actions” in parliament in the Finance Bill 2024-25 likely to be presented on June 7, the finance ministry official with knowledge of the negotiations, said on condition of anonymity. 

“The IMF has suggested authorities to get parliamentary approval for the new loan program’s targets and conditions before initiation of the formal talks,” the official told Arab News. 

“In fact, these are the prior actions that Pakistan is required to take care of before reaching a staff-level agreement with the Fund for the new bailout package.”

The international lender has urged Islamabad to overhaul its SOEs and introduce tax, energy and power reforms. Pakistan has had to take painful measures in line with the IMF’s demands since 2022, which included hiking fuel and food prices. 

The finance ministry official said the government intends to introduce key reforms in the energy and power sectors in line with the IMF’s demands, besides broadening the tax base through progressive initiatives. 

“The government will take all parliamentary parties into confidence over the digitalization of the Federal Board of Revenue and the privatization of the SOEs,” he added. 

Sajid Amin, a senior economist and deputy executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), said the government had “no option but to secure the IMF loan program.” He said the IMF’s program was critical in helping Pakistan meet its external financing needs of around $80 billion in the next three years. 

“The IMF wants political ownership of the loan program and that’s why it is pushing the government to get all the targets and conditions approved by the parliament,” Amin told Arab News.

“The biggest challenge for the government is to convince the coalition partners and opposition over its reforms agenda to secure the IMF loan,” he said. 

Amin warned the upcoming IMF program would be the “toughest” one for the government as it would not be easy for it to complete it.