An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team which visited Pakistan recently has called for a further hike in gas and power tariffs.
The IMF’s end-of-mission statement released Thursday states, “Pakistan is facing an increasingly difficult economic situation, with high fiscal and current account deficits and low international reserves.”
“This mostly reflects the legacy of an overvalued exchange rate, loose fiscal policy and accommodative monetary policy. The fast rise in international oil prices, normalisation of US monetary policy, and tightening financial conditions for emerging markets are adding to this difficult picture. In this environment, economic growth will likely slow significantly, and inflation will rise,” the report added.
An IMF team led by Harald Finger visited Islamabad from September 27 to October 4 to discuss Pakistan’s economic situation and exchange views on necessary policies for economic stabilisation and sustainable and inclusive growth.
At the end of the visit, Finger “welcomed the policy measures implemented since last December” which include 18 per cent cumulative depreciation of the rupee, interest rate increases of cumulatively 275 bps, fiscal consolidation through the budget supplement proposed by the minister of finance, a large increase in gas tariffs closer to cost recovery levels, and the proposed increase in electricity tariffs.
“These measures are necessary steps that go in the right direction,” the IMF mission head said.
“Additional decisive policy action, anchored in a comprehensive strategy, and significant external financing will be needed in the near term,” he stressed.
The IMF team further said that policies should include more exchange rate flexibility and monetary policy tightening, further fiscal adjustment anchored in a medium-term consolidation strategy, and strengthening the performance of key public enterprises together with further increases in gas and power tariffs.
“Together, these steps would help reduce current account pressures and improve debt sustainability. Importantly, to protect the more vulnerable segments of society, there is a need to further strengthen social protection through the Benazir Income Support Program. These policies will help stabilise the economy and lay the foundations for sustainable and inclusive growth,” the team explained.
Once stabilisation is beginning to take hold, the focus should increasingly shift to reforms to foster sustained and inclusive growth and strengthen key institutions, it added.
“Priority areas include modernising the tax system and public financial management, strengthening fiscal federalism arrangements, improving governance and eliminating losses of public enterprises, enhancing the SBP’s autonomy, intensifying AML/CFT efforts, improving the business climate and anti-corruption efforts, and fostering the economic inclusion of the poor, youth, and women,” the team said in its report.
The IMF team said it was grateful to the authorities for open and constructive discussions.
During their visit, the team met with Finance Minister Asad Umar,Minister of Planning Khusro Bakhtiar, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Institutional Reforms and Austerity Ishrat Hussain, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa, Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, FBR Chairman Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, other senior officials, and representatives of the private sector and development partners.