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Saturday, April 1, 2023

IMF program and SBP amendment open to be reviewed, Minister

Speaking at his first conference since becoming finance minister, Hammad Azhar said that the SBP amendments and the IMF agreements are always open to review if the government wants.

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A day after lending $2.5 billion worth of international bonds and receiving $500 million tranche from the International Monetary Fund, newly appointed Finance Minister Hammad Azhar on Wednesday told that the IMF program and the State Bank Amendment Bill are both open to being reviewed with the government’s discretion.

“We are taking the SBP law to parliament with an open mind and are ready to adopt recommendations for its improvement,” the Finance Minister said.

He said that Pakistan’s future is linked to the success of the economy of the country.

Mr. Azhar said that the government will keep an “open mind’ to present the bill to the parliament, and will accept the recommendation.

Read More: Investors show confidence, invest $2.5 billion in Pakistani bonds

According to the minister, the matter was misrepresented in front of the people, forgoing the fact that the central bank had always been autonomous, and the autonomy was strengthened under the IMF conditions.

In the light of the debate in parliament, the bill would be reviewed in case recommendations for improvements emerged, he said.

Azhar dodged the question when he was asked whether the government would make the IMF technical mission’s report public to nullify the allegations by critics that some of the drastic amendments were not proposed by the IMF and instead its name was used by the vested interests.

On the sidelines of the news conference, the minister said the government could also review the IMF program. When asked if the design of the program could also be changed given its harsh conditions, he said the government always had the powers to review the program.

Mr. Azhar said discussions with the IMF were continuing and he was in contact with the Fund. The $500m tranche from the IMF had already been received, which would be followed by another $2.5bn in a few days raised through international bonds. He added that the tranche and the new money borrowed by the lending of bonds in the international market would stabilize the market.

Talking about FATF, he said the three remaining action plans would be covered by June, and then the country would go to the body.

Read More: Government rebuts the arguments against latest SBP amendment

The minister said that during the tenure of his predecessor, the current account deficit turned into surplus and the primary budget was also in surplus. He added that the foreign exchange reserves increased by $9 billion.

Azhar said that the government raised $2.5 billion in debt at competitive prices and the rates were better than the ones paid by other countries of similar credit ratings. He said that the Sukuk bonds will also be floated but the date has not been finalized yet.