Pakistan team to hold talks with IMF, US officials this week


A high-level Pakistani delegation will travel to Washington this week for talks with IMF and US officials on the country’s struggling economy, officials said Monday.

The troubled nuclear-armed state, heading for a general election on May 11, has seen its foreign exchange reserves dwindle and currency slide and has been expected to seek a fresh bailout package from the IMF.

The IMF bailed Pakistan out in November 2008 with an $11.3 billion loan package to stave off a balance of payments crisis, but Pakistan abandoned the deal in 2011, refusing to carry out strict financial reforms.

The April 17-22 visit will be led by the prime minister’s advisor on finance, Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, who is the de facto finance minister in the caretaker set-up running Pakistan before the election.

As a World Bank and IMF member, Pakistan’s participation is “mandatory” but the delegation will use the opportunity to discuss the country’s economy with their officials in Washington, a finance ministry spokesman said.

“We will engage with them and update them on macroeconomic data,” he said, though he refused to comment on local media reports saying the team would seek a new IMF package.

The team will also meet State Department officials in Washington to discuss payments of the Coalition Support Fund, money paid by the US to compensate Pakistan for its fight against Islamist militants.

Islamabad has paid back more than $2 billion in loans to the IMF, but analysts say the repayments strain the rupee and drain reserves, which neither remittances nor Coalition Support Fund payments can make up for.

The IMF has urged Pakistan to reduce its large budget deficit to bolster the struggling economy.

Pakistan’s growth remains too weak, underlying inflation is high and the trade balance is heading in the wrong direction, the IMF said in a statement in November.