Pakistan will unwillingly accept strict conditions of IMF deal: PM Sharif

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Pakistan has to unwillingly accept the strict conditions of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a lifeline for an economy in turmoil, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday.

Sharif was speaking to top security officials at his office in Islamabad in a meeting that was telecast live.

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“We have to accept unwillingly the strict conditions for the IMF deal,” he said, adding that an accord was still a “week, 10 days” away.

Pakistani authorities have been negotiating with the IMF since early February over policy framework issues and are hoping to sign a staff-level agreement that will pave the way for more inflows from other bilateral and multilateral lenders.

Once the deal is signed, the lender will disburse a tranche of more than $1 billion from the $6.5 billion bailout agreed to in 2019.

Pakistan has already taken a string of measures, including adopting a market-based exchange rate; a hike in fuel and power tariffs; the withdrawal of subsidies, and more taxation to generate revenue to bridge the fiscal deficit.

Officials say the lender is still negotiating with Islamabad over power sector debt, as well as a potential rise in the policy rate, which currently stands at 17 percent.

The strict measures are likely to further cool the economy and stoke inflation, which stood at 27.50 percent in January.

The South Asian country’s economy has been in turmoil, and desperately needs external financing, with its foreign exchange reserves dipping to around $3 billion, barely enough for three weeks’ worth of imports.

A “friendly country” is also waiting for the deal to be confirmed before extending support to Pakistan, Sharif said, without elaborating.

Longtime ally China this week announced refinancing of $700 million, according to Pakistan’s finance ministry.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday said Pakistan’s central bank has received the money. “Thank God,” he said in a tweet.

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