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Next IMF loan will be 'the last': Pakistan finance minister

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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Islamabad , Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistan's finance minister promised Saturday to end the country's reliance on International Monetary Fund bailouts to shore up its shaky economy, as officials prepare to negotiate a new loan.

Asad Umar's pledge comes days after Pakistan's central bank warned inflation could double in the coming year — hitting 7.5 per cent — while the country's growth target rate of 6.2 per cent would likely be missed.

“This will be the 13th and the last IMF programme,” Umar said during a speech at the Karachi Stock Exchange.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's administration has sent mixed messages over whether Pakistan will enter another IMF programme, with the former cricketer suggesting this week that going to the fund may not be necessary.

But Umar spoke in grave terms of the country's balance of payment crisis, which has sparked a depreciation of the rupee and sent stocks tumbling.

“We are heading towards bankruptcy very fast. We have to save the 210 million Pakistanis,” Umar added.

An IMF team is set to arrive in Pakistan in early November to begin negotiations.

Similar vows to end reliance on IMF loans have been made by past governments including former premier Nawaz Sharif's administration, which received a $6.6-billion loan to tackle a similar crisis in 2013.

Khan's new administration took office in August vowing to weigh up whether to seek an IMF bailout as it sought other avenues of financing, including from “friendly” countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

But aid has been in short supply and economists' warnings have grown urgent.

The government also announced this week that Khan would attend a controversial Saudi Arabian investment summit in the coming days.

The meeting has been shunned by leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul — a scandal that has tipped Riyadh into a diplomatic crisis.

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