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‘Hard to imagine buying Russian oil’: Miftah Ismail says in CNN interview

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  • Miftah says Russia neither offered oil nor responded to former govt’s requests.
  • Says incumbent govt asked Russia and Ukraine, whoever can, to sell wheat to Pakistan.
  • Says impossible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil at this point.

KARACHI: Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Tuesday said that Western sanctions have made importing oil from Moscow impossible despite the Pakistani government’s request to buy wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

“Russia has not offered us any oil either. It is difficult for me to imagine buying Russian oil,” Miftah said in a conversation with CNN.

The minister said that as Russia is facing sanctions, it hasn’t responded to the previous government’s letter seeking imports. Regardless of this, the incumbent government has again asked both Moscow and Ukraine, whoever can, to export wheat to Pakistan.

“We would be happy to buy wheat from them,” he added.

Miftah further stated that Pakistan would surely consider if Russia offers oil trade at cheaper rates as there are no restrictions on buying the supply.

He said, however, it would be not possible for Pakistani banks to open LCs or arrange to buy Russian oil at this point.

Refuting former prime minister Imran Khan’s claims, Ismail said that Russia has not offered a 30% discount on oil or wheat.

“Let’s be clear. I don’t know where Khan gets these numbers from.

“Khan just makes it up as he goes along. He is the guy who was saying we (PDM) were brought in through an American conspiracy. And now he has come up with this new thing. If Russia was selling him cheap wheat and oil then why didn’t he buy it. He did not.”

He pointed out that the incumbent government is “at least” trying to initiate talks for wheat import because food is not under sanctions, unlike oil.

To a query regarding Pakistan’s negotiations with IMF, Ismail said, the government just finished a round of talks with the IMF in Doha.

“In particular, the IMF is looking to the budget I am going to present before the parliament in the early part of June. After that I am hoping we will reach a staff-level agreement,” he added

“What the IMF is looking for us to do is reverse the subsidies on oil, petrol and diesel in particular, that the previous government had given. It’s also looking for me to reverse some power sector or electricity tariff subsidies. These subsidies were introduced by the previous government in contravention with its own agreement with the IMF. I am pretty confident we should be able to sign an agreement with the fund, but there would be some austerity measures and some increase in taxation.”

He said the previous government in its waning days did a few things to violate agreements with the IMF, including giving unsustainably high subsidies on petrol and diesel and also on power.

“Khan knew it could not be sustained. And when we came to power he started going from city to city trying to rally the people and coming up with these theories, conspiracies and all the stuff and building a political pressure on us. That’s why it was difficult, but we finally took the plunge,” Ismail said.

In response to what Miftah said, former Human Rights minister and PTI leader Shireen Mazari said that its only the “fear of US” that is stopping the finance minister from buying Russian oil as there are “no sanctions” on Russian oil import.

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Pakistan receives a $2 billion loan from China, according to the finance minister

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The $2 billion loan was one year ahead of schedule and became due in March. According to reports, Beijing had informed Islamabad of the decision.

The International Monetary Fund granted Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy a $3 billion standby arrangement last summer, but the country is still battling to recover from the financial crisis.

According to ratings firm Fitch, one of the top concerns confronting the next administration would be obtaining funding from bilateral and multilateral partners due to Pakistan’s precarious foreign situation, as was stated last week.

This event occurs one month after Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, the acting prime minister, asked for a $2 billion loan to be rolled over for a year in a letter to his Chinese counterpart.

In his letter, Kakar also expressed gratitude for China’s efforts to lessen Pakistan’s load

of foreign payments.

It is to be noted that Pakistan acquired safe deposits of $4 billion from China to address the balance of payments issue.

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“Ready to work with Pakistan’s new government,” the IMF said.

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In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

In response to the former premier’s request, IMF Director of Communications Julie Kozak stated, “I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments,” during a news conference.

She continued by saying that they “look forward to working on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens with the new government.”

In addition to stating that the plan is “supporting the authority’s efforts to stabilise the economy and to, of course, with a strong focus on protecting the most vulnerable,” Kozack said the lender increased the total disbursements under the Standby Arrangement (SBA) to $1.9 billion.

This has been accomplished by closely adhering to budgetary constraints and safeguarding the social safety net. In order to keep foreign exchange reserves growing and rein in inflation, a strict monetary policy stance has been maintained, the speaker stated.

The PTI founding chairman decided to write a letter to the international lender, asking it to demand an audit of the election held on February 8 before it proceeds with discussions with Islamabad for a new loan programme. This move prompted the IMF to release its statement.

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In a new IMF agreement, Pakistan would “raise” the FBR tax-to-GDP ratio to 15%.

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The state bank reserves will be maintained at a level equivalent to three months’ worth of import bills, according to sources in the Finance Ministry.

According to sources, the ministry has also set a goal to maintain the primary balance surplus and reduce the current account deficit.

The ministry insisted that once the existing agreement expires, a new one would be negotiated with the IMF, and that the IMF will also be guaranteed that the requirements will be implemented prior to the agreement being finalised.

The founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) demanded that an audit of the election results be conducted before the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved any additional loans for Islamabad. However, the IMF showed earlier today that it was eager to cooperate with the new administration in Pakistan by disregarding the demand.

According to Bloomberg News yesterday, Pakistan is to apply for a fresh $6 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to assist the next government in paying off billions of dollars in debt that comes due this year.

According to the article, the nation would attempt to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, and it was anticipated that discussions with the international lender would begin in March or April.

Thanks to a short-term IMF bailout, Pakistan avoided defaulting last summer. However, the plan expires next month, and the next administration will need to negotiate a long-term deal to keep the $350 billion economy steady.

The IMF forced the South Asian country to enact a number of reforms prior to the rescue, including raising its benchmark interest rate, changing its budget, and raising the cost of natural gas and electricity.

According to a fund spokeswoman, the IMF staff is still in communication with authorities on the necessary longer-term reform initiatives. The fund is also prepared to assist the post-election government in addressing Pakistan’s ongoing issues by means of a new arrangement, should that request be made.

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