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IMF divided over request by Pakistan, other borrowers to suspend surcharges

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  • Argentina, Pakistan, others pushing IMF to drop or waive surcharges
  • US, Germany, Switzerland and other oppose change
  • IMF estimates surcharges will cost affected borrowers $4 billion

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board on Monday discussed the surcharges it collects from mostly middle- and lower-income countries on larger loans that are not repaid quickly, but failed to agree to launch a formal review.

Argentina, Pakistan and others are pushing the IMF to drop – or at least temporarily waive – the surcharges, which the IMF estimates will cost affected borrowers $4 billion on top of interest payments and fees from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of 2022.

The United States, Germany, Switzerland and other advanced economies oppose a change, arguing that the fund should not change its financing model at a time when the global economy is facing significant headwinds.

An IMF spokesperson said the board discussed potential changes to the policy during its regular review of the global lender’s precautionary balances, but failed to reach consensus on reviewing the policy.

“Overall, views on changes to the surcharge policy continued to diverge, including on the merits of a temporary waiver of surcharges,” the spokesperson said.

No details were provided, but the fund said it would publish a staff paper and a press release in coming days that would provide a fuller account of the board’s deliberations. No date was set for any further board discussion.

Kevin Gallagher, who heads the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University, said big shareholders should rethink their opposition, given the global economic outlook.

“This is the most urgent time to address a fundamentally flawed business model where the IMF is generating revenues by taxing those most in need,” Gallagher said.

But it was notable, he said, that the IMF’s shareholders had failed to outright reject a review.

“One silver lining is that the biggest shareholders … didn’t have enough strength to kill the proposal,” he said.

Stalemate persists between IMF and Pakistan 

Talks between Pakistan and IMF are at a stalemate with global lender pushing Islamabad on policies and reforms needed to keep the bailout programme’s targets on track and complete the pending ninth review.

“… a key purpose of program reviews in Pakistan, as in all program countries, is to evaluate both program performance to date, as well as, forward-looking, whether the program is on track or policy measures are needed to meet program targets, advance reform objectives, and maintain macroeconomic stability going forward,” Esther Perez Ruiz, IMF’s Resident Chief in Pakistan, said in a written reply.

An IMF review for the release of the next tranche under bailout funding has been pending since September. 

The broader agreement on the revised macroeconomic framework could pave the way for evolving consensus on a staff-level agreement for the completion of the 9th review under the $7 billion Extended Fund Facility.

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Moody’s says the IMF programme will increase Pakistan’s foreign financing.

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Moody’s, a reputable international rating agency, has stated that Pakistan’s chances of acquiring funding will increase as a result of the recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which offers dependable sources for that purpose from both friendly countries and international financial institutions.

According to a recent Moody’s analysis on Pakistan’s economy, social unrest and tensions could result from Pakistan’s ongoing inflation. The country’s economic reforms may be hampered by increased taxes and potential changes to the energy tariff, it continued.

Moody’s, on the other hand, agrees that the coalition government headed by Shehbaz Sharif of the PML-N is in danger of failing to secure an election mandate, which may potentially undermine the successful and long-lasting execution of economic reforms.

The government’s capacity to proceed with economic changes may be hampered by societal unrest and poor governance, according to Moody’s.

In order to appease the IMF by fulfilling a prerequisite for authorising a rescue package, the government raised the basic tariff on electricity, which coincided with the most recent increase in fuel prices announced on Monday. This report was released by Moody’s.

Food costs have increased in the nation, where the vast majority is experiencing an unprecedented crisis due to the high cost of living, following the government’s earlier presentation of a budget that included a large increase in income tax for the salaried classes and the implementation of GST on commodities like milk.

The most recent comments were made following Islamabad’s achievement of a staff-level agreement for a $7 billion contract that spans 37 months and is contingent upon final approval by the IMF Executive Board.

It states that Pakistan will need foreign financing totaling about $21 billion in 2024–2025 and $23 billion in 2025–2026, meaning that the country’s present $9.4 billion in reserves won’t be sufficient to cover its needs.

Therefore, according to Moody’s, Pakistan is in an alarming position with regard to its external debt, and the next three to five years will be extremely difficult for the formulation and implementation of policies.

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Base Of bilateral relations: China And Pakistan Reiterate Their Support For CPEC

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China-Pakistan economic corridor is a major project of the Belt and Road Initiative, and both countries have reiterated their commitment to it. It remains a fundamental aspect of their bilateral relations.

Vice Chairman Zhao Chenxin of the National Development and Reform Commission of China and Minister Ahsan Iqbal of Planning and Development met in Beijing, where Ahsan Iqbal made this assurance.

The summit made clear how committed China and Pakistan are to advancing their strategic cooperative partnership in all weather conditions.

The focus of the discussion was on how the CPEC was going, with both parties reviewing project development and discussing how the agreement made at the leadership level will lead to the launch of an enhanced version of the CPEC.

In order to improve trade, connectivity, and socioeconomic growth in the area, they emphasised the need of CPEC projects.

The Ml-I Project, the KKH realignment, and the Sukkur-Hyderabad motorway—the last remaining segment of the Karachi-Peshawar motorway network—were all to be expedited.

Expanding the partnership’s horizons to include technology, innovation, education, connectivity, and renewable energy sources was another topic of discussion.

Specifically in the special economic zones being built under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CPEX), Vice Chairman NDRC emphasised the possibility of China investing more in Pakistan.

In addition to expressing confidence in the ongoing success of the two nations’ collaboration, Zhao Chenxin reiterated China’s support for Pakistan’s development aspirations.

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Pakistani government raises petrol prices

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A recent announcement states that the price of petrol has increased by Rs 9.99 per litre, to Rs 275.60 per litre.

The cost of high-speed diesel has also increased significantly, rising by Rs 6.18 a litre. Diesel is now priced at Rs 283.63 a litre.

Furthermore, kerosene now costs Rs 0.83 more per gallon.

The cost of products and services is predicted to rise in response to the increase in petroleum prices, further taxing household budgets and jeopardizing the stability of the economy.

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