Interim regime committed to IMF programme: Dr Shamshad

ISLAMABAD-Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Caretaker Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, has said that amid growing international fiscal constraints, the country is exploring debt-for-nature-swap with global agencies to enhance its market competitiveness as foreign direct investment is harder to fetch in these testing times.
She was speaking at a high-level plenary titled: “Reforms for a Brighter Future” at the last day of 26th Sustainable Development Conference organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute here on Thursday. Dr Shamshad Akhtar said after months of hard work, the interim leadership has successfully reached a staff level agreement with IMF for a standby $3 billion loan grant. She added that the interim regime was committed to the IMF program which should be a homegrown agenda of Pakistan. “Marcoeconomic stability has become more difficult in the last decade due to delay in structural reforms, surge in global commodity prices, and tightening of financial restrictions,” she said. She also highlighted the country’s rising vulnerability to climate shocks that had increased manifolds. She expressed her optimism for the forthcoming COP-28 international climate moot and hoped to have a positive discourse at the forum.
Speaking at a roundtable titled: “Addressing Pakistan’s Inflation Woes,” Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, has said that the inflationary situation started with the Ukraine war as the price of oil and other commodities skyrocketed, and Pakistan cannot be singled out in this respect. He said normally our inflation stood at around 6% to 7% but during the past few years it touched unprecedented levels, which should be debated. He said middleman’s control has exponential impact on inflation because there is a big difference between wholesale market and the retail market.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director, said Pakistan’s economic problems have been diagnosed some 70 years ago and we all are aware of the problems and their solutions. He stressed the need to work out a mechanism to address all the challenges. He said the country is also showing a huge resilience after facing a plethora of crises with the hope of a better future. Keynote speaker, Dr Luis Felipe López-Calva, Global Director, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, The World Bank said to understand the prevailing crisis, the first thing is that the world has entered a structurally lower growth. In Pakistan, he said, the economic growth was insufficient to reduce poverty whereas the external elements or partners could not bring change in an economy. Najy Benhassine, the World Bank Country Director, said human capital crisis is a silent disaster that did make news headlines as 40% children under 5 years of age in Pakistan are stunted which is the most pressing challenge for the long-term growth of Pakistan. “Economic difficulties are not new for Pakistan but rather recurring as the global shocks, COVID-19 crisis and floods further aggravated the situation in Pakistan,” he added. He suggested prioritizing the issue by focusing child stunting reduction, quality of water and availability nexus, human capital crisis, developing private sector, the energy sector which is vital for RE transition and important for macroeconomic stability, water and agriculture nexus, low agriculture productivity and creating fiscal space because it will require huge finances. Speaking at a panel discussion titled: “The Governance Approach”, the former Advisor to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Husain said the continuity of reforms and policies needs to be ensured amid community and youth ownership to achieve the objective of improved governance in the country.
He said under the Civil Service Reforms, a six-pronged strategy focusing on aptitude, leadership, career planning and promotion, performance, incentives and direct retirement that helped in bringing a change in the conventional civil service to make it more proactive and in line with the developing world trends. Speaking at a podium discussion titled: “Ten Years of BRI: Lessons Learnt & Charting a Way Forward for Green Development”, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has got a fresh impetus after the recent visit of the Pakistan’s political and military leadership to China and new initiatives have also been taken under this mega project. He said despite the lack of governance, bureaucratic incompetencies, and inconsistencies in certain areas, our all-weather friend China is still willing to support Pakistan. Dr Abdul Qayyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director, said the government has not yet fully realized the true potential of CPEC. The government has introduced the transshipment policy after nine years of construction of Gwadar Port, which shows how serious we are,” he added.
“We need to get our house in order to get benefit of any cooperation or cooperation from our friendly country,” he said, adding that the government never negotiated and finalized the tariff of power generation plant under CPEC. Dr Suleri informed the audience that SDPI is working on climate smart agriculture project to enable the country’s agriculture sector to be more climate resilient. He said China imports $100 billion worth of soyabean annually and Pakistan could capture this huge market by producing the crop. He informed that in order to explore and tap the green opportunities under CPEC, SDPI has formed a 10-memebr steering committee (five members each from Pakistan and China). Wang Sita from Chinese Embassy said that CPEC is the landmark project of BRI under which 35$ billion of direct investment has so far been made in Pakistan that produced 36,000 jobs, generated more than 8000 megawatt of electricity and 886 kilometers of power transmission lines. Dr Zhang Jiangyu, Executive Director of BRI Development Institute, said Pakistan-China bilateral economic cooperation is going to turn into green cooperation.

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