Fuel subsidy scheme needs to be agreed before loan deal: IMF official

ISLAMABAD    -    A long-awaited loan agreement between Pa­kistan and the Interna­tional Monetary Fund (IMF) will be signed once a few remaining points, including a proposed fuel pricing scheme, are set­tled, an IMF official con­firmed on Friday.

The coalition gov­ernment and IMF have been negotiating since early February on an agreement that would release $1.1 billion to the cash-strapped country of 220 million people.

The latest issue is a plan, announced by Prime Minister Sheh­baz Sharif last week, to charge affluent con­sumers more for fuel, with the money raised used to subsidise prices for the poor, who have been hit hard by infla­tion, which in February was at its highest in 50 years. Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik told the me­dia on Thursday last that his ministry had been given six weeks to work out the fuel pricing plan. But the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said the government did not consult the fund about the fuel pricing scheme. Ruiz, in a message to the media, confirmed a media report that a staff-level agreement would be signed once a few remaining points, includ­ing the fuel scheme, were settled. She added that the Fund would ask the govern­ment for more details about the fuel proposal, includ­ing how it would be imple­mented and what protec­tion would be put in place to prevent abuse. The pe­troleum and finance min­istries did not immediately respond to a media request for comment.

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