The IMF tranche has been on the negotiating table since February, with progress contingent on strict measures required by the programme. Despite the government’s insistence that a deal will be unlocked soon, there have been delays, and the burden of high inflation and interest rates, import barriers, and low foreign exchange reserves has been tough.
The fund now acknowledges these challenges but stresses that the trust deficit between the two sides is the reason for the delay. Discussions are ongoing between IMF staff on policies to complete the review, and it is good that Pakistan’s commitments are being acknowledged. However, without a proper timeline for fund release, this means added stress for the nation. While Pakistan receives financing from other institutions, it has been abundantly clear that the release of funds is dependent on assurances, which are currently unclear.
Pakistan has been struggling not only with unlocking this deal but also in persuading other state funds. Convincing Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries has been difficult, and delays in decision making by the government have made matters worse. While China has been helpful, their lending is not enough to meet ends. The delay in the IMF fund has eroded reserves, slowed down industries, and led to a dollar liquidity crunch.
To move forward, we need to give assurances, and it seems that relief is far-fetched. Against this backdrop, the decision by Islamabad to give a petrol subsidy has made matters worse, as the IMF already had doubts about Islamabad’s ability to raise commercial debt. Overall, Pakistan has received sizable foreign loans, but it seems that they are not sufficient to keep the country afloat until June of this year. If debts are not rolled over and further loans are not received, the country will be forced to default.