ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Miftah Ismail on Wednesday said that international Monetary Fund (IMF) would approve the loan tranche for Pakistan in the earlier part of the next month (August), as the government has met all prior actions.

Addressing a seminar here, finance minister said that IMF’s Executive Board would likely to meet in later part of the August due to their holidays. However, the government is hoping that the Board would meet in earlier part to approve loan tranche for Pakistan. He once again clarified that the government has averted default and our priority at the moment is keep the country on the straight path of stability. He explained that the government has met all prior conditions of the IMF including increasing electricity and imposing petroleum levy on oil products, signing MoUs with the provinces and passage of the budget.

Miftah Ismail said that law on anti-corruption was not prior actions of the IMF but it was a structure benchmark. The government would form a high level commission on it, which would comprise of experts from the two least corrupt countries of the world, Singapore and New Zealand, along with some local experts. He said Pakistan will get about $4 billion from the IMF, which has extended its loan programme for Pakistan for next one year. He informed that IMF is projecting $4 billion financing gap for Pakistan. However, the government would bridge the gap with the help of friendly countries.

Finance minister said that some friendly countries would invest in government’s shares, which are already traded in the Karachi Stock Exchange.  He clarified that “we are not selling the ownership and the management stakes of these companies.”  The government also wanted to sell out Balloki and Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plants, he added.  Pakistan would also receive oil and gas on deferred payment facility from friendly countries.

Talking about economic situation, he pointed out that there has been remarkable contraction in imports during the current month. From next month, he was confident that the inflows of dollar will be more than the outflows. He said this will reduce pressure on the rupee.

Miftah Ismail has also shared the government’s vision to reform state-owned enterprises (SOEs).   “There are two basic things we need to work on, that is to come up with better laws and better ways to privatise State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and to improve their governance,” he added.  He informed that privatisation policy has not succeeded yet, as the government could not privatize SME bank since 2007 despite facing losses. Similarly, entities like Roosevelt Hotel had been part of the active privatisation list since 1996, but could not be materialised due to the inefficient privatisation laws.

Finance Division organised a seminar to raise awareness and improve understanding of major reform initiatives on SOEs taken by the Finance Division and the government of Pakistan. The aim was to consult on major challenges to improve corporate governance and commercial performance, and share information and practical experiences on international best practices. Senior officials of line ministries, SOEs, Asian Development Bank and World Bank participated in the seminar.

In his concluding address to the Seminar, Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Miftah Ismail said that the government of Pakistan has developed a draft SOE bill which has been approved by the National Assembly and is now placed before the Senate.

In her opening remarks, Minister of State for Finance and Revenue, Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha emphasised to stop the haemorrhaging of fiscal resources by a few SOEs.   She said the SOE Bill had been discussed in detail in standing committee of finance of National Assembly. She said after its passage by the National Assembly, the Bill is presently awaiting approval of Senate.

Finance Division’s Additional Secretary (Corporate Finance), Anwar Sheikh shared the progress on SOE law, SOE policy and central monitoring unit. He said that the purpose of these initiatives is to ensure value for money for the federal government and improving service delivery of SOEs.

the Asian Development Bank’s  Senior Economist,  Laisiasa Tora   presented the vision and initiatives of ADB to support the government of Pakistan in designing and implementing SOE reforms in partnership with all stakeholders.

The seminar provided a good opportunity to all stakeholders to exchange ideas on the progress so far made on various SOE reform initiatives undertaken by the Pakistani government.