x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pakistan set for Dh19.5bn IMF bailout

Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund reach an initial agreement on a bailout of at least Dh19.45 billion to stave off an economic crisis as the country's foreign reserves dip perilously low.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund reached an initial agreement yesterday on a bailout of at least Dh19.45 billion, to stave off an economic crisis as the country's foreign reserves dip perilously low.

The deal should help calm fears of financial instability in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people that Washington is relying on to combat militants and negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan.

The agreement comes less than six years after Pakistan's last IMF bailout. The driving need for the money this time around was to repay the institution the billions of dollars that Islamabad still owes.

Pakistan's previous government failed to implement many of the requirements of the last loan, including reducing the deficit and improving tax collection.

That left the new government, which took over at the beginning of last month, with the difficult task of convincing the IMF that this time would be different.

The IMF mission director in Pakistan, Jeffrey Franks, acknowledged Islamabad's checkered history, but said the institution would not punish the country for the failure of its predecessors.

"It is true that some previous programmes have not been completely successful," said Mr Franks. "But the IMF is in the job of helping countries when they have difficult situations and need help, and we're not going to turn a country down because previous governments did not do what they had promised to do."

The Dh19.45bn loan will be handed out over three years and have an interest rate of about three percent, said Mr Franks. It will be repaid over 10 years after an initial grace period of four years.

The deal has been approved by the Pakistani government and IMF employees in the country. It still needs to be approved by IMF officials in Washington and the institution's board of directors.