Govt faces twin challenges before IMF parleys

Retiring central bank loans, power sector reforms key hurdles.


Shahbaz Rana June 29, 2011

ISLAMABAD:


Pakistan is facing twin challenges of retiring Rs156 billion of central bank loans and restructuring the bleeding power sector before the start of crucial negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an effort to normalise the uncertain relationship.


An official of the finance ministry said the government has made “progress” but it has yet to return Rs156 billion borrowed from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for budget financing and take a step forward in power sector reforms by abolishing Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco). All this must be done before meeting the IMF in July. Date and venue of talks will be decided after compilation of data of the outgoing fiscal year, ending June 30.

“The government is in a comfortable position and it will retire the central bank loan through issuance of treasury bills, profit from the State Bank and tax revenues,” said Rana Assad Ameen, official spokesman for the finance ministry.

Ameen said the government expects the IMF to give, in return, a letter of comfort and recommend to its Executive Board to release the withheld loan tranche of $1.7 billion.

The letter of comfort is required for obtaining loans for budget financing from the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other lenders.

Since June last year, relations between Pakistan and IMF have been rocky due to the government’s inability to overhaul the General Sales Tax system and restructure the power sector, leading to the suspension of $11.3 billion bailout programme and release of only negligible external budgetary assistance. This has led to massive domestic borrowings, leaving less for the private sector.

The government’s claim of restricting budget deficit to 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) or Rs1,067 billion means it has borrowed Rs874 billion from the market.

The finance ministry’s spokesman said Pakistan made “partial progress” in Reformed General Sales Tax implementation by withdrawing certain exemptions through Finance Bill 2011.

Power sector reforms

The other contentious issue is power sector reforms with major focus on dissolution of Pepco, increase in power tariffs and enhancement in the sector’s efficiency. The deadline for Pepco’s dissolution is June 30, which may not be met.

An official involved in power sector reforms said the company would be dissolved before July 15, making power distribution companies independent in decision-making.

The finance ministry’s spokesman said during May parleys with IMF in Dubai, WB and ADB endorsed the power sector reforms and in the upcoming talks Islamabad would give a progress report. The power sector business plan has two components, one for the outgoing fiscal year and the other for the upcoming year.

An official of the Economic Reforms Unit of the finance ministry said the government had told IMF that it would restrict subsidies in the band of Rs135 to Rs153 billion and the final figure by June 30 would be near Rs140 billion. This was possible after shutting down inefficient power plants.

Total power subsidies remained at Rs285 billion including arrears of previous years.



Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2011.

COMMENTS (2)

Anserali Khan | 10 years ago | Reply Broken promises and bad fiscal management are the order of the day of Government. IMF should look at the run-away inflation,crazy power subsidies, circular debts, low GDP rate, un-bridled government expenses ( now we have Ministers without Ministries) and IMF should tell Government of Pakistan to take a walk and first set their house in order before they ask for more funds. And by the way what happened to the much talked about Government scheme of raising $500Million through swap able bonds with OGDC shares??.
Shamsi Ajanee | 10 years ago | Reply IMF team: please ask the government about their recent decision: “It has been decided to retain federal ministers of devolved ministries,” . So now we have Ministers without Ministries?Who will pay for this useless political luxury?. Also ask them what has happened to the much trumped "70,000" potential tax payers about whom FBR had solid information?.How many actual new tax payers they have roped till 30 june 2011 from this "solid information" Also ask them: how much dividend had Bank's own asset management companies declared in last 3 years and what is the dumb reason for enhancing the rate of tax on these dividends to 20% in present budget when the tax yield will be close to ZERO. IMF; please keep on dialouging but be true to your job......................
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