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Pakistan hopeful of IMF agreement within days

Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail expressed hope on Monday that an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the revival of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) would be reached “within one or two days”, media reports said.

The minister made the remarks while speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Senate standing committee on finance, Dawn reported.

When asked whether Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is working on imposing taxes or giving relief to the masses, the minister said: “It depends on the kind of people they are. If they are well-to-do, then taxes will be applicable but the poor will be provided relief.”

Reporters also asked Miftah whether the IMF is opposed to the government’s decision to increase the salaries of employees by 15 per cent and tax exemption for those earning less than Rs 1.2m annually.

“The IMF has nothing to do with salaries as long as we have the money,” he said, adding that the government will “protect” those earning less than Rs 1.2m annually.

Pakistan signed a 39-month, $6 billion EFF in July 2019, but the IMF stopped the disbursement of about $3 bn when the previous government reneged on its commitments. Currently, Islamabad wants the IMF to not only resume disbursements, but to also expand the size and duration of the programme, Dawn reported.

So far, Pakistan and the IMF have not yet been able to reach close to a staff-level agreement for revival of the loan programme, leaving authorities in a tight spot to bridge the gap and get the updated federal budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 passed by the National Assembly.

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