Islamabad: As more than six million people in Pakistan continue to grapple with a food crisis, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said that his government is finally ready to swallow the bitter pill of the stringent conditions laid down by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive the loan programme. Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn quoted PM Sharif as saying that the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance was ready to sacrifice its political career for the sake of the country.
Premier Sharif said the government has clearly conveyed its intentions to complete the ninth review to the IMF. “We are ready and want to sit down regarding your (IMF`s) conditions so that (the review) can be concluded and Pakistan moves forward,” he said.
“I spoke to the IMF managing director two weeks ago and we have proactively approached them… so that the programme moves forward, in addition to other multilateral and bilateral programmes.”
The PML-N leader said that Pakistan has been given a clear message “from left and right” that it would not be abandoned, but it should “stitch” the IMF programme, Dawn reported. This was an apparent reference to reports that friendly nations and other global lending institutions are looking at the fate of the programme to provide financial aid to Pakistan.
Ahead of the beginning of virtual negotiations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requested additional information regarding the budget from Pakistan, as the country urgently needs to generate USD 10 billion in foreign loans, Geo News reported.
A government official said the remaining loan repayment requirements and external financing of managing the current account deficit to the tune of USD 8 to USD 10 billion cannot be raised of the stalled IMF programme.
As the economic crisis worsens, Islamabad has been making hectic efforts to convince the IMF to complete the review — pending since September 2022 — which will be followed by the release of funds.
Severe Food Insecurity In Pakistan
Amid the severe economic crisis, a new report from the World Bank has revealed that an alarming six million people in Pakistan are currently experiencing acute food insecurity as a result of the devastating floods that hit the country last year.
The floods, which took place between June and August 2022, resulted in the death of more than 11 million livestock and the destruction of over 9.4 million acres of cropland in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh, which are already among the most food-insecure regions in the country, Samaa TV reported.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the number of people experiencing food insecurity is projected to increase to 8.5 million between September and December.
The World Bank`s food security update, issued in January 2023, also highlighted a significant increase in food inflation in Pakistan. The food inflation rose from 8.3 per cent in October 2021 and 15.3 per cent in March 2022 to 31.7 per cent in September 2022, and then to 35 per cent in December 2022.
(With Agency Inputs)