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IMF official calls for ‘national consensus on core economic agenda’

IMF official calls for ‘national consensus on core economic agenda’

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) seems to be toeing the government line as it has advocated a “national consensus on the core economic agenda” to put Pakistan on a path of sustainable growth.

This was the message Masood Ahmed, Director of Middle East and Central Asia Department (MCD) of the IMF, shared with journalists on Friday after a series of meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and a bipartisan group of parliamentarians.

“Many of the issues like economy, energy, modernisation and transformation of economy can be tackled if you have national consensus on core economic agenda and it should not be based on political debate, but tackled on merit,” he said.

Soon after coming to power in 2013, Finance Minister Dar has been repeatedly advocating “a charter of economy” to have a consensus of all political parties on the country’s broad economic agenda on the pattern of the charter of democracy signed between two mainstream political parties — the ruling PML-N and the PPP — in 2006.

Masood Ahmed, the director, said the IMF believed that as part of its three-year programme Pakistan’s macroeconomic position was much more comfortable in dealing with immediate challenges than three years ago.

He said the most important thing for Pakistan was to continue with ongoing structural reforms beyond the IMF programme to ensure sustainability of the gains made so far since the PML-N government came to power.

He said the country should continue to generate more revenues, address losses in the public sector enterprises, to continue reforming the energy sector and more importantly, improve business climate to build resilience in case of any future shocks.

In reply to a question regarding the future IMF programme, Masood Ahmed said the agency would continue to provide technical assistance beyond the current arrangement. Pakistan, like many other countries, would move on without IMF’s financial support if it followed “prudent policies”.

He said Pakistan needed to increase its unusually low exports from the current level in order to earn more foreign exchange, improve technology and competitiveness through a comprehensive approach beyond energy supplies, infrastructure and real effective exchange rate. On top of that, broadening of tax net had to improve, he emphasised.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2016

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