New economy adviser kick-starts IMF talks to speed up bailout package

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Newly appointed Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh on Saturday held talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to speed up the negotiation process for early finalisation of a bailout package for Pakistan.

Shaikh held a telephonic conversation with IMF Mission Chief to Pakistan Ernesto Ramirez-Rigo, said a statement issued by the finance ministry, adding that both the sides expressed their commitment to move the discussions forward. “It was agreed that an IMF mission will visit Pakistan by the end of April 2019,” the statement added.

Earlier, in his first interaction with media since being appointed prime minister’s adviser on finance, Shaikh revealed that he has already spoken with the finance ministry officials regarding the budget for the next fiscal year.

Speaking outside the finance ministry shortly before leaving for a meeting with the prime minister, Shaikh said he has directed the ministry to start drafting a medium-term strategy paper for the economy. “We will be able to furnish a medium-term strategy paper by the 30th,” he said, adding that the budget can be presented no earlier than May 24.

Later, the adviser met Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM Office. He apprised the prime minister regarding his talks with the IMF officials.

Dr Hafeez Shaikh took charge of his post on Saturday. He will also have the charge of Revenue and Economic Affairs Division and his designation will be at par with that of a federal minister.

Shaikh, a political economist of international repute with over 30 years of experience, has earlier served as finance minister from 2010 to 2013. He has replaced Asad Umar who stepped down from his post as finance minister on Thursday after eight months in office. Pakistan is on the brink of signing up for it 13th IMF bailout since the late 1980s in a bid to stave off a balance of payments crisis and ease ballooning current account and fiscal deficits.