The government didn’t introduce a full budget, but what was described by Finance Minister Asad Umar as a package of urgent interim measures that amend the annual budget put in place by the previous government and meant to run until June 2019.
“All these measures announced today are in line with what the IMF would require. But even if Pakistan isn’t going to the IMF, it would have to fix these issues,” said Tahir Abbas, vice president for investment research at Arif Habib, a Pakistani brokerage.
Mr. Umar announced tax increases and expenditure cuts that he said would slice some 900 billion rupees ($7 billion) off the projected budget deficit. That would reduce the deficit to a projected 5.1% of GDP from 7.2% for the current financial year, he said. Other measures were aimed at resuscitating exports, while extra duties were added to curb imports.
Mr. Umar compared the economy to a critically ill patient. “The economy is in ICU,” he said. “There is no option of ‘wait and see’.”
Foreign-exchange reserves have shrunk so much that they cover less than two months of imports, the finance minister said. Foreign debt swelled over the past five years to almost $95 billion from some $60 billion, he said. The rupee has depreciated by about 20% since late last year.
Mr. Khan, who swept to power in elections to became prime minister on Aug. 18, has promised to establish a welfare state. Mr. Umar said Pakistan’s poorest wouldn’t be hurt by the expenditure cuts and tax increases.
The budget measures include steps to curb tax evasion, expenditure reductions on development projects such as road building, a higher tax rate for those earning over 2.4 million rupees ($19,200) a year, and increased duties on cigarettes, larger cars and smartphones.
Mr. Umar didn’t comment on the possibility of going to the IMF, and left for a trip with Mr. Khan to Saudi Arabia immediately after presenting the new budget measures. Mr. Umar said the Saudi visit would include “discussing trade and investment opportunities.”
He didn’t comment on speculation that Saudi Arabia might provide a large injection of cash to Pakistan. Riyadh provided $1.5 billion at the start of the term of the previous government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Pakistan needs to raise at least $10 billion in the current fiscal year to bridge the gap between its debt obligations and foreign-exchange reserves, said Mr. Abbas of the Arif Habib brokerage.
Pakistan could go to the IMF, raise money through bond issues, turn to friendly countries—primarily Saudi Arabia or China—or combine these sources, Mr. Abbas said.
An IMF team is due in Pakistan at the end of this month for talks, though the discussions aren’t about a requested loan. Pakistan finished repaying a $6.6 billion IMF loan in 2016.
Mr. Umar said that the $62 billion Chinese investment program in the country would be protected, though Islamabad is making wide-ranging changes to the initiative, away from the big infrastructure construction that has so far been its hallmark. China has also provided Pakistan with several billion dollars in short-term loans in recent years to cover its financial shortfall.
Write to Saeed Shah at firstname.lastname@example.org
This news has been published by title Patch & Remediation Software Markets 2018: Global Strategic Business Report With Annual Estimates & Forecasts Through 2015 2022 ResearchAndMarkets.com
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