Q+A-What to expect from IMF’s next meeting in Pakistan

By Sahar Ahmed

KARACHI, Oct 26 (BestGrowthStock) – Officials of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan are due to meet on Wednesday
in Islamabad to discuss the country’s performance for the
release of the sixth tranche of a $11 billion IMF loan.

Policy level discussions will take place on Nov. 1-2,
according to official sources.

The last review was completed in May and the review for the
release of the sixth tranche has been delayed since August over
several issues, such as an increase in power tariffs and the
implementation of a reformed general sales tax (RGST).

The meetings are also likely to discuss the revised
macro-economic targets after August’s devastating floods caused
$9.7 billion in damages as well as any follow-up IMF programme.

Here are some questions and answers:

WHAT DOES THE IMF WANT FROM PAKISTAN?

The IMF wants Pakistan to do four things: introduce an RGST
along the lines of a value added tax to increase the tax base;
reform the electricity sector to eliminate subsidies; resolve
circular debt and address the quasi-fiscal implications of
commodity credit.

It would also renew its condition for zero net borrowing by
the government from the central bank.

HOW LIKELY IS PAKISTAN TO IMPLEMENT FISCAL REFORMS?

Pakistan said in June that it would replace its general
sales tax (GST) by the RGST by Oct. 1, but that deadline has
slipped to Dec. 1. A bill is scheduled to be presented to
parliament in its next meeting, according to official sources,
which would bring it a step closer to actually implementing the
RGST. Passage is likely because the federal government finally
agreed to allow the provinces to collect taxes on services, one
of their key demands.

Pakistan also must raise electricity tariffs to eliminate
its current spending of $2 billion annually on power subsidies.

The Ministry of Finance is feeling the urgency to push
forward with reforms because in addition to organisations like
the IMF, major international donors such as the United States
are also calling for reforms.

Pakistan says it expects foreign aid, not including the IMF
funds, to make up about 14 percent of its 2010/11 federal
budget.

WHAT WAIVERS WILL BE SOUGHT?

Pakistan is likely to seek waivers for the fiscal deficit
target for the 2009/10 fiscal year after it swelled to 6.3
percent of GDP, wider than the targeted shortfall agreed with
the IMF of 5.1 percent.

The government also failed to meet its target of zero net
borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan for the year ending
June 30, owing a provisional 41.93 billion rupees ($488.58
million).

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

If the sixth tranche is released, there is one more tranche
left before the programme is scheduled to end in November.
Pakistan could ask to get both tranches in one go, but analysts
said that is unlikely to happen.

Pakistan must start repaying the loan in 2011, but if the
last tranche is delayed, the repayment schedule will also be
pushed back.

It could also end the current programme with one tranche
remaining and choose to enter a new IMF programme.

Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said in May that
Pakistan could take out another loan from the IMF to refinance
the original $11 billion bailout package.

(Editing by Chris Allbritton)

($1 = 85.82 rupees)
(For more Reuters coverage of Pakistan, see:
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Q+A-What to expect from IMF’s next meeting in Pakistan