IMF chief says Pak­istan help must be trans­par­ent

IMF team to ar­rive in com­ing weeks; Pak­istan for­mally re­quest for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance

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NUSA DUA: The In­ter­na­tion­alMone­tary Fund launched for­mal bailout talks with Pak­istan on Thurs­day, and IMF manag­ing direc­tor Chris­tine La­garde said she would re­quire “ab­so­lute trans­parency” of Pak­istan’s debts.

She said such dis­clo­sures were nec­es­sary to de­ter­mine the debt sus­tain­abil­ity of coun­tries seek­ing IMF loans.

The re­quire­ments are likely to shine a spot­light on the ex­tent, com­po­si­tion and terms of Pak­istan’s debts to China for in­fra­struc­ture projects as part of Bei­jing’s mas­sive Belt and Road build­ing pro­gram.

China has pledged some $60 bil­lion in fi­nanc­ing to Pak­istan for ports, rail­ways and roads, but ris­ing debt lev­els have caused Is­lam­abad to cut the size of the big­gest Belt and Road project by some $2 bil­lion.

“In what­ever work we do, we need to have a com- plete un­der­stand­ing and ab­so­lute trans­parency about the na­ture, size, and terms of the debt that is bear­ing on a par­tic­u­lar coun­try,” La­garde told a news con­fer­ence when asked about Pak­istan’s debts to China.

The United States has crit­i­cized China’s in­fra­struc­ture lend­ing, warn­ing that it has sad­dled some de­vel­op­ing coun­tries with debts that they can­not af­ford to re­pay. U.S. Sec­re­tary of StateMike Pom­peo has said there would be “no ra­tio­nale” for an IMF bailout of Pak­istan that pays off Chi­nese loans.

La­garde said that the IMF would need to know the ex­tent and com­po­si­tion of the coun­try’s debt, in­clud­ing sov­er­eign debt and sta­te­owned en­ter­prise debt, “so that we can ac­tu­ally re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate and de­ter­mine the debt sus­tain­abil­ity of that coun­try, if and when we con­sider a pro­gram,” she added.

La­garde said in a state­ment that Pak­istan re­quested IMF as­sis­tance dur­ing a meet­ing with Pak­istani Fi­nance Min­is­ter Asad Umar and cen­tral bank gov­er­nor Tarik Ba­jwa on the side­lines of the IMF and World Bank an­nual meet­ings in Bali.

“An IMF team will visit Is­lam­abad in the com­ing weeks to ini­ti­ate dis­cus­sions for a pos­si­ble IMF-sup­ported eco­nomic pro­gram,” La­garde said. “We look for­ward to our con­tin­u­ing part­ner­ship.”

If a pack­age is agreed, it would be Pak­istan’s 13th IMF bailout since 1988. The Fund lent Is­lam­abad $6.7 bil­lion in 2013.

NUSA DUA: IMF Manag­ing Direc­tor Chris­tine La­garde (L) greet­ing Pak­istan Fi­nance Min­is­ter Asad Umar (R) at the Bali Con­ven­tion Cen­tre dur­ing the 2018 IMF/World Bank an­nual meet­ings.

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