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Pakistan to make IMF-backed painful economic adjustments in FY2022-23 budget

Friday, June 10, 2022
Pakistan to make IMF-backed painful economic adjustments in FY2022-23 budget © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A shopkeeper uses a calculator while selling spices and grocery items along a shop in Karachi, Pakistan June 11, 2021. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's government is set to present a budget for financial year 2022-23 on Friday aimed at tight fiscal consolidation in a bid to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release much-needed bailout payments for the cash-strapped country.

The budget, which targets 5% growth in gross domestic product (GDP) for the fiscal year through June 2023, comes a day after the government released its annual economic survey for FY2021-22.

It reported a growth rate of 5.97% for the fiscal year, but the South Asian nation of 220 million is facing a balance of payments crisis. Currency reserves have fallen as low as $9.2 billion, not enough for 45 days of imports, while the current account deficit is widening, the fiscal deficit stands at historic levels, the currency is weakening and inflation is running at double-digit percentages.

"Though the economy recovered from the (COVID-19) pandemic ... this high growth (for the latest fiscal year), however, is unsustainable and has resulted in financial and macroeconomic imbalances," the report said.

The IMF and Pakistani officials concluded talks last month, with the fund asking for bailout programme objectives, including fiscal consolidation, to be put back on track.

It is unclear when the Fund plans to consider clearing the release of over $900 million of the latest tranche of the $6 billion, 39-month programme Pakistan entered in 2019.

One of the key steps, a removal of costly fuel subsidies, has already been implemented by the government, with fuel prices being raised by 40%.

The government's top priority should be to get the IMF programme going, former emerging market strategist at Citigroup (NYSE:C) Yousuf Nazar told Reuters.

"You know this budget will set a tough path for next couple of years characterised by higher inflation, lower investments, and increasing unemployment as the government will strive to implement the IMF programme," he said.

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