ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been given a clear message today that the government is ready to sit and negotiate with the Fund on its conditionalities to conclude the ninth review.

Speaking at the ceremony after inaugurating the business and agricultural loan programme for youth, the premier said the government has given a clear message to the Fund that it wants to complete the ninth review.

“We are ready to sit with you and want to conclude the ninth review after negotiating with you so that Pakistan can move ahead,” he added.

The prime minister said the government was given a clear message from left and right of being with Pakistan but wanted the government to stick with the IMF programme. He said the government has already written to the IMF and today he wanted to send a clear message to the Fund that Pakistan wants to complete the ninth review without further delay so that the programme with the Fund as well as programmes of multilaterals and bilateral can move ahead. He said that he has spoken to the IMF managing directors a few days ago and proactively approached them to complete the Fund programme.

The government’s decision of energy conservation required practical measures to save foreign exchange reserves for the import of fuel which cost $27 billion to the country per annum.

He deplored that a province moved court against the federal government’s decision to close shops at 8pm. Similarly, another government in the north also resorted to delaying tactics in the implementation of our decision to score political points. He said it would not be allowed to burden the poor of dearness and let the rich free.

According to media reports, the government on Tuesday held a virtual meeting with the IMF mission chief and an exchange of information has been started with regard to the ninth review. There were also reports that the prime minister and the secretary finance during the talks with the Fund were also joined by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from Qatar through video link. However, when Business Recorder sent messages to the prime minister, secretary finance as well as to the IMF resident representative Esther Perez Ruiz, no response was received from anyone till the filing of this report.

The Fund has reportedly sought the withdrawal of subsidies, increasing gas and electricity prices as well as an increase in the PL on petroleum products and market-based exchange rate.

The government has reportedly informed the Fund about review measures under consideration and steps to deal with the problem of circular debt in the energy sector. However, it remains unclear whether the Fund has indicated sending a mission to Pakistan to conclude the ninth review. He said that the losses of the policies of 75 years are now evident before everyone and all the governments including his and martial law are responsible for today’s situation.

Shehbaz said the government has started this project through banks and microfinance companies under the leadership of the State Bank and the Ministry of Finance and has provided resources for the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme under which schemes ranging from Rs0.5 million to Rs7.5 million will be provided to youth, whereas, up to Rs0.5 million loans will be interest-free with the repayment period of three years.

The premier stated Rs0.5 million to Rs1.5 million loans would be disbursed to youth at five percent interest with payment period of seven years and Rs1.5 million to Rs7.5 million at seven percent to be repaid in eight years. He said a programme of 100,000 laptops has also been devised for youth, which will be distributed among boys and girls on merit.

State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Jamil Ahmed stated that the SBP has always encouraged commercial banks for lending to agri sector and the SBP has set a target of agri loans to the farmers at Rs1.819 trillion for the ongoing fiscal year. The SBP has directed banks to reschedule the loans of the farmers of flood-affected areas. The SBP has also increased PIU under the Kisan Package.