Pakistan needs to address structural issues on priority

pakistan-flagHistorically Pakistan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lived with each other, at times with comfort and at tome with some unease. While the IMF role as ‘lender of last resort’ has helped Pakistan in overcoming economic malice, the loan covenants are often seen by Pakistani’s rather stringent.

Ideally the ruling regime in Pakistan should be more careful in formulation of policies and implementing these in letter and spirit but the overall impression is that the successive governments sooner or later suffer from complacency. It may also be said that political agenda pushes economic agenda in the back ground. Many analysts strongly believe that condoning deviation may not be difficult had appropriate efforts were made. In other words these deviations are the result of not following the ‘IMF Recipe’.

A team of AKD Securities, Pakistan’s leading brokerage house, recently met the IMF Regional Representative for a discussion on Pakistan’s progress on the macro front in the context of the ongoing EFF program. After the meeting it has also released a report that has many takeaways.

While progress on reform agenda so far remains commendable, continued reform implementation post completion of the program was stressed, where energy crisis and low revenue collection continue to rank as high priority issue areas.

The IMF, though cognizant of likely delays, sees room for steady structural changes even post completion of the program based on higher GoP resolve. Benefits of low oil prices and earlier reforms have placed Pakistan in a macro sweet spot with economic indicators marking record levels.

Agreeing with the IMF, AKD team believes this opens room for addressing deeper structural issues that can help Pakistan sustain recent economic gains where key reform areas highlighted were: 1) exports sector revival, 2) tax base expansion and 3) efficient expenditure and resource allocation between federal and provincial governments.

Key takeaways

Priority on energy and revenue: Key issue areas for reforms that retain the highest priority were Energy and Revenues expansion – both resonated by all participants. Resolution to the country’s energy problems was highlighted, particularly in the context of its impact on industrial growth. Also, revenue collection remains equally crucial where considerable focus should be directed towards structural changes both through a) regulatory/legislative action and b) operational changes in FBR/tax collection mechanisms.

Privatization to slowdown: The privatization program remains on agenda, however it is likely to stretch beyond the current program as political opposition in PIA’s strategic divestment and labor union concerns in case of DISCOs continue to be major hurdles. That said, recent road shows for DISCOs’ sell-off were regarded as a key positive. Analysts expect revision of current timeline in the upcoming IMF review report for December 2015. Moreover, with the current government resorting to populist decisions in the run up to next general elections (expected 2018), the brokerage house highlight heightened risks to PSE sell-offs.

Another program unlikely: With the current program effectively concluding in June 2016, rollover to another program remains unlikely on account of Pakistan’s stable Balance of Position position. However the Fund is likely to remain engaged in a consultative process with the GoP to monitor current program objectives, though without imposition of conditions/targets.

CPEC – Lack of clarity lingers: The Fund views the landmark China-Pak agreement as largely positive, though details on nature of agreements remain sketchy and are yet to be factored in fiscal expectations/targets. Alongside, infrastructure projects need for investment in export oriented sectors was also noted.



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