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IMF bailout, friendly loans sought to not be dependent on one source, FM Umar tells parliament

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Former speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq had recently asked the government to take the parliament into confidence over the government’s recent negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China and Saudi Arabia.

The finance minister today paid a visit to the lower house, where he explained to his fellow parliamentarians that the government approached friendly countries as well as the IMF for help so as to not be dependent on any single source.

“When we went to Saudi Arabia we signed a $3 billion deal,” he said. “Naveed Qamar has stayed in the IMF programme, Ishaq Dar is not here but he must also know that all the money does not come from the IMF.”

Umar rejected the notion that the government’s dilly-dallying on the IMF programme had caused the stock market to crash, and reminded the house that the bourse’s benchmark 100 index had plummeted by 15,000 points even when the PML-N government was still in power.

“In our two months, the market went down four points,” he said. “But in the previous seven months [under the PML-N] there was a 15,000 point reduction. So this is no the first time [that the market went down].”

The finance minister claimed that the market started going down from its peak of 53,000 points when “the current account deficit started growing rapidly”, which he said reflected in the market’s performance.

He also pointed at the recent return of the bulls in the market, saying: “In the last 10 to 12 days the stock market has surged 5,000 points.”

Umar told his audience that “the trade deficit has increased from 4.2 per cent to 6.6 per cent”, adding: “This increase has cause a loss of Rs1,000 billion”

He said that Pakistan’s biggest trade deficit is with China, adding that Beijing is fully committed “to work with us on this”.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, to whom Umar had referred to at various points in his speech, was to deliver his rebuttal when the finance minister left the house.

At this, PPP’s Khursheed Shah protested and said that the debate cannot go on in the absence of the concerned minister. He accused the federal ministers of ignoring the parliament and making it redundant.

“We did not come just to listen to the finance minister’s lecture,” Shah said. “If he had to leave after speaking his piece then what was the point of debating this issue? He is not giving time to an institution because of which he became the minister. The Parliament house has become a debating society.”

When the session resumed following a prayer break, the opposition walked out of the parliament in protest against the finance minister’s absence.

“We will not take part in debate on the economy until the finance minister comes back,” Shah demanded.