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Next IMF loan will be ‘the last’: Pakistan finance minister

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Pakistani vendors wait for customers at a market in Karachi on October 9, 2018. – The International Monetary Fund said October 9 Pakistan has not approached the body to begin negotiations for a possible bailout to stem a balance of payments crisis, hours after Islamabad announced it will enter talks. (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM / AFP)

Pakistan’s finance minister promised Saturday to end the country’s reliance on International Monetary Fund bailouts to shore up its shaky economy, as officials prepare to negotiate a new loan.

Asad Umar’s pledge comes days after Pakistan’s central bank warned inflation could double in the coming year — hitting 7.5 percent — while the country’s growth target rate of 6.2 percent would likely be missed.

“This will be the 13th and the last IMF programme,” Umar said during a speech at the Karachi Stock Exchange.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration has sent mixed messages over whether Pakistan will enter another IMF programme, with the former cricketer suggesting this week that going to the fund may not be necessary.

But Umar spoke in grave terms of the country’s balance of payment crisis, which has sparked a depreciation of the rupee and sent stocks tumbling.

“We are heading towards bankruptcy very fast. We have to save the 210 million Pakistanis,” Umar added.

An IMF team is set to arrive in Pakistan in early November to begin negotiations.

Similar vows to end reliance on IMF loans have been made by past governments including former premier Nawaz Sharif’s administration, which received a $6.6 billion loan to tackle a similar crisis in 2013.

Khan’s new administration took office in August vowing to weigh up whether to seek an IMF bailout as it sought other avenues of financing, including from “friendly” countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

But aid has been in short supply and economists’ warnings have grown urgent.

The government also announced this week that Khan would attend a controversial Saudi Arabian investment summit in the coming days.

The meeting has been shunned by leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs in response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul — a scandal that has tipped Riyadh into a diplomatic crisis.

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