Imran Khan vows to steady Pakistan as new IMF bailout looms

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday vowed to steer the country out of a looming balance-of-payments crisis, days after his young government announced it would seek a fresh IMF bailout deal.

The cricketer-turned-premier said Pakistan needs $10-12 billion, which he dismissed as “not a major issue” in televised comments.

“We will get out of this. I will take (the country) out of this,” he added.

“We have two options: one, we can go to friendly countries and ask them to bridge this gap; and second, that we go to the IMF,” he said, adding that the government has decided to do “both”.

Khan’s new administration took office in August vowing to weigh up whether to seek an IMF bailout to stabilise the shaky economy as it sought other avenues of financing.

He has sought loans from friendly countries, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of populist austerity measures such as auctioning buffalo and luxury cars owned by the prime minister’s house, and crowdfunding to build a dam in the country’s north.

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

Finance minister Asad Umar, who is attending the fund’s annual meeting in Bali this week, announced late on Monday that the government had decided to begin talks with the IMF for a “stabilisation recovery programme”.

Pakistan has gone to the IMF multiple times since the late 1980s. The last time was in 2013, when Islamabad got a $6.6 billion loan to tackle a similar crisis.

Khan, who came to power on an anti-corruption agenda and promises of building an Islamic welfare state, encouraged citizens not to get frustrated.

“This is a very small period (of crisis). Our country is a rich country, it is blessed by Allah. This country will come out of crisis,” he said.

Khan also announced that his government will begin a massive low-cost housing scheme with the aim of building five million homes in five years.

He did not announce a price tag for the scheme, but promised it would “bring prosperity”.

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