Politics around the IMF package.

Byline: Kazim Alam

For the opposition, commenting on the recent bailout package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is like critiquing a painting by George W. Bush: you're required to hate it whether you like it or not.

The IMF deal offers the opposition an endless buffet of contentious points to choose from: its delayed timing and small size aside, the IMF deal appears to be riddled with conditions that may upend the national resource distribution mechanism and expose the exchange rate to wild swings.

Yet the quality of criticism that the opposition has levelled at the deal leaves a lot to be desired. Its criticism has so far been short on content and long on trite expressions like 'sovereignty sell-out' and 'economic disaster'.

However, Miftah Ismail of the PML-N has shown a surplus of caution while criticising the IMF package. Unlike other PML-N leaders whose smugness is out of proportion to their party's achievement in office, Mr Ismail has controlled the extra spring of confidence in his step so far.

'I wouldn't condemn the IMF package as harshly as some of my colleagues do. But I will say that the unnecessary delay in approaching the IMF has cost the country dearly,' Mr Ismail told Dawn.

The PML-N government signed a three-year IMF programme in 2013-14. Yet the economy was back in the throes of a similar balance-of-payments crisis within three years of the completion of that bailout package.

Talking to Dawn, PPP leader Taj Haider claimed that going to the IMF was unnecessary at this point.

He also took pride in the fact that the PPP did not complete the IMF programme in its last government.

'The caretaker government that preceded the PPP's last stint in power had signed up for an IMF bailout package. But we discontinued it,' he claimed.

Taj Haider

Contrary to his assertion, it was the PPP's adviser to the premier on finance who negotiated and finalised an IMF bailout package in November 2008. The IMF terminated the loan programme prematurely in September 2010 as Pakistan failed to follow up on sales tax and energy reforms.

Inordinate delay

It's hard to verify the claim by former finance minister Asad Umar that the delay in seeking the bailout was to ensure favourable conditions. Analysts believe that his dilly-dallying has worsened the country's external sector considerably since October when the first round of negotiations took place.

Pakistan faces an annual financing gap of $12 billion. The country's financing needs will...

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