Was the new PTI government twiddling its thumbs for 10 months after coming to power in August 2018? Why did it take so long to go to the IMF to deal with a mounting balance-of-payments crisis? (We were importing more than we exported, to put it simply, and we were running out of dollars to pay for things).
The best man to perhaps shed light on this was the man at the centre of the negotiations, that is until he was fired right before we inked the deal: finance minister at the time, Asad Umar.
He was the new government's finance minister until April 2019 when he was removed. He resigned and was replaced by Hafeez Shaikh.
He was removed, much to everyone's shock, just a month before we were supposed to sign the IMF deal. Now he speaks about what really went on behind the scenes.
Listen to this excerpt of Mr Umar's revelations which came at the start of a two-hour panel discussion on IMF & the Economic Future of Pakistan on Sunday, June 2, at Karachi’s T2F. It was moderated by Dawn’s Khurram Husain and included economist Kaiser Bengali and political economist Dr Akbar Zaidi.
According to Mr Umar, within a month of the PTI government coming into office in August 2018 they had spoken to the IMF to explore options without locking anything down. By October 2018, the IMF gave its assessment and then the government said it was thinking about going into a program.
In the meantime, a bombshell fell. America said it was worried Pakistan would use its IMF loan to pay for Chinese debts. As a result, the Pakistan government had to try to look for other ways to raise money other than the IMF.
When the IMF deal was signed in May 2019, it had what people said were strict conditions for Pakistan. But Mr Umar reveals that these were quite watered down. Had we signed in October, they would have been far more strict.