Pak PM Sharif meets IMF chief Georgieva in Riyadh, discuss new loan programme

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday met the International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva and discussed a new loan programme for the cash-strapped country, Sharif`s office said. In a meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Special Meeting in Riyadh, the premier thanked Georgieva for her support to Pakistan in securing the USD 3 billion standby arrangement (SBA) from IMF last year that was now nearing its completion, Dawn newspaper reported. According to the state-run PTV News post on X, this was the first meeting between the prime minister and Georgieva since his re-election, reported news agency PTI.

They last met in Paris in June 2023 on the margins of the Summit for New Global Financial Pact. The IMF Executive Board is expected to meet on Monday to decide on the final tranche of USD 1.1bn under SBA, the post said. The pair discussed further programmes to ensure gains made in the past year were consolidated and the economic growth trajectory remained positive. Georgieva shared her institution`s perspective on the ongoing programme with Pakistan, including the review process. Pakistan secured the USD 3 billion IMF programme in June last year, which helped it avert a sovereign default. Separately, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif highlighted the “global inequity” in healthcare while speaking at a panel discussion on `Redefining Global Health Agenda` during the special meeting of WEF. The premier said that when he visited Saudi Arabia in 2003, he was “struck by a very nasty cancer”. He said that he was then flown to New York and had to undergo surgery costing “thousands of dollars”, reported PTI.

“And I wondered how many people in my country can afford this kind of expensive treatment ” not very many,” he said. Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif said that when he came back to Pakistan, he was elected the chief minister of Punjab and his government built hospitals specialising in kidney and liver diseases as well as cancer. “Today, I think the first and foremost problem is global inequity,” he said, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic had “exposed” these imbalances and gaps.

“Imagine the global North and the global South; distribution of vaccines and so on and so forth,” he said. He further said that climate change had “completely changed the landscape”. ” Pakistan does not contribute (to) even a fraction of emissions. Yet we are on the red list of climate change and in 2022, we experienced the worst floods in Pakistan (“)and we had to invest hundreds and billions of rupees to rehabilitate people.”

Talking about polio, he said that Pakistan was a “great beneficiary” of the Bill Gates Foundation. “If I did not acknowledge Bill Gates` generosity here, it would not be fair to myself and fair to him. This is the prime minister`s second trip to Saudi Arabia in less than a month. He last went on a three-day visit to the kingdom, which was his first foreign visit since he was re-elected as premier, reported PTI.

The invitation was extended by Saudi Arabia`s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and WEF Executive Chairman Prof Klaus Schwab, the Foreign Office (FO) said. In a post on X on Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz said he looked forward to “important discussions on pressing challenges of our times” during the special meeting.

Separately, Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif held a meeting on Sunday with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser, where they both agreed upon the earliest completion of various ongoing projects of the IDB in Pakistan. During the meeting, held on the sidelines of the WEF moot, the premier thanked the IDB for investing $1 billion in various projects during the previous PML-N-led tenure, a statement on PML-N`s X account said. Meanwhile, in a consultative meeting with Saudi federal ministers and other Riyadh officials, Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif lauded the SIFC`s role in the Kingdom`s investment in Pakistan, Radio Pakistan stated. The premier stressed the need to work tirelessly day and night for the country`s progress and prosperity, warning that there was no room for laziness. During the session, the prime minister received detailed briefings from various relevant ministries, regarding progress in investment with the Saudi government, the report added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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