Islamabad: The International Monetary Fund said Pakistan’s external debt has swelled to $100 billion, warning the nation could well become the next country to restructure its debt if it doesn’t hit bailout program goals.
Risks to debt sustainability has become more pronounced due to the scarcity of international financing and large funding needs, the IMF said in a report published on July 18. Pakistan finally secured a $3 billion loan with the multilateral lender last week after months of delay.
The South Asian nation needs to stick to IMF program goals to make sure debt is sustainable given the overall risk of sovereign stress is high, the Washington-based lender said in a report published on July 18. “Any further downward revisions to the baseline could push debt towards unsustainability,” it added.
Pakistan’s top finance managers have twice talked about restructuring bilateral debt without giving details in the past year but didn’t follow through due to a lack of consensus. In the latest instance, the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar made an announcement last month but the central bank denied such a move was needed or that any talks were planned.
The South Asian country’s external debt has increased from $85 billion at the start of the previous program in 2019 due to low revenue and high debt payments.
Pakistan has increased tax revenues and energy prices to meet IMF demands but it has not been able to make progress on long-term structural issues such as privatizing state-owned enterprises.
The IMF also said Pakistan’s central bank will need to continue its tightening cycle given inflationary pressures are expected to persist over the coming year. The stock market is likely to factor in a further 100 to 150 basis points hike for the monetary policy meeting on July 31, said Faisal Bilwani, a trader at Alfalah CLSA Securities.