ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Asad Umar said that Pakistan no longer faces a balance of payment crisis after financial assistance from Saudi Arabia and China.
Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, he said, “Pakistan had a $12 billion deficit in the balance of payment and Saudi Arabia pledged $6 billion while some assistance came from China. We no longer face any deficit in the balance of payment.”
The finance minister said that there is a need to improve the country’s exports to permanently address the balance of payment issue.
“Regarding the doubling of our exports, we are not talking long-term. We have this target for the ongoing year. We have also discussed short-term reliefs. A decision in principle has been taken, but to discuss its modalities, a high-level delegation would go to China on November 9,” he said.
A statement released by the Finance Ministry echoed Umar’s remarks, adding that “a senior level delegation comprising of federal secretaries of finance, foreign affairs, planning & development and commerce along with the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) governor will undertake a visit to China during the current week to work out the modalities”.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to China was productive enough to get Pakistan “out of the woods”.
FM Qureshi also said that Beijing and Islamabad are still negotiating details of the assistance package, adding that Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was still in Beijing to finalise the details.
“The foreign secretary is in Beijing and Pakistani and Chinese officials would hold another meeting on Nov 9 to discuss the details of the package,” he said.
He said that the government’s confidence after the China trip could be gauged by the fact that the federal government had released Rs1.043 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects under its Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2018-19.
Reliable sources informed Pakistan Today that the decision was pending since the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) regime completed its term but following an assurance from Beijing, the Finance Ministry released the amount on Tuesday.
The foreign minister said that 15 memorandum of understandings (MoU) were signed in China.
“We decided that our strategic dialogue must be upgraded and its level be raised to the foreign ministers level,” he said. He also highlighted that through a MoU, both countries had also decided to exchange prisoners so that they could serve their sentences in their respective countries.
“The MoU which is of utmost importance is related to poverty alleviation. China took 700 million people out of poverty during the last 30 years we can learn a lot from China’s experience because one-third of our population lives under the poverty line,” the foreign minister said.
Qureshi further said that Pakistan and China had signed a MoU regarding agricultural cooperation which he claimed is a major success for Pakistan.
“We can learn a lot of China in this regard and through modern technology, we can increase our productivity and out per-acre yield,” he said.
The foreign minister underscored that the successful visit had also trashed the notion that Pakistan-China friendship would suffer under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
“Some people tried to portray the current government as a regime which is inattentive towards Pakistan’s relationship with China. This perception has been proven wrong because our relationship with China has improved a lot,” he said, adding that PM Khan’s visit helped transform the relationship into an economic friendship.
“We have always had good strategic relations with China but this time around, we were more focused on advancing the economic footprint,” he added.
The foreign minister also said that he is confident that the discussions held in the recent visit would help Pakistan “double its exports”, adding that one of the primary objectives of the China visit was to attend China’s export and import exhibition, where 130 countries participated and Pakistan was given a centre stage and keynote address.
Regarding the second phase of the Pakistan-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA), he said that both sides would try to wrap it up by April 2019.
The foreign minister further said that the government should not be inquired about the gains after every foreign tour.
“Some other things are also achieved during foreign visits,” he said.
DETAILS OF ASSISTANCE PACKAGE MAY NOT BE MADE PUBLIC:
Sources told Pakistan Today that the details of the Pakistan-China negotiations may not be made public.
“Beijing feels that making details of the assistance package public may ignite anger in the locals since it is public money and they believe it is wise to keep the details under wraps,” the source said.