Saudi aid eases pressure on forex reserves: PM Imran

By Sajjad Hussain(Eds: Recasting overnight story with fresh inputs) Islamabad, Oct 25 (PTI) Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Saudi Arabia's USD 6 billion assistance package has eased pressure on Pakistan's depleting foreign exchange reserves and the time is not far when the country would be offering loans to the others instead of borrowing. In the deal announced Tuesday after Khan called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Riyadh said it will give Pakistan USD 3 billion in foreign currency support for a year and a further loan worth up to USD 3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports.Khan addressed the nation on Wednesday to share the details of his efforts to bring cash-strapped Pakistan out of financial difficulties."We were facing really hard times. We were under high pressure to pay heavy debts. But thanks to Saudi Arab's extension of assistance, we are out of the pressure," he said.The Prime Minister also said that the government was in contact with two other friendly countries for more financial assistance. Though he did not name the nations, Khan is set to visit Malaysia later this month and China on November 3.He said people should not worry as the difficult time would pass and Pakistan will emerge as a much stronger and prosperous country in the coming years. Khan said the Saudi financial package will strengthen Pakistan's bargaining position in case the government approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.He said even if the government was forced to seek IMF assistance, it would not need as much money as it would have needed in absence of the Saudi assistance. "If we had gone to the IMF directly, wed have had to borrow more money and that would have meant stricter conditions which would crush our poor strata of society. But now we are in a better position."Pakistan's Finance Minister Asad Umar recently said the country may need more than USD 12 billion to plug its finances as the current-account deficit widens and foreign-currency reserves plummet. The Khan criticised the previous governments and held them responsible for the current economic crisis.He said the country's debt was Rs 6,000 billion in 2008 which ballooned to Rs 30,000 billion in 2018.Khan said the government was doing audit of the massive debt and threatened that the corrupt element would face merciless accountability."Nations have to pay the price of the wrongdoings of their leaders, we are curbing money laundering by strengthening our institutions," Khan said. "The time is not far when Pakistan would be offering loans to the other countries instead of taking , stay strong, May Allah help us all. " Expressing disappointment over Khans address to the nation, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) asked the government to brief the nation about the terms and conditions on which Saudi Arabia had agreed to provide a bailout package to the country.The leaders of the two opposition parties lashed out at Khan for what they called his threatening tone for the opposition and called upon the government to take parliament into confidence regarding the proposed bailout package being offered by Saudi Arabia. PTI SH MRJ NSANSA