Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani official said on Thursday that although the government had already begun negotiations with the IMF, it was still hoping that multilateral institutions or friendly nations would pitch in first with the $3-5 billion required to tide over the economic crisis.

Shaukat Tareen, advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance, said Pakistan was in “dire need” of financial assistance to the tune of $3-5 billion. He said only if financial institutions like the ADB and World Bank did not provide the amount, and if the Friends of Pakistan also failed to deliver the required amount, the government would begin talks with IMF.

On Wednesday, IMF said Pakistan had already approached it for help to resolve its balance of payments crisis.

“The Pakistani authorities have requested discussions with the IMF on an economic programme supported by financial assistance from the Fund to meet the balance of payments difficulties the country is experiencing as a result of high food and fuel prices and the financial crisis,” said IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The IMF estimates that Pakistan needs about $15 billion over the next 3 years. It has expressed readiness to put up about $ 4.5 billion in immediate assistance in the next 2 weeks. Mr. Tareen said discussions with the IMF had started “but any formal request will be made after reviewing the progress of Plan A and B after November 15” — a reference to Pakistan’s intentions to seek help first from financial institutions and friendly countries next.