After endless negotiations and a protracted administrative preamble it is finally here - the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday approved a $6 billion bailout package for Pakistan and immediately released $1bn to the country. The occasion has been marked with relief by some and grim resignation by others, but many in the government believe there is reason to be optimistic; more than a quick monetary boost, the bailout can serve as a catalyst for crucial reform.

This is certainly how Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh views it, and his notions are echoed by IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice. Both use key words like “reform” and “sustainable development” to characterise the avenues opened by the IMF bailout. For this government to truly make this bailout – the 13th this country has taken – to be the last one we take difficult, expansive and revolutionary structural changes are needed in our financial regulatory and tax systems

The negotiations for the bailout were a crucial step, but the real work begins now. Sections of the program invest in reform of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) and related bodies. The redundancies that inevitably creep into government departments – a malady that afflicts Pakistan especially – need to be removed and FBR remade on modern lines. The statistic that must obsess the government from this moment forward should not be things like the current account deficit or raw remittances; it has to be tax to GDP ratio.

Pakistan ranks as one of the worst countries worldwide when it comes to collecting tax, far being Asian neighbours, light year behind developed nations and even lagging behind underdeveloped African nations. Excessive borrowing, predatory revenue generation methods, high taxes on consumer goods and the overtaxing of the middle class are all a result of this deficiency. This needs to be fixed.

It is encouraging to see that the government making these difficult decisions. It may have stumbled and faltered with the economy in its hand from the outset of this term but now with the uncertainty behind us – and a long term ahead of us – it can truly begin to reshape the economy for the better. The path forward is difficult and strewn with hardships for the masses, but as long as the government keeps going forward with austerity, sustainable development, and an uncompromising attitude towards increasing the tax net, it can make sure we never have to break out the begging bowl again.