THE Prime Minister and his Finance Adviser have been engaged in talking up the IMF loan that the country has received as a result of their negotiations, at a time when the long-awaited Friends of Pakistan meeting has finally taken place in Abu Dhabi on Monday, and dispersed without deciding on the dole that the government wants, merely deciding on another meeting at the ministerial level. Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani naturally focused on relief measures for the Balochistan earthquake during his press conference in Quetta, but he did find the opportunity to say that the IMF package was entered because of the current crisis, but would bring fiscal discipline. As if expanding on this, his Finance Adviser, Shaukat Tarin, while giving an interview to Waqt TV, talked about the conditions that the IMF had imposed. One condition was that the government cut State Bank borrowing to zero. Obviously, the Prime Minister had this in mind. It means that if the government must borrow, it must do so from the commercial banks, which will prove very different from the State Bank, which is compelled to lend, even if it has to print money to do so. The IMF has also demanded that oil payments should not be made through the State Bank, which would strengthen the rupee. These two measures would ease the life of the State Bank, but the IMF's insistence that tax revenue be increased will not, especially when the new sectors brought into the tax net is agriculture, the stock market and real estate, which presently all enjoy some form of exemption. Meanwhile, the Friends of Pakistan agreed that Pakistan would be supported in the fields of development, security and energy. Mr Tarin meanwhile would like more market access for Pakistan, but that is not yet on the table, despite Mr Tarin doing a commendable job by keeping it there. The Friends also agreed on a meeting in Islamabad in the New Year, which is supposed to see individual nations come forward with commitments to fund projects. The government should not have shown its lack of commitment to the programme by the induction of such a large Cabinet. At present, there is no sign of the government tightening its belt, which is an integral part of any plan for a turnaround. Unless the example is set at the top, no one will try and save money. While bureaucrats have not cut on their perks, they have been joined by the biggest ever Cabinet, which is likely to be expanded as yet, going by statements from responsible party officials. Each minister is trying to gouge more resources from the taxpayer, without regard to the crisis the country is suffering.