ISLAMABAD - The International Monetary Fund yesterday said transparency and accountability was the best recipe to overcome corruption either perceived or actual.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said: “Even a perception of corruption deters private investment and impedes efforts to promote growth. Therefore, corruption should be overcome through transparency and accountability,” she said in a joint press conference with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on the last day of her maiden two-day visit to Pakistan.

She further said that Panama Papers and Bahama leaks were a matter of honesty, transparency and accountability. She went on saying that accountability and transparency was the right course forward. “And that is the best way to go forward whether it is Panama or Bahama or whatsoever,” she replied to a question about Pakistanis’ nominees in the Panama leaks.

Lagarde offered her condolences to the Pakistani people for the tragic loss of lives in the Quetta attack. “We are deeply sorry for the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific incident”.

The IMF chief clarified that Pakistan was not taking fresh loans from the IMF, however, cooperation between Islamabad and IMF would continue, she remarked. “Much has been achieved and much more remains to be done, so this is Pakistan’s moment of opportunity to forcefully address remaining economic challenges and lay the foundation for more private sector job creation and higher living standards for all segments of the society,” the IMF MD said.

She congratulated Pakistan on having successfully completed its IMF-supported economic reform programme. “Improved macroeconomic stability as well as strengthened external buffers and public finances would provide a solid foundation for the economy. Many tax exemptions and concessions have been removed and higher tax revenue has been allowed for greater public investment and social spending. About 1.5 million more poor households as compared to those in three years ago are benefiting from targeted social assistance. Power outages have gradually decreased and the financial performance of the power sector is strengthening. A country-wide strategy to improve the business climate is being implemented,” she added.

During her discussions with Pakistan’s authorities, Christine Lagarde said she stressed the need to continue strengthening resilience by building fiscal and external cushions to be adequately prepared for future economic shocks. Achieving higher and more sustainable growth will also require completing important structural reforms in the energy sector, tax policy and administration, ending losses in public enterprises and making a sustained effort to improve governance and foster a dynamic and export-oriented private sector. In parallel, added focus on strengthening health and education, closing the gender gap and providing social protection can ensure that gains in living standards are widely shared, she asserted.

She admitted power outages have gradually decreased and the financial performance of the power sector has strengthened.

“My visit also gave me an opportunity to meet with students, women leaders and representatives of the business community and civil society. I am grateful for the perspectives they shared with me about Pakistan’s opportunities and challenges. Pakistan’s economic transformation cannot happen without the country’s youth who comprise about 60 percent of the population and without women of whom only one in four participate in the labour force,” she remarked.

“While the IMF-supported programme has been completed, Pakistan’s partnership with the IMF continues through our ongoing close policy dialogue and capacity-building engagement. I would like to reiterate the IMF’s strong support for Pakistan as the country moves forward to address its economic challenges and realise its vast economic potential,” she averred.

She thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Central Bank Governor Ashraf Wathra and other senior government officials for their productive exchange of views and warm hospitality during her visit to Islamabad.

Speaking on the occasion, Ishaq Dar said there was no justification for the political agitation against the Panama leaks as the case was in the Supreme Court of Pakistan which would take up the issues on November 1. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s sit-in on November 2 will cause inconvenience to the people and affect business and economy, he said and warned the law would take its course as nobody was above the constitution and law.

He further said Pakistan had successfully completed the three-year IMF programme. The PML-N has followed its election manifesto for focusing on four Es (economy, energy, education and health and eliminate extremism).

He stated besides consolidating gains of the last three years, the government would focus for next two years on growth, creation of job opportunities, poverty reduction and creating space for social sector spending.

He affirmed this had been reflected in the current year’s budget which was aimed at broadening tax net and improving financial disciple.

The minister said development spending had been increased from Rs 300 billion in three years back to Rs 800 billion this year. Social safety net expenses had been taken from Rs 40 billion to Rs 117 billion and budgetary support for higher education had been increased substantially, the minister claimed.

The finance minister said the battle against terrorism had entered its last round and incidents like the one in Quetta were blowback.