The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated that Pakistan will need to lay the groundwork for taking necessary action to stabilize the economy. At the same time, the IMF mission chief to Pakistan said that it had not received any aid request from Pakistan. However, in a statement released on Thursday, the county chief, Mr Jeffrey Franks, said that the IMF had met PM’s Finance Adviser Dr Amjad Chaudhry and State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Yasin Anwar, in Washington during their recent visit to the annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. In March, the Asian Development Bank country director had warned that Pakistan was close to running out of money to pay for imports, and would need another IMF programme by year end. The previous programme had lapsed in 2011, for noncompliance with its conditions, but the heaviest burden on the economy in recent months has been repaying the $11 billion loan from the IMF.

Apparently, the conditions are economic, but the IMF has not always reported success in catering condition to the needs of countries it is meant to support. Instead, these conditions favour IMF goals. As the IMF is likely to impose conditionalities, the necessities of which a new political government will find difficult to convince the people of. As the latest loan showed, the IMF may take a country out of immediate trouble, only to offer no long-term solutions for our burgeoning population and growing needs. It should not be forgotten that the most worrisome burden the country faces, and which most obliges it to make a loan request, is that of IMF repayments.

It is also noteworthy that the IMF cannot control government spending, but can only pass on the burden to the ordinary citizen. The caretaker government may not make an aid request, but it is preparing the ground for the coming elected government to commit itself to an IMF programme almost as soon as it takes office. It would be more in keeping with its mandate if it prepared the situation so that the incoming government was able to keep its promises to the electorate, not find itself burdened with conditionalities that would cripple it virtually at the beginning of its tenure. That it has not applied for the loan should not disguise the fact that, unless government spending is reined in, such an application will become inevitable, leaving the IMF to insist on harsh conditionalities being imposed, as seems likely at the moment. The true spirit of the caretaker role demands that an alternative be prepared for the incoming government, not that it have a pistol pointed at its head.