Imran Khan: Pakistan needs loans to overcome debt crisis

PM Imran Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan's decision to attend a Riyadh investment conference despite the outcry over the killing of a Saudi journalist has coincided with an agreement for a $6 billion assistance package from the oil-rich kingdom, a crucial infusion of cash as Pakistan grapples with a soaring deficit.

"The reason I feel I have to avail myself of this opportunity [to speak to the Saudi leadership] is because in a country of 210 million people right now we have the worst debt crisis in our history, the cricketer-turned-politician was quoted as saying by the Middle East Eye, a London-based online news outlet. But thanks to Saudi Arab's extension of assistance, we are out of the pressure", he said.

Though China is now Pakistan's closest ally, Khan's newly elected government has sought to re-think the two countries' signature project, the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Beijing touts as the flagship infrastructure programme in its vast Belt and Road Initiative.

He will be travelling to China for a four-day visit on November 2, Friday.

He said people should not worry as the hard time would pass and Pakistan will emerge as a much stronger and prosperous country in the coming years.

He expressed his gratitude to Saudi leadership for helping Pakistan at a time of need, and said: "We could go into default but the "tremendous" financial package from Saudi Arabia has relieved our burden".

Finance Minister Asad Umar this month requested talks with the International Monetary Fund for the country's second bailout in five years. "But now we are in a better position".

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The premier is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Industry Abdul Razzak Dawood.

The Khan criticised the previous governments and held them responsible for the current economic crisis.

He said the government immediately needed Dollars 12 billion to USD 13 billion to ease the financial crisis and retire foreign debt.

Khan said the government was doing audit of the massive debt and threatened that the corrupt element would face merciless accountability. Both the countries strongly reject US concerns as misplaced that Chinese loans under CPEC are also to be blamed for Pakistan's current financial woes.

The desperately needed Saudi financial infusion provides Pakistan with an immediate $3 billion to bolster its foreign exchange reserves, according to a foreign ministry statement.

Khan told an interviewer before leaving he was concerned at Khashoggi's death but could not skip the conference because "we're desperate" for possible Saudi loans to shore up Pakistan's economy.

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