Pakistan: Imran Khan could break election pledge in first test as £8bn bailout looms


The foreign exchange reserves are at four-year lows triggering fears that Islamabad will not be able to finance its monthly import bills.

The country only completed its last IMF bailout two years ago when it received £823million ($1billion) in 2014, but now it needs another injection of cash from the fund, or China. 

The country’s financial woes are the first test for Pakistan’s new leader Imran Khan, the ex international cricketer who stormed to victory earlier this month on a promise to make Pakistan more self-sufficient.

If he seeks out another IMF loan, estimated at £7.82billion ($10billion), the country could also become the subject of the IMF’s strict austerity measures, breaking his pledge.

The bailout would also cause damaging consequences in the short-term such as raising electricity tariffs, cutting subsidies for the agriculture sector and selling loss-making public companies.

One of Mr Khan’s campaign promises was to build an “Islamic welfare state” and any restrictions on spending limits would make that difficult to fulfil.

Mr Khan pledged to spend public money on providing access to healthcare for all, expanding the social safety net and upgrading schools.

Uzair Younus, director of the South Asia practice at strategy firm Albright Stonebridge Group, brands Pakistan an “IMF addict” and that securing more bailouts would stop the country from making any headway on reform.

Imran Khan could break a campaign promise in order to try and fix the economy

He said: “Alongside distortionary tax policies, the IMF has forced the finance ministry into unplanned spending cuts without any real reforms. 

“New IMF funding will no doubt lead Khan’s government to repeat past mistakes.”

The second option would be for the ex-cricketeer to turn to China for new loans.

However, Pakistan risks going deeper into “China’s debt trap”.

Imran Khan may have to ask for a bailout from either the IMF or China

Last year, the South Asian nation received a £782million ($1billion) loan from to help boosts is foreign currency reserves. 

Mark Sobel, a former US representative at the IMF said the interest rates from China’s loans may be higher than what Pakistan can afford.

He said: “Chinese lending should be on realistic terms and consistent with Pakistan’s sustainability. Otherwise, China should reschedule or write down its loans, sharply reducing the value of its claims.”

China's leader Xi Jinping has already loaned money to Pakistan

Pakistan’s total borrowing is expected to exceed £3.91billion ($5billion) of the current fiscal year. 

Mr Khan will be sworn in later this month, but there still isn’t an obvious solution.