Pakistani officials to meet IMF over economic crisis

KARACHI, October 21, 2008 (AFP) – Pakistani officials are to meet International Monetary Fund representatives in Dubai on Tuesday as the violence-hit country looks for billions of dollars to stave off an economic meltdown.

The government has insisted that seeking IMF help to avoid a balance of payments crisis is only a “back-up plan”, but officials said privately that they would likely seek the four billion dollars the country needs.

Dwindling foreign currency reserves can cover the nuclear-armed Islamic republic’s import bill for only six more weeks, and Pakistan’s new civilian administration admits rapid action is required.

“It is not an extraordinary meeting but, yes, the circumstances have made it so,” said Shaukat Tareen, financial adviser to the Pakistani premier, referring to the fact that regular talks with the IMF are mandatory for signatories.

“We’ll discuss with the IMF about the present economic and financial situation we are facing,” Tareen told AFP.

Pakistan’s finances have “deteriorated significantly” according to an IMF report released on Monday, due to recent political instability, Islamic militant violence, and high oil and food prices.

Its foreign reserves have sunk from 14.