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Panama Papers are an issue of transparency: IMF chief

Panama Papers and Bahama Leaks are a matter of honesty, transparency and accountability, top International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Christine Lagarde said Tuesday.

On the final day of her maiden two-day visit to Pakistan, the IMF chief in her concluding press conference alongside Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in Islamabad said accountability and transparency was the right course forward.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during an emerging markets conference in Islamabad, October 24.— Reuters
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during an emerging markets conference in Islamabad, October 24.— Reuters

“And that is the best way to go forward whether it is Panama or Bahama or whatsoever,” she said in response to a question regarding involvement of Pakistani leaders in Panama Papers scandal.

She said technological progress and access to information will make it impossible to run and hide.

In his reply to a question about the Panama Papers, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said there is no justification of the political agitation regarding the case. He said the issue is lying in court and the hearing of the case in this regard will be held on Nov 1.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) sit-in in Islamabad on Nov 2 will cause inconvenience to the people and affect business and economy.

‘Pakistan’s moment of opportunity’

In her opening remarks, 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 will provide a solid foundation for the economy.”

As a result of the programme, she said, many tax exemptions have been removed, and higher tax revenue has allowed for greater public investment and social spending.

“About 1.5 million more poor households are benefiting from targeted social assistance than three years ago. Power outages have gradually decreased and the financial performance of the power sector is strengthening.”

She said it is Pakistan’s “moment of opportunity” to address its remaining economic challenges and work towards creating more private sector jobs and higher living standards for all segments of society.

She said she has emphasised in her discussions with Pakistani leaders 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, and 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.”

Increased focus on improving health, education and closing the gender gap and providing social protection can “ensure that gains in living standards are widely shared”, she added.

“Pakistan’s economic transformation cannot happen without the country’s youth — who comprise about 60 per cent of the population — and women, of whom only one in four participate in the labour force.”

Reiterating IMF’s support for the country, she said Pakistan’s partnership with the bank will continue despite completion of the IMF-supported programme through the ongoing close policy dialogue and capacity building engagement.

Lagarde thanked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, State Bank Governor Ashraf Wathra, and other senior government officials “for their productive exchange of views and their warm hospitality during my visit to Islamabad”.

She also expressed condolences to the victims of the Quetta police training college attack.

“We are deeply sorry for the families of those who lost their lives in this horrific attack.”

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