IMF revises up Pakistan's 2016/2017 growth forecast to 5 percent

A family rides a camel past the construction of an office building and mall complex on Clifton beach in Karachi, Pakistan, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro/Files

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday increased to 5 percent its forecast for Pakistan’s growth in the fiscal year to June 2017, from a previous estimate of 4.7 percent, citing China’s plans to invest in road and energy infrastructure.

In September, Pakistan will end a three-year $6.7-billion financial assistance programme from the IMF, after the economy recovered from a series of financial crises, with growth at an eight-year high and increased foreign exchange reserves.

Fund officials say Pakistan has met all performance criteria for the assistance programme but urged Islamabad to keep tackling structural reforms to further increase growth and make it more inclusive.

“Growth is expected to strengthen to 5 percent in FY 2016/17, supported in part by an expected pick-up of investment related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),” the fund said in a report.

The $46-billion CPEC project will focus on road building and energy infrastructure to end chronic power shortages in Pakistan. A highway is expected to link Western China with the port of Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.

Fund officials say Pakistan’s economy is likely to have grown 4.7 percent in the fiscal year to June 2016, a touch higher than their May estimate of 4.5 percent.

“Inflation is expected to remain contained at 5.2 percent in FY 2016/17, well-anchored by prudent monetary policy,” the IMF added.

The IMF said Pakistan had also sought a four-week extension to the loan programme from Sept 3 to Sept 30 to “allow sufficient time to conduct discussions for the final review”. It added Pakistan was in strong position to repay the IMF.

“Pakistan’s financing needs are fully covered for the remainder of the program and the country’s capacity to repay the Fund remains strong owing to supportive macroeconomic policies, resilient remittances inflows, and increasing foreign exchange reserves,” the IMF said.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Richard Balmforth