US agrees to release $322m from CSF

Oct 15, 2013| Courtesy by : dawn.com

WASHINGTON: The United States has agreed to release $322 million for Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) some time this week.

The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation has agreed to increase its investment support for Pakistan from half a billion to $1.5 billion.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. — File photo

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. — File photo

The World Bank has committed $700 million to Dasu hydro power project, and also pledged $1 billion from its international development assistance funds. A World Bank delegation will soon visit Pakistan for talks on the Dasu project.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar made these announcements while briefing Pakistani journalists on Sunday evening on his four-day visit to Washington.

Although the finance minister had come to attend annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, he also held a series of bilateral meetings with US officials, focusing on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the White House next week.

The prime minister arrives here on Oct 20 and is scheduled to leave on Oct 23, soon after his meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House.

“We will be focusing on economy, trade and investment,” said Mr Dar when asked if Pakistan had already prepared an agenda for the meeting.

In a separate statement, the White House said that the Obama-Sharif meeting would focus on “energy, trade and economic development, regional stability, and countering violent extremism”.

President Obama “looks forward to discussions with Prime Minister Sharif on ways we can advance our shared interest of a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan”, the statement said.

Earlier this week, US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes invited Mr Dar to the White House to discuss the visit and other related issues.

But before the meeting, the United States conveyed to him its concerns about “lacunas in our anti-terrorism laws” that could have allowed financial assistance to reach various terrorist groups.

Mr Dar said he called the prime minister and within three days an ordinance was promulgated to remove the lacunas.Under this ordinance, electronic evidences would be acceptable in anti-money laundering cases and conviction can be based solely on electronic or forensic evidence.

It also authorises the government and law-enforcement agencies to issue orders for preventive detention of a suspect in a terrorism case.

Mr Dar said that US officials did not seek assurances from him on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, “but I took this opportunity to assure the American nation that our weapons are in safe hands”.

The finance minister, who attended more than 50 meetings during his four-day stay, said that in his meetings with World Bank and IMF officials he noticed a “sea change” in their dealings with Pakistan.

“They are willing to supplement our efforts to rebuild our economy,” he said. “We aim to increase investment from the current 14 per cent to 20 per cent of GDP in three years.”

Mr Dar said the International Finance Corporation which currently had $900 million of investments in Pakistan was ready to increase it to $3 billion.

Iran pipeline: The finance minister said he also discussed the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project with US officials.

“We told them that the previous government has given sovereign guarantees to Iran, which requires damages for default,” he said.

The Pakistani team reminded the Americans that they too were seeking to expand their relations with Iran and they should view the pipeline project in the same spirit.Switching to coal:

Mr Dar said he also discussed with US officials Pakistan’s efforts to convert its power generation facilities from oil to coal, and “urged them not to oppose the move”.

The Obama administration is against using coal for power generation because it pollutes the environment.

“They understand our problem and may not vote against us in he next ADB meeting,” Mr Dar said.

Pakistan is seeking financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank for this project.