ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan will visit China next week, authorities said yesterday, as the former cricketer mounts a desperate search for funds to prop up the nation’s dire finances. The confirmation of Khan’s first visit to China as premier comes days after Pakistan secured $6 billion dollars in funding from Saudi Arabia to help stave off a widening balance of payment crisis.
Khan said in a televised address Wednesday that he was working to nail down Saudi-style financing packages from two additional, unnamed countries to reduce the size of a potential loan from the International Monetary Fund. The foreign affairs ministry said Khan would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on the November 2-5 trip which will take in Beijing and and the commercial hub of Shanghai.
“The visit will provide an opportunity for the two countries to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations with special reference to CPEC,” foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told AFP, referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. CPEC is a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project aimed at building energy and transport links connecting the western Chinese region of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea via Pakistan.
However, given Pakistan’s deteriorating finances, in recent months there have been concerns that portions of the ambitious agreement may have to be scaled down. Analysts said Khan will be pushing for financial assistance from Beijing during the visit. “Pakistan would certainly like China to play its role in supporting our balance of payments and this is going to be one major subject of discussions,” said economist Salman Shah. “China has been providing financial support to Pakistan in difficult times and this will not be something new if they come forward this time also.”
Since taking power in August, Khan has sought loans from “friendly” countries like Saudi Arabia, vowed to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of populist austerity drives to raise cash. Pakistan has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s. The last time was in 2013, when Islamabad got a $6.6 billion loan to tackle a similar crisis.–AFP