After months of dilly-dallying, the government has finally bitten the bullet. Pakistan will be approaching the IMF for a bailout package. And while the ruling PTI, admittedly, did not entirely rule this out from the get-go — its unduly prolonged will-we-won’t-we-approach risks looking like yet another flip-flop. It has also wasted precious time. For negotiations will have to start in earnest from scratch. Avisiting IMF team left the country last week without reaching consensus with the Centre. But now that the latter has made up its mind, Islamabad will have to put its lobbying hat on. And fast. If that is, increased quotas (three to five times above its allocated Special Drawing Rights, SDRs) are to be secured. A request will also have to be made for a front-loaded programme; considering the expanded dollar inflows during the first year of the bailout. The government is, of course, keen to ensure that any stringent conditions have as little impact as possible on low-income groups. This is right and just. But it serves as even more reason that serious consultations towards this end should have begun well before now. Regardless of the nitty-gritty of this week’s by-elections or, indeed, the much-touted 100-day agenda. It is no secret that the PTI inherited an economic crisis. Though now it is at the helm, result-oriented solutions are the name of the game. Thus it is not enough to call on overseas Pakistanis to partly fill economic gaps. Not in the absence of recognised fiscal frameworks. For market confidence can, in the short-term at least, make or break national economies. Pound sterling, after all, slumped to a 31-year-low less than 24 hours after the Brexit vote. Whereas here in this country ongoing uncertainty over approaching the Fund saw on Monday the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) 100 index fall by 2,188.92 points; to close at 37,898.20. This was down from 3.4 percent on Friday. While stocks suffered a more than 3-percent drop. In short, the price of non-commitment has not been cheap. The Centre feared putting all its gold-plated eggs in the IMF basket. This is understandable. What is not is the touching up of allies, such as China and Saudi Arabia, to provide alternative funding. Not relying on a single bailout source means just that; as opposed to actively trying to side-line a global lending institution. This was never feasible. In addition, as unfair as IMF returns are — they still offer a more well-trodden path in terms of what borrowing nations are up against than, say, securing handouts from regional players with their own set of geo-strategic interests. This is not to disparage friendly nations. But it is to point out that there is never any such thing as a free lunch. Moving forward, Prime Minister Imran Khan must now keep everyone in the loop. For this is that real transparency means. Not what the country has seen thus far: which is more a case of one step forward, one step back. Before seemingly U-turning all the way. * Published in Daily Times, October 9th 2018.