ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar, who is going to hand over the economic affairs to the next expected minister Asad Umar, is likely to get the post of Deputy Chairman Planning Commission in the next government.
According to reliable sources, the caretaker finance minister, a renowned Pakistani development economist, is on top of the list among names being considered by an economic team of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which is going to take charge of the government by the end of next week.
“Though PTI’s nominated finance minister Asad Umar is yet to take the charge of the ministry, the caretaker minister has started sharing dossiers with Umar. Dr Shamshad’s name in under consideration for Planning Commission,” the sources informed Pakistan Today.
“Though her name was also under consideration for Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) she is reportedly not interested in the post which she previously held for over four years (from 2005 to 2009). She, however, is interested in heading the planning commission where she has also served in the past,” they said. The chairman of the commission happens to be prime minister.
The post of deputy chairman planning commission is vacant since Sartaj Aziz submitted his resignation soon after completion of PML-N government’s term in May. He resignation was accepted by the competent authority on June 1, 2018. Aziz, being a political appointee, had stopped attending office after the PML-N government completed its five-year tenure on May 31. During his ten-month short-term, he tried to improve the working of the Planning Commission. Aziz had been given the status of a federal minister.
The caretaker government had given the additional charge of deputy chairman planning commission to Dr Shamshad later.
Dr Shamshad, though initially avoided criticizing the financial policies of the previous government, but she recently declared macroeconomic targets for 2018-19 presented by the PML-N regime as unrealistic. She said that the twin deficits – current account and budget deficit– had increased and now the country was facing macroeconomic challenges.
Dr Shamshad had briefed the nominated next finance minister Asad Umar about economic issues of the country, during a recent meeting. Talking to media after the meeting, Asad Umar, however, did not disclose the details of his interaction with Dr Shamshad. He, however, described Pakistan’s external sector’s performance “far worse than five years ago” but still manageable.
The caretaker finance minister has reportedly informed Umar about the steps she had taken to ‘contain’ expenditures and correct macroeconomic imbalances. According to insiders at the ministry, the caretaker minister during the past two months has largely been busy in handling how to make ground for next program of IMF for which the repayment arrangements of previous loans were needed to be streamlined. During the past few months IMF was engaged with Pakistan, including through the Post-Programme Monitoring (PPM) and the regular Article IV consultations. The last PPM report was discussed by the IMF Executive Board in March 2018. The dates for the next Article IV consultation were yet to be decided.
The caretaker finance minister, who has good links in international financial institutions, is being considered a good member of PTI’s next government economic team. According to sources, various economists, bankers have also started lobbying for the post of SBP Governor as the next government will remove the existing governor.
It may recall here that Shamshad Akhtar, a Pakistani development economist, diplomat and intellectual, has served as the 14th Governor of SBP, the first woman to assume this position. She also served as a senior adviser to Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and the Vice-President of the World Bank.