Govt begins its search for ‘capable’ finance secretary

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ISLAMABAD: A five-member committee, tasked to recruit secretaries for different ministries, has started its work pertaining to the appointment of a new finance secretary.

According to sources, the most suitable candidate for the post has refused his availability for the office of secretary finance on health grounds, as he believes “the current economic situation is so abysmal that it would definitely take a toll on the secretary’s health”.

Sources said that the five-member committee has deliberated on different names, including Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan, Commerce Secretary Younus Dhaga and former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch, for the post of new finance secretary. Interestingly, all three names belong to the Pakistan Administrative Service Group.

The committee is comprised of Education and Professional Training Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Establishment Division Secretary Ejaz Munir, Secretary to Prime Minister Azam Khan, Advisor to PM on Establishment Arbab Shahzad and Finance Minister Asad Umar (filling in for finance secretary). Three out of five members, Ejaz Munir, Azam Khan, and Arbab Shahzad, belong to DMG.

Arif Ahmed Khan, the incumbent finance secretary, is due to retire on March 22. Sources said that the committee is faced with a difficult task, as it has to find a person capable enough to handle the ongoing negotiations with International Monitoring Fund (IMF) regarding the bailout package and present a strong stance before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

They alleged that the incumbent finance secretary failed to give a clear-cut policy to the new government with regard to the IMF bailout package. “This is one of the main reasons why the bailout agreement is still lingering on.”

Pakistan is expected to hold the final round of discussions with the IMF next month to chalk out a feasible bailout plan, said a senior official of the government who has been privy to this development.

“The IMF is now showing some flexibility and we are moving forward on multiple issues,” he stated. “The IMF package will be finalised before the next budget.”

According to information available with this scribe, around a dozen of federal secretaries would retire from their services in 2019. As per information, Foreign Affairs Secretary Tehmina Janjua will retire in April, while Cabinet Division Secretary Fazal Abbas Maken would retire on March 22.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service senior officer Irshad Ahmed Kaleemi would retire on April 30, Industries & Production Secretary Khalid Masood in September, Federal Education and Professional Training Secretary Arshad Mirza on November 15, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Secretary Captain (r) Zahid Saeed on July 3rd, Supreme Court Registrar Arbab Mujammad Arif on March 16, Science and Technology Secretary Yasmin Masood in December, Aurangzaib Haq on June 15, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Shafqat Jalil in August and World Bank Executive Director Shahid Ashraf Tarrar would retire in June.