Pakistan names Miftah Ismail as Finance Chief before IMF talks

Pakistan’s new government is said to have selected Miftah Ismail as the new finance chief ahead of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who took charge Monday may name Ismail, who is a former finance minister, along with the rest of the cabinet within 24 hours, said one of the people. The government, formed through an alliance of multiple political parties, is still in discussions to distribute portfolios and a final decision is yet to be made, said the people.

Ismail will be among the officials responsible for negotiating with the IMF to resume a program that went into jeopardy after former Prime Minister Imran Khan unexpectedly decreased energy prices, despite an agreement with the lender for the opposite. The government’s economic team will also have to deal with Asia’s second-fastest inflation and falling foreign exchange reserves that have dropped to levels that can fund just a couple of months of imports. The nation’s central bank has already increased interest rates by the most since 1996 to help ease the crisis.

Pakistan plans to work with the IMF to stabilize the economy, Ismail told Bloomberg News on April 12. The government will prioritize to reduce its fiscal deficit and stop a decline in foreign exchange reserves that will support the rupee. Ismail declined to comment on his potential appointment, while ruling party spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb and the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Ismail served as Pakistan’s finance head for a few months under the administration of then prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in 2017 to 2018. There is a possibility he may have to hand over the responsibility to another former finance minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar if he returns from London, where he is living along with party chief and three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said the people.

Other indications of Ismail’s appointment include the nation’s finance ministry inviting journalists to a press conference by him on Tuesday and party leader Maryam Nawaz sharing on Twitter a picture of Ismail sitting next to Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday.

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