IMF ‘willing to work’ with prolonged caretaker setup

  • Islamabad took IMF into confidence approval of census by CCI.
  • Selection for caretaker ministers underway in key ministries.
  • Dar wants key member of team to clinch top post in finance ministry.

ISLAMABAD: In a significant development likely to alleviate the country’s economic woes in the upcoming months, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is likely to work with a prolonged caretaker setup in the country to complete its ongoing $3 billion Standby Arrangement (SBA) programme, The News reported Thursday, citing top official sources.

“The IMF has shown the willingness to work with a prolonged caretaker setup for the completion of the ongoing SBA programme, which is going to expire in March or early April 2024,” the sources said.

They further confirmed in background discussions that Islamabad had also taken the IMF into confidence over the possibility of extending the tenure of the caretaker setup after the Council of Common Interests approval for the 7th Population and Housing Census held in 2023, notified through an official gazette.

The Election Commission of Pakistan requires four months for undertaking the delimitation exercise and two more months to complete the elections process. Therefore, the next elections might be conducted in the first quarter (January-March) in 2024, not in 2023.

After getting the IMF’s endorsement, the selection process in the key ministries — including the finance ministry — is underway. Top contenders are banker Sultana Allana, former special secretary to the finance ministry Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, and Tariq Bajwa — the outgoing special assistant to PM on finance and revenues and the former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

For other key economic ministries, including the Economic Affairs Division, commerce, industries, agriculture, privatisation, and Board of Investment, some more names, including those of Muhammad Mian Soomro and Ijaz Gohar, are being considered by top functionaries.

When this scribe contacted former FBR chairman Shabbar Zaidi on Wednesday night, he said he was not interested in getting any position in the interim setup due to personal reasons, adding that he could not move out of Karachi.

One top official said that if Jalil Abbas Jilani becomes the caretaker premier, there is a strong possibility that Allana will be made minister for finance or given any other key economic ministry.

Dr Ashfaque will also be considered as a candidate for a key position.

However, if Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh becomes the caretaker premier, the chances of Allana and Dr Ashfaque becoming interim finance ministers would evaporate.

It is the desire of the outgoing minister for finance, Ishaq Dar, that a key member of his team should clinch the top position in the finance ministry.

In Dar’s absence, Bajwa will be the first choice, but the ultimate decision will be announced only after the appointment of the top man to the PM’s office.

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