ISLAMABAD: A day before a high-level delegation leaves for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and US officials to seek an economic bailout, the caretaker prime minister put together on Monday an economic team. He inducted Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry as his adviser for finance and appointed Dr Waqar Masood Khan as secretary of finance department.
“Prime Minister retired Justice Mir Hazar Khan Khoso has appointed Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry as adviser finance, in-charge of ministry of finance,” said a notification issued by Prime Minister Secretariat. Six important federal secretaries were reshuffled.
A separate statement issued by the finance ministry confirmed that Mr Chaudhry, who worked as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission during the first three years of the Musharraf regime, would head the delegation scheduled to leave for the US on April 16 to attend annual spring talks with the IMF and World Bank. The team will include secretaries of finance and economic affairs division, governor of State Bank and chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue.
“The delegation will meet finance ministers of a number of other countries, visit US state and treasury departments and hold meetings with rating agencies,” the statement added.
Dr Chaudhry worked as the rector of the Lahore School of Economics. Having earned his PhD from Mcgill University of Canada, he joined the Punjab University in 1967 as a lecturer in Economics department. Later he switched over to civil service and remained associated with it until 1983 when he returned to the academic world by taking a job in the Lahore University of Management of Sciences.
Informed sources said the government had replaced finance secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa with Dr Waqar Masood Khan, secretary of textile industry, to use his expertise in negotiations with the IMF after tacit understanding with two key political parties — the PPP and the PML-N.
Dr Khan has a considerable experience of negotiations with the IMF. He was involved in finalisation of the $11.3 billion IMF programme called Stand-By Arrangement in the early days of the PPP government. He also took part in talks with the lending agency in New York, Dubai and Islamabad until pre-mature termination of the programme in May 2010 because of Islamabad’s inability to proceed with committed economic reforms.
Officials said the economic delegation’s visit to the US was expected to ease funding problems as a result of reconciliation of outstanding bills under the Coalition Support Fund and subsequent disbursements by the US and preparation, if not immediate finalisation, of a new IMF bailout package of over $5 billion for repaying foreign debts at a time when reserves had depleted to a critical $6.7 billion level and were insufficient to meet import and debt repayment requirements.
The caretaker prime minister has also transferred secretary of establishment division Taimur Azmat Usman to food security division in place of Ahmad Bakhsh Lehri who has been posted secretary of establishment division. Ejaz Chaudhry who was working as secretary of minorities affairs has been appointed as chief secretary of Sindh to replace Raja Abbas who has been posted as secretary of the Board of Investment. Mr Chaudhry had earlier served in the Sindh government as deputy commissioner.
The PML-N had been criticising retention of the federal secretaries appointed by the PPP government and demanded reshuffle of over 29 officers. PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan said the caretaker government had replaced the entire machinery in the Punjab government to the level of SHO but had not touched key officials who had closely worked with the PPP government. He particularly referred to secretary of cabinet division Nargis Sethi, interior secretary Khwaja Siddique Akbar and information secretary Agha Nadeem.