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Govt ‘not looking’ for new finance minister

Updated December 20, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: It appears that the government has abandoned the search for replacement of former finance minister Ishaq Dar and rather intends to continue with the present arrangement until the end of its term.

Insider sources familiar with the development told Dawn on Tuesday that a proposal which has been floated earlier to appoint a minister of state for finance is not receiving any forward movement.

The sources said formal consent was also sought from former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif regarding the proposed arrangement to handle day-to-day matters of the Ministry of Finance, while strategic decision-making and the portfolio of finance will remain with the prime minister.

However, no signal for go ahead was received from Mr Sharif, the sources added.

As per the proposed plan, the idea was to appoint MNA Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan as minister of state for finance. It was also suggested that this arrangement will be supported by an advisory committee comprising four to six members who will provide input to the government on economic issues.

The present set up will continue by allowing Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan to look into tax related issues, while Federal Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Baligh Ur Rehman is tasked to look into parliamentary affairs and appear before committees to defend government decisions, besides fulfilling other responsibilities.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Economic Affairs, Miftah Ismail is tasked to look into special economic issues assigned to him. However, he is not in control of any ministry under the current position.

One of the sources however went on to say the finance ministry is suffering as a result that there are many functions that nobody is clear whose area of responsibility as the prime minister is too busy to take care of those functions.

Mr Dar was heading around 50 committees on various issues constituted by the government. The meetings of these committees are not being convened since the approval of finance minister leave applications and even earlier. The prime minister withdrew the portfolio of finance and economic affairs from Mr Dar on Nov 22 after granting him leave.

A source in the finance ministry said that incumbent government has lost interest in running the day to day affairs of the ministry.

“Undoubtedly, the finance ministry is suffering in terms of pushing for implementation of projects to sustain growth in all those indicators achieved earlier,” the official said.

Apparently things are working but there will be all of a sudden shock in case government did not take the appointment of a regular finance minister seriously, he added.

Finance Secretary Shahid Mahmood is also retiring in the next 15 days, the official said, adding even a bureaucrat has no power to implement an agenda of a political government.

According to the official, Mr Dar was heading several important committees. “It is unclear who is running affairs of fiscal and monitory board, monitor fiscal deficit and other important issues,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2017