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PM-led economic council formed to advise govt

Updated September 02, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has constituted an 18-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) with the induction of a few world-renowned economists to ensure the availability of best possible professional advice to the government on economic policies.

Unlike past practices, the new EAC will be headed by the prime minister himself to ensure that the best possible professional advice is available to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government to inform, optimise and synergise the formulation and implementation of its economic and financial policies.

The first meeting of the council will be convened next week.

Take a look: Bringing back money sent abroad illegally is top priority: Asad

In the past, EACs were headed by finance ministers with no definite agenda for regular meetings. It was observed that EAC met even once in four months and its advice was not considered seriously. Consequently, EACs have become mere debating forums.

Eminent economists part of the body that will meet at least once a month to guide govt on short- and long-term interventions, structural reforms

Contrary to this, it was decided this time that a permanent secretariat will be established for the EAC in the finance division. And the new EAC will meet at least once a month and its mandate will be to advise the government on both short-term macroeconomic stabilisation interventions and long-term structural reforms for stable and sustained economic development.

According to the terms-of reference, the ministry of finance will be the nodal government agency for the EAC, which will function in an entirely non-partisan manner and is expected to strengthen existing state institutions in a collaborative and concerted manner.

The ultimate goal of the EAC is to promote analytically sound and evidence-based reforms and initiatives for the progress and development of Pakistan.

The EAC comprises some of the most erudite and well-respected experts, academics and practitioners of the field, who are currently serving in, or have rich experience with, some of the most advanced academic institutions and other specialised organisations in Pakistan and abroad.

The council is expected to play a pivotal role in strengthening the government capacity to design and introduce sound and effective policies for rapid and continued social and economic advancement, human resource development, improvement of business processes, and strengthening of data services.

The council will also facilitate capacity building of the government in conducting policy analysis and will assist the government in reaching out to the international network of recognised economists to invite them to contribute to Pakistan’s development.

Out of the 18 members, seven belong to government and 11 are from the private sector.

From the private sector, three leading international academics made EAC members are Dr Atif R. Mian of the Princeton University (Department of Member Economics) and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy); Dr Asim ljaz Khawaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of Member International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Dr lmran Rasul, Professor of Economics, Department of Member Economics, University College, London.

Other members of the council are Dr Farrukh lqbal, Dean and Director of the Institute of Business Administration; Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, Principal and Dean of School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology; Dr ljaz Nabi, Professor of Economics, Lahore University of Management Sciences; Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director of Sustainable Development Policy Institute; Dr Asad Zaman, Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics; Dr Naved Hamid, Professor of Economics at Lahore School of Economics; Syed Salim Raza, former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, and Sakib Sherani, economist.

The official members of the council are Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umer, Minister for Planning Development and Reforms Division Khusro Bakhtiar, Secretary of Finance Division Arif Ahmed Khan, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Tariq Bajwa, Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood and the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.

Last week, the government constituted a committee headed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar to recover the wealth stashed abroad. The committee comprises officials of the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, Federal Board of Revenue, SBP and the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. The committee held its first meeting on August 27.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked the committee to give it recommendations in two weeks for possible steps to be taken for expedient return of unlawfully acquired assets from abroad.

On March 26, the Supreme Court constituted a 12-member committee headed by SBP Governor Bajwa and tasked to trace and encourage Pakistani nationals to volunteer by declaring assets stashed abroad.

The committee already has evolved terms of reference for its meetings and submitted three reports in the court, a senior official in the SBP told Dawn. Early next week the committee would brief the apex court in a hearing on the issue.

“However, it is not clear whether the government will club the two bodies or these bodies would work separately,” the official said.

The committee has also examined existing legal regime and practices especially related to foreign exchange and taxation, bilateral treaties and multi-lateral conventions that can be used to stem the unregulated outflow of foreign exchange from Pakistan, to trace undeclared assets held abroad by Pakistani citizens and to retrieve such assets, particularly the ones generated with proceeds of crime.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2018