Pakistan PM Khan appoints new finance ministry chief in major reshuffle

By Asif Shahzad and Drazen Jorgic ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made a sweeping cabinet reshuffle on Thursday after only seven months in power and appointed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as de facto finance minister to steer the country through worsening economic turmoil. Pakistan is on the brink of signing up for it 13th International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout since the late 1980s in a bid to stave off a balance of payments crisis and ease ballooning current account and fiscal deficits. Khan's government inherited a wobbly economy but the former cricketer has come under intense criticism for failing to fulfil his promises that he would steady the ship and bring prosperity to Pakistan

Reuters April 19, 2019 02:05:39 IST
Pakistan PM Khan appoints new finance ministry chief in major reshuffle

Pakistan PM Khan appoints new finance ministry chief in major reshuffle

By Asif Shahzad and Drazen Jorgic

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made a sweeping cabinet reshuffle on Thursday after only seven months in power and appointed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as de facto finance minister to steer the country through worsening economic turmoil.

Pakistan is on the brink of signing up for it 13th International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout since the late 1980s in a bid to stave off a balance of payments crisis and ease ballooning current account and fiscal deficits.

Khan's government inherited a wobbly economy but the former cricketer has come under intense criticism for failing to fulfil his promises that he would steady the ship and bring prosperity to Pakistan.

Khan late on Thursday announced 10 ministerial appointments in a shakeup that included the departure of Finance Minister Asad Umar, who has been a close ally to Khan for many years.

Shaikh, who already served as finance minister from 2010-2013 under the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party when it was in power, has been appointed as "Adviser on Finance" but will be heading the finance ministry once again.

In Pakistan it is common for financial experts to be given the title of "adviser", rather than federal minister, to head the finance ministry when they are not a sitting member of parliament.

Earlier in the day Umar, announcing that he would step down, said Pakistan would still go into an IMF programme but warned his successor that he faces a tough job ahead.

"No one should expect from the new finance minister that things could be better in three months' time," Umar told reporters in capital Islamabad on Thursday afternoon.

"The next budget will be a difficult one," he added, referring to annual spending plans for the financial year ending June 2020 due to announced in May.

Umar, who had been asked to quit on Wednesday night, said he still strongly believed Khan was the best hope for the country.

Influential Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has been moved to the science and technology ministry, while retired Brigadier Ijaz Ahmed Shah has been appointed as Interior Minister. Energy expert Nadeem Babar has been appointed to lead the petroleum ministry.

GLOOMY PICTURE

Khan was widely expected to turn to a steady hand to replace businessman Umar, who was the former chief executive of Engro, Pakistan's biggest private conglomerate.

Shaikh, a U.S-educated economist who worked at Harvard University, also spent many years working for the World Bank and had also been the privatisation minister during the government of former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.

Speculation that Umar would be replaced had been rife for months, with some business groups and investors unhappy with Umar's strategy of seeking short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia instead of finalising an IMF rescue package after Khan assumed power in August.

Khan's government has got temporary relief from allies, including China and Saudi Arabia, who offered short-term loans worth more than $10 billion to buffer foreign currency reserves and ease pressure on the current account.

But it was not enough.

Umar has been leading negotiations with the IMF but has faced criticism over a worsening economic outlook on his watch, with inflation at a five-year high and the local rupee currency down about 35 percent since Dec 2017.

The central bank last month cut growth estimates, forecasting the economy to expand 3.5 to 4 percent in the 12 months to the end of June, well short of a government target of 6.2 percent. The IMF paints a gloomier picture, predicting growth of 2.9 percent in 2019 and 2.8 percent next year.

(Additional reporting by Saad Sayeed; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel, Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Ex-fighter pilot McGrath to take on Republican McConnell after Kentucky primary win
World

Ex-fighter pilot McGrath to take on Republican McConnell after Kentucky primary win

By Susan Cornwell (Reuters) - Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath said Tuesday she was ready to take on Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after edging out a Black progressive to clinch the Democratic nomination for the seat.

13 dead, several people injured in explosion at medical clinic in north Tehran - Khabaronline
World

13 dead, several people injured in explosion at medical clinic in north Tehran - Khabaronline

(Reuters) - Thirteen people were killed and several were injured in an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the Iranian capital Tehran, the Khabaronline news site reported on Tuesday. The explosion was caused by a gas leak, Tehran Deputy Governor Hamid Reza Goudarzi told state TV. (Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh)

At least 10 dead as slaying of Ethiopian singer triggers protests
World

At least 10 dead as slaying of Ethiopian singer triggers protests

By Dawit Endeshaw ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - At least 10 people died and more than 80 were wounded when the killing of a popular singer triggered blasts and protests in Ethiopia's capital and the surrounding Oromiya region on Tuesday, police and a doctor said. The unrest spotlights growing divisions in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Oromo powerbase as powerful ethnic activists that were formerly allies increasingly challenge his government. Abiy called the killing of musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa "an evil act" in a televised address on Tuesday night