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, according to The News, citing top official sources, in a significant development likely to alleviate the country’s economic woes in the coming months.
“The IMF has expressed willingness to work with a prolonged caretaker setup to complete the ongoing SBA programme, which is set to expire in March or early April 2024,” according to the sources.
They also confirmed in background discussions that Islamabad had taken the IMF into confidence about the possibility of extending the tenure of the caretaker setup following approval by the Council of Common Interests for the 7th Population and Housing Census to be held in 2023, as announced in an official gazette.
The Election Commission of Pakistan estimates that it will take four months to finish the delimitation procedure and another two months to conclude the election process. As a result, the next elections may take place in the first quarter of 2024 (January-March), rather than in 2023.
Following IMF approval, the selection process in key ministries, notably the finance ministry, has begun. Top prospects include banker Sultana Allana, former finance ministry special secretary Dr. Ashfaque Hassan Khan, and Tariq Bajwa, the departing special assistant to the Prime Minister on finance and revenues and former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.
More names, including Muhammad Mian Soomro and Ijaz Gohar, are being examined for other major economic ministries, including the Economic Affairs Division, trade, industry, agriculture, privatisation, and the Board of Investment.
When this scribe phoned former FBR chairman Shabbar Zaidi on Wednesday night, he stated that he was not interested in any job in the interim establishment owing to personal concerns and that he was unable to relocate out of Karachi.
According to one senior source, if Jalil Abbas Jilani is appointed caretaker prime minister, Allana will be appointed minister of finance or another crucial economic ministry.
Dr. Ashfaque will be considered for a significant role as well.
However, if Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh becomes caretaker premier, Allana and Dr. Ashfaque’s chances of becoming interim finance ministers vanish.
The outgoing finance minister, Ishaq Dar, wishes for a key member of his team to be appointed to the top position in the finance ministry.
In Dar’s absence, Bajwa will be the first choice, but the final decision will be made only when the top man is appointed to the PM’s office.