The uncertainty and indecisiveness in running the affairs of economy have completely gripped the country at this juncture of our history and it seems the situation is going out of the control of the incumbent rulers.
The technocrats belonging to the fold of multilateral financial institutions are becoming important with every passing day and assuming all key positions.
All this is happening at a time when Pakistan’s economy is heading towards defining moments like finalising of a staff-level agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and unveiling of budget for fiscal year 2019-20 in line with IMF’s conditions, with Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) sword hanging overhead.
In a latest development, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf- (PTI) led regime removed Tariq Bajwa as governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in an unceremonious manner, while and the replacement of Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan as chairman Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is underway. One top bureaucrat have summed up these developments by saying, “All this seems to continue in months and years ahead as no bureaucrat will be able to complete its term for two or three years on any crucial post”.
The question arises why the government preferred to replace the whole economic team at this crucial time. First of all the timing is very significant. Prime Minister Imran Khan took the decision to change Asad Umar’s minister of finance portfolio and it was known afterwards that other team members would also be replaced.
However, the government did not bother that the economic team members such as governor SBP and chairman FBR under leadership of secretary finance were negotiating a bailout deal with the IMF. Two key members of the economic team were shown the door in unceremonious manner. However, it is a fact that the government had not yet issued notification for transfer of chairman FBR. One FBR official commented, “The revenue collection shortfall continues to increase unabated, haunting the FBR in the outgoing fiscal year and the situation won’t change in the coming fiscal year as well so the guard at the FBR will keep on changing in months ahead”.
The PTI circles believed that the government had taken decision to remove Tariq Bajwa as SBP governor when they asked the former finance minister Asad Umar to change his portfolio after which he preferred to tender his resignation instead of facing humiliation to continue with another ministerial slot. Tariq Bajwa was always considered as a choice of Pakistan Muslime League-Nawaz (PML-N) among the ranks of the PTI. Bajwa was a bureaucrat whose integrity as well as competence was beyond any doubt. He is a thorough gentleman as he preferred to tender his resignation because the government could not possess executive powers to replace him with a stroke of pen. If he had opted for resistance then it would have become another difficult task to change the governor SBP at a time when the IMF parleys are underway here in Islamabad.
The PTI circles argued that the last economic team under the leadership of Asad Umar had delayed some crucial decisions that resulted into their removal from key positions. They delayed the decision of approaching the IMF and claimed that the deal was done with the fund but it was not fully true. The IMF dispatched its mission to work out modalities of the next program that demonstrates that the negotiations are underway and has not yet concluded.
But it’s unbelievable the way the incumbent regime is running the issues related to economy. It seems that there is no realisation that such haphazard and inappropriate decisions would increase the cost for people of Pakistan under the IMF-sponsored program.
After the exit of Asad Umar as finance minister, the government had started thinking to bring more major changes to its economic team.
The government had recently appointed Younas Dagha as secretary finance. Bajwa was appointed SBP governor in July 2017 for three years and his term was going to complete in July 2020 so the government could not replace him under SBP Act 1956.
Even he himself has got no clue as to why he was asked to step down.
On the replacement of FBR chairman, the government enjoys powers to replace any bureaucrat from one to another position.
The FBR chairman has drawn severe criticism for the massive revenue shortfall during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year. The FBR is facing a shortfall of Rs355 billion in the first ten months at a time when the FBR is trying to collect Rs4,398 billion till June 30.
Khan had always told his close officers that he wanted to correct the system so no one should get advances to inflate the revenue figures. Sources said lobbying might start among the Inland Revenue Service or Customs Group for the top slot in case of the top officer’s change.
The solution lies in adopting a clear-cut roadmap for revival of economy and ensuring implementers such as bureaucrats that they will be fully backed at the highest political level in order to encourage them for taking decisions on all important issues in good faith because this blame game will lead us nowhere. So our cricketing legend Prime Minister Imran Khan is requested to pay attention towards reviving the sick economy instead of only blaming the rulers of the past and his political opponents.
The writer is a staff member