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January 14, 2019

US-based economy expert brought two times to meet PM


January 14, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan is getting conflicting suggestions on how to cope with existing economic challenges facing the country from different concerned quarters that is resulting into increasing indecisiveness and confusion in decision-making process under the PTI-led regime, it is learnt.

The members of top economic team find themselves helpless before this excess of dissenting voices reaching the chief executive of the country.

"The conflicting suggestions have forced the premier to explore all options to bring changes in the economic team and next few months will decide fate of many top guns," official sources confirmed to The News here on Sunday.

The rumours are rife for some changes in the economic team because leading economic expert in the US and former IMF official Masood Ahmed was given special plane from Lahore to Islamabad to meet Imran Khan twice for holding discussions on economic issues.

Some sources say that Masood Ahmed has come to give advice voluntarily.

Imran Khan is getting all pieces of advice from different quarters whether to approach the IMF or not which is resulting into more confusion in decision-making process of the government.

The PTI-led regime could not induct a strong team in the Finance Ministry and the people in the helm of affairs in the government doubt its working.

It was also a fault on the part of Finance Ministry that they could not come up with a workable strategy to overcome uncertainties regarding approaching the IMF for bailout package.

Pakistan should have finalised staff-level agreement when the IMF team was visiting Islamabad in November last because it would be too hard for getting consensus of all stakeholders in coming months.

Amid the rumours taking round of the capital, a renowned economist on condition of anonymity said: "Someone is coming to look after economic issues."

When a close aide of top economic team was contacted for comments on Sunday night, he said that they did not want to stop the premier from listening to different points of view and the prime minister always fully backs the Finance Ministry. "There is nothing to worry," he added, while referring to the rumors regarding change of some members in the economic team.

Another official said that if someone is coming to look after the economic affairs, it will be an addition, not a replacement. He said that inducting new people is not a strange phenomenon in government departments.

Masood Ahmed is currently serving as president of the Center for Global Development in Washington D.C. He joined the Center in January 2017, capping a 35-year career driving economic development policy initiatives relating to debt, aid effectiveness, trade, and global economic prospects at major international institutions including the IMF, World Bank, and DFID.

Ahmed joined CGD from the IMF, where he served for eight years as director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, earning praise from Managing Director Christine Lagarde as a "visionary leader." In that role, he oversaw the Fund's operations in 32 countries, and managed relationships with key national and regional policy makers and stakeholders. In previous years, he also served as the IMF's director of External Relations, and deputy director of the Policy Development and Review Department.

From 2003-2006, Ahmed served as director general, Policy and International at the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID).

In that role, he was responsible for advising UK ministers on development issues and overseeing the UK's relationship with international development institutions such as the World Bank.

Ahmed also worked at the World Bank from 1979-2000 in various managerial and economist positions, rising to become Vice President, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management. In that role he led the HIPC (heavily indebted poor countries) debt relief initiative, which has to-date brought relief from debt burdens to 36 of the world's poorest nations.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Ahmed moved to London in 1971 to study at the LSE where he obtained a BSc Honors as well as an MSc Economics with distinction. He is a UK national.

Ahmed is a leading expert on Middle East economics, having served on the Advisory Board of the LSE Middle East Center, as well as on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Middle East and North Africa. He has also participated in CGD's Advisory Board.

He took over as CGD president from Nancy Birdsall, who served as the Center's founding president for its first 15 years from 2001 and will stay at the Center as a senior fellow.