Friday January 21, 2022

Govt to look for new chief economist in couple of weeks

January 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The PTI-led government has decided to advertise the post of chief economist for hiring someone outside the loop of the Economist Group within a couple of weeks.

“Yes, we have decided to advertise the post of Chief Economist of the country with MP-1 scale as the incumbent Chief Economist Ijaz Wasti is going to retire from the service next month on February 22, 2019,” top official sources at Ministry of Planning confirmed to The News on Saturday.

Almost 10 days back, Ijaz Wasti had assumed his charge after getting promotion into grade 22 and subsequent approval of summary by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Wasti had become chief economist from the fold of the Economist Group after lapse of 12 years, as no professional belonging to the group was appointed on this slot since 2006. Dr Pervez Tahir was the last Chief Economist who was removed by then premier owing to his differences over growth and poverty figures.

Afterwards, every government including Musharraf, PPP and then PML-N preferred to keep the Economist Group out of this prestigious position owing to different reasons.

The top bureaucrats, especially belonging to the mighty District Management Group (DMG) always raised questions about the capability and capacity of the Economist Group. However, many believe that without giving them a chance and proper opportunities, the officers belonging to this group could not demonstrate their abilities.

The post of the chief economist mainly belongs to the Economist Group, but they have been ignored. Now again, they would be ignored despite the fact that there were officers who could be given acting charge till their promotion into grade 22.

The search for the new chief economist would commence at a time when the PTI government was in the process of finalising the 12th Five Year Plan.

For the Planning Commission, the challenge was to develop a consensus with the Ministry of Finance on overall macroeconomic projections over the next five years, from 2018-19 to 2022-23, at a time when the government was moving towards seeking another bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In last week’s meeting held at the Ministry of Finance, the Planning Commission’s technical expert was not allowed to sit when the Finance Ministry presented its flawed macroeconomic framework. Even renowned economist Dr Hafiz A Pasha had termed this macroeconomic framework inconsistent and incomplete and in contrast to the ground realities.

“It will be hard to build consensus with the Finance Division because we want to make an ambitious plan for achieving higher growth trajectory, but the Finance Division will have to remain conservative in order to strike staff level agreement with the IMF,” said one top official while talking to The News the other day.

On one hand, in the 12th Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission has proposed achieving average GDP growth rate of 5.8 percent in five years period, against 4.8 percent GDP growth in last 11th plan period.

It envisages that the growth rate would touch seven percent mark at the end of the tenure of the PTI government.

On the other hand, the Finance Ministry was projecting growth rate touching six percent by the end of 2022-23. The PML-N led regime had achieved growth rate of 5.8 percent in its last year of rule in 2017-18.

For agriculture, the Planning Commission envisages growth rate of 3.6 percent under the 12th plan targets against 2.4 percent growth achieved in the last five years under the 11th plan period.

The government plans to achieve industrial growth at 6.8 percent under the 12th plan, against 5.3 percent achieved in last five years under the 11th plan.

The services sector envisages growth rate of 6.1 percent in the next five years period, against 5.5 percent achieved in the last five years period under the 11th plan.