Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has roped in some renowned foreign economists in the newly-constituted economic advisory panel to provide the best possible professional advice to his cash-strapped government on prudent economic policies, media reported on Sunday. The immediate challenge for the Khan-led government is to arrange finances to fill about a USD 10 billion gap that is arising due to higher outflows than estimated inflows.
Pakistan’s current account deficit stands at USD 18 billion, while its foreign currency reserves are just over USD 10 billion, enough to cover two months of imports, according to figures released before the cricketer-turned-politician was sworn-in as prime minister.
One of the first tests facing Khan’s government is whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund or to turn to China with a plea for more economic aid.
Unlike past practices, the new 18-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) will be headed by the prime minister himself to ensure that the best possible professional advice is available to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government to inform, optimise and synergise the formulation and implementation of its economic and financial policies.
The first meeting of the council will be convened soon, Dawn newspaper reported. In the past, EACs were headed by finance ministers with no definite agenda for regular meetings. It was observed that EAC met even once in four months and its advice was not considered seriously. Consequently, EACs have become mere debating forums, the report said.
According to the terms of reference, the ministry of finance will be the nodal government agency for the EAC, which will function in an entirely non-partisan manner and is expected to strengthen existing state institutions in a collaborative and concerted manner.
The ultimate goal of the EAC is to promote analytically sound and evidence-based reforms and initiatives for the progress and development of Pakistan.
Out of the EAC’s 18 members, seven belong to government and 11 are from the private sector.
From the private sector, three leading international academics made EAC members are Atif R Mian of Princeton University (Department of Member Economics) and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy), Asim ljaz Khawaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of Member International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and lmran Rasul, Professor of Economics, Department of Member Economics, University College, London.
The council is expected to play a pivotal role in strengthening the government’s capacity to design and introduce sound and effective policies for rapid and continued social and economic advancement, human resource development, improvement of business processes, and strengthening of data services.
The council will also facilitate capacity building of the government in conducting policy analysis and will assist the government in reaching out to the international network of recognised economists to invite them to contribute to Pakistan’s development.
Prime Minister Khan has asked the committee to give its recommendations in two weeks for possible steps to be taken for expedient return of unlawfully acquired assets from abroad.