June 23, 2024

Pakistan appoints former state bank chief as finance minister

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A former head of Pakistan’s central bank has been appointed finance minister in the interim government leading the country to an election due in months.

Shamshad Akhtar — the only woman in the 16-strong cabinet announced Thursday — takes charge with Pakistan’s economy in dire straits, reliant on bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and loans from friendly nations to keep afloat.

It is her second stint with the portfolio, having also served as finance minister in the interim government that oversaw elections in 2018.

“She is an outstanding choice and fully capable of taking on the economic challenges the country is facing,” said Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, a leading Pakistan business tycoon.

Akhtar served as head of the Southeast Asia Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) before taking over the governorship of the State Bank of Pakistan in 2006.

She was also previously a vice president at the World Bank in the Middle East and North Africa section, and a former senior special advisor to the United Nations secretary-general.

Soaring inflation, shrinking foreign exchange reserves, and crippling debt led Pakistan to the brink of default earlier this year before a pivotal $3 billion IMF bailout was granted in July.

The state bank’s forex reserves have rebounded to $8.05 billion after reaching such lows that imports were heavily restricted, hobbling local manufacturing.

Pakistan this week installed a caretaker government after parliament was dissolved ahead of a general election due by November, but there has been speculation for months that polls could be delayed.

Data from the latest national census was finally published earlier this month, and the outgoing government said the election commission needed time to redraw constituency boundaries.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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