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ISLAMABAD:
Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed the incumbent economic affairs secretary, Noor Ahmed, as Pakistan’s new executive director at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The premier has picked Ahmed out of a panel of six bureaucrats, an official of the economic affairs ministry told The Express Tribune on Tuesday. The ADB headquarters is in Manila, the Philippines.

Ahmed, presently posted as Economic Affairs Division Secretary, is transferred and appointed as Executive Director/Alternate Executive Director of the ADB for a term of four years with effect from July 1, according to a notification issued by the Establishment Division.

Ahmed is said to be the best suited candidate among the panellists due to his long stints in the Ministry of Finance where he handled important policy matters.

Ahmed has also worked as special secretary finance. He has twice remained as economic affairs secretary where he dealt with international creditors and donors. In the original summary moved by the economic affairs ministry, there were four candidates including Interior Secretary Yousaf Nasim Khokar, Power Secretary Ali Reza Bhutta and Planning Secretary Hamid Yaqub Sheikh.

The Establishment Division had also added two more names, Health Secretary Amir Ashraf Khawaja and Railways Secretary Habibur Rehman Gilani. Hamid Yaqub Sheikh was the other candidate that had the experience to deal with the international creditors.

Sources said that there was a possibility that Mohsin Chandna could be appointed as the new economic affairs secretary. Chandna is currently serving as the inter-provincial coordination secretary and was earlier a strong candidate for the finance secretary.

Noor Ahmed will assume his responsibilities from next month, initially from Islamabad due to the restrictions imposed by the ADB in light of the Covid-19 situation.

He will replace Shahid Mehmood, who will complete his three-and-a-half-year term this month. Mehmood was very proactive and set new standards for protecting the country’s interests in Manila. Unlike many, Mehmood was a hands-on man, who defended Pakistan’s quotas for cheaper loans and also played a role in clearing many procedural hurdles, both in Manila and Islamabad, said an official of the economic affairs ministry.

Ahmed has been appointed for four years and during the first two years he will act as executive director of the ADB.

The position of executive director rotates between Pakistan and the Philippines for two years. The executive director represents a constituency of seven countries comprising Kazakhstan, the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the Timor-Leste.

The ADB appoints directors on its board with effect from July 1. Earlier, Pakistan’s former executive director at the ADB, Sami Saeed, had refused to vacate his post, forcing the then president to cancel his appointment and call him back.

The ADB board decides on policy matters for member countries and approves loans, both for budgetary support and project lending, based on request from the members.

The ADB has remained one of the largest lenders to Pakistan. The ADB, in the past, has taken position independent of the policies of Bretton Woods institutions - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. However, lately it has also joined hands with the IMF when it comes to approving budget support loans for Pakistan.

The Manila-based lender recently delayed approval of a $300 million budget support loan after talks between Pakistan and the IMF remained unsuccessful under the sixth review of the programme. An immediate challenge for the new executive director will be to keep the ADB financing lines open, particularly at a time when the IMF talks are derailed.

Pakistan’s gross financing requirements are estimated at over $25 billion for the next fiscal year and the government has planned to take over $17 billion in loans.

But materialisation of these loans would depend upon Pakistan’s ability to agree on new terms with the IMF. The $17 billion borrowing plan includes $3.1 billion in funding from the IMF, $1.6 billion from the ADB and over $2 billion from the World Bank.

The federal cabinet also approved on Tuesday a new plan to pledge Pakistan’s three airports, three motorways and Islamabad Expressway to raise Rs1.8 trillion worth of debt in the next fiscal year for budget financing.

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