The government has appointed Ashraf Mahmood Wathra as deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), a post that had been vacant for almost a year due to the finance ministry’s alleged reluctance to accept the central bank nominee.
With Wathra’s appointment, the top slots are filled at the SBP after being vacant for a year, which highlights the government’s indifference towards improving governance and management in institutions that play a pivotal role in the economic decision-making.
In March last year, Dr Kamran Shahzad retired as the SBP deputy governor. SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar served without two deputies for months until last July when Kazi Abdul Muktadir was appointed as deputy governor following months of wrangling between the finance ministry and the SBP management.
Under the law, the president makes the appointment of SBP governor, while deputy governors and directors of the Central Board of Directors are appointed by the prime minister. Though the federal government has the authority to appoint deputy governors, traditionally the recommendations are made by the SBP governor.
The appointment comes at a challenging time when the economy is flagging and the banking sector’s non-performing loan portfolio has started increasing.
Ashraf Wathra, a veteran banker, was serving as senior executive vice president at the National Bank of Pakistan, heading the Overseas Banking Group and Americas region. Wathra has 25 years of experience in the banking sector with expertise in credit, corporate, investment and branch banking.
Despite the overdue appointment of a deputy governor, the SBP Central Board of Directors is still incomplete with two members short of its full strength of 10 directors.
Recently, the five new members were appointed on the board, including Mehmood Mandviwala, a lawyer by profession, Iskandar Khan, former president of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association, Iqbal Hasan, a former banker, Nawaz Tiwana, former managing director of the Pakistan International Airlines and Shahid Ahmad Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2013.