The government on Saturday appointed Abdul Wajid Rana as the new finance secretary in the wake of a recent report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) exposing the vulnerability of Pakistan’s economic policies.
In its recent report on the state of the country’s economy, the IMF has unearthed that, in a bid to hide the real budget deficit, Pakistan’s expenditures were understated by Rs317 billion and revenues overstated by Rs215 billion.
Abdul Wajid Rana was earlier serving as the economic affairs division (EAD) secretary. He will be the sixth finance secretary appointed during the four years of the Gilani government. Outgoing finance secretary Dr Waqar Masood has served at the position three times.
Rana confirmed that he has been posted as secretary finance. Sources said Dr Waqar Masood has been appointed as the EAD secretary, but it was not yet clear whether he would assume charge.
In 2008, too, the government had appointed Masood as the EAD secretary, but he refused to assume charge and remained an officer on special duty for quite a few months. He had said in a plea that he would not serve as EAD secretary, which, according to him, was a comparatively less important slot.
Before being made the EAD secretary, Rana had been special finance secretary for a short period. He also remained the economic minister in Washington for four-and-a-half years. He was originally brought back to Pakistan to be posted as secretary finance, but, sources said, the Presidency rejected the move initiated by finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Rana has also served in Sindh and Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa as finance secretary. He served with Hafeez Shaikh in Sindh and is credited for being responsible for a surplus in the provincial budget.
Analysts said the biggest challenge for the new finance secretary would be to control increasing expenditures and present realistic budget figures. He would also be exposed to extreme pressure from the government to maintain and continue a loose fiscal policy in a bid to lure voters ahead of the general elections.
The IMF has presented a reforms package in its report that promises a budget consolidation of up to Rs215 billion through a combination of expenditure cuts and increase in new taxes.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.
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