As the government appoints the chief economist of Pakistan by relaxing experience requirements without an agreement with relevant departments, the Economist Group, which has been deprived of its sole grade-22 position, is considering seeking justice from court.
On the recommendation of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Dr Nadeem Javed as the chief economist from the private sector. Historically, the chief economist position is a grade-22 slot which goes to the Economist Group of civil service.
According to sources, Javed was too junior for the prestigious post and his appointment was also allegedly against a judgment of the Supreme Court.
Former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had passed an order, barring federal authorities from appointing people on contract against the cadre or promotion posts. Owing to the same reason, the previous PPP government appointed former federal finance secretary, Abdul Wajid Rana, as principal officer of the Ministry of Finance after his retirement.
The Economist Group, which is one of the technocratic groups constituted under the Civil Service Reforms of 1973, was considering approaching first the Islamabad High Court and then, if needed, would take the issue to the apex court, sources said.
All high-ups of the planning ministry were holding consultations and some may refuse to work under the new chief economist, they said. Javed is not only junior in age but also in experience.
Officers of the Economist Group are of the view that the government could not snatch their sole grade-22 position and consider the appointment of an inexperienced person an insult to the group. They cite many able persons in the group for the slot like Dr Amanullah, Dr Ali Bat, Dr Afzal and Zafar Hasan Almas.
Earlier, Javed was hired by the State Bank of Pakistan in 2005 as OG-2 – an entry-level post equivalent to grade-17. Later, he went to France and did PhD in Economics and MS in Innovation and Industrial Dynamics from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, France.
After his return, Javed worked as an assistant professor and director of the Executive MBA programme at the Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL). Assistant professor is treated as a grade-19 position, which is held by a deputy secretary. In total, he has less than 10 years of experience.
According to sources, the government last year eased the experience condition for the chief economist from 25 years to 15 years.
This was done without consulting and seeking concurrence of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC), confirmed a senior official of the Ministry of Planning. The rule was relaxed through a resolution, the official said.
But according to clause 7 of the FPSC Ordinance of 1977 and the Establishment Division’s Office Memorandums of 1978 and 1987, the recruitment rules cannot be changed without concurrence of these agencies.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Federal Minister of Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal, said the criterion was relaxed in consultation with the Establishment Division, adding the planning ministry had the authority to make changes through a resolution and with approval of the prime minister.
But the FPSC law suggests that the government cannot make changes in recruitment rules through a resolution as it is the domain of the FPSC.
To a question about appointing a person on contract against the regular post of grade-22, the minister said if the Economist Group went to court, the government would defend its decision.
He argued that relaxing the criterion was not aimed at giving benefits to any relative as the purpose was to appoint a person that had the knowledge of modern economy and that was the strength of Javed. “He understands technology and innovation,” Iqbal said.
“One should not judge the appointment on technical grounds, the benefit of doubt should be given to the new chief economist,” he added, while asking all stakeholders to refrain from making the appointment controversial.
According to the job requirements, the chief economist should have 10 years of experience in economic policymaking, but Javed does not have any solid experience in this area.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2014.
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