Seasoned economist Dr Shamshad Akhtar has been appointed as the caretaker finance minister on Wednesday following days of deliberations.
The appointment comes at a time when Pakistan remains enrolled in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. Under the $3-billion nine-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), the country received the first tranche of around $1.2 billion last month.
However, despite clinching a last-minute deal, which helped the nation avert a potential default, pressure remains as the nation’s financing requirements remain elevated.
At such a time, the caretaker setup, which is normally responsible for conducting free and fair elections, has the added burden of navigating reforms promised to the IMF.
With this backdrop, the appointment of a caretaker finance minister was deemed crucial with several names floating for the position.
However, the speculation ended on Wednesday with the appointment of Dr Akhtar.
Born in Hyderabad, Dr Shamshad Akhtar is serving as chairperson and independent director at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX).
Back in 2006, Dr Akhtar took over as Governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) for a three-year term, becoming the first woman to head the country’s central bank since its inception in 1948.
Prior to her appointment as SBP Governor, Dr Akhtar served at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as its Director General, Southeast Asia Department since January, 2004. Earlier, she was Deputy Director General of the Department. She also held the position of Director, Governance, Finance and Trade Division for East and Central Asia Department of ADB.
Dr Akhtar began her career in ADB in 1990 and rose to the position of Manager in 1998 after serving as Senior and Principal Financial Sector Specialist.
Before joining the ADB, Dr Akhtar worked for 10 years as an economist in the World Bank’s Resident Mission in Pakistan. In Pakistan, she also worked briefly with the Planning Offices of both the federal and Sindh governments.
She dealt with wide-ranging subjects which covered analysis of macroeconomic situation, finance and money and structural reforms of key sectors including industry and agriculture. Her work included papers on taxation system of Pakistan, state of inter-governmental fiscal relations, poverty incidence & its dimensions and foreign direct investment etc.
Dr Akhtar also dealt with the banking sector’s legal, regulatory and institutional reforms while advising on diversification of the industry to exploit long term funding through development of bond market.
Dr Akhtar is Member of the Advisory Council of the Sustainable Finance Centre at the SOAS at London University, Member of UN Global Women Leaders Group, served on G20 Task Force member of the Think Tank on Infrastructure during the Presidency of Japan, Saudi and Italian Government.
She served as an Advisor of SG Food Security and Financing for Development Group, one of the 12 Global Advisors to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on China on Belt and Road, Council of Advisor and Policy Sherpa for the Boao Forum for Asia and Advisor to the Shanghai Forum. She conducted analytical work as Chair of the Pakistan Reform Insurance Committee, Capital Markets reforms and the Special Economic Zones etc. She also served speaker on diverse set of international and national panel.