The Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has roped in some renowned foreign economists in his newly-constituted economic advisory panel to provide the best possible professional advice to his cash-strapped government on prudent economic policies, according to reports.
The immediate challenge for his government is to arrange finances to fill about a $ 10 billion gap arising due to higher outflows than estimated inflows. Pakistan's current account deficit stands at $ 18 billion, while its foreign currency reserves are just over $ 10 billion, enough to cover two months of imports, according to figures released Mr. Khan was sworn-in as prime minister.
One of the first tests he faces is whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund or to turn to China with a plea for more economic aid. Unlike past practices, the new 18-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) will be headed by the prime minister himself to ensure that the best possible professional advice is available to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government to inform, optimise and synergise the formulation and implementation of its economic and financial policies.
The first meeting of the council will be convened soon, it was reported. In the past, EACs were headed by finance ministers with no definite agenda. It was observed that EAC met even once in four months and its advice was not considered seriously. Consequently, EACs have become mere debating forums.
According to its terms of reference, the ministry of finance will be the nodal government agency for the EAC, which will function in an entirely non-partisan manner and is expected to strengthen existing state institutions in a collaborative and concerted manner.
Of the EAC's 18 members, seven belong to government and 11 are from the private sector. From the private sector, three leading international academics made EAC members are Atif R Mian of Princeton University (Department of Member Economics) and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy), Mr. Asim ljaz Khawaja, Sumitomo-FASID Professor of Member International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Mr. lmran Rasul, Professor of Economics, Department of Member Economics, University College, London.
The council is expected to play a pivotal role in strengthening the government's capacity to design and introduce sound and effective policies for rapid and continued social and economic advancement, human resource development, improvement of business processes, and strengthening of data services.
The council will also facilitate capacity building of the government in conducting policy analysis and will assist the government in reaching out to the international network of recognised economists to invite them to contribute to Pakistan's development.
The Prime Minister has asked the committee to give its recommendations in two weeks for possible steps to be taken for expedient return of unlawfully acquired assets from abroad.