Prime Minister Imran Khan has constituted an 18 member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) with the function to advise the formulation of economic policies for the new government. This is the first time that the appointment of the EAC is being held with so much importance - and so far, it seems excellent.
Among the members include Sustainable Development Policy Institute Executive Director Dr Abid Qayum Suleri, former State Bank of Pakistan governor Syed Salim Raza, Dr Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Sumitomo – FASID Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, Dr Imran Rasul, professor of economics at University College London and Dr Ijaz Nabi, professor of economics at Lahore University of Management Sciences. All of the members are highly qualified and educated economists, academics and development experts from top local and international universities and think-tanks. One of the more commendable appointments is that of Dr. Arif R. Mian, a professor of economics at Princeton University and the first person of Pakistani origin to rank among the top 25 young economists of the world. The appointment of Dr. Arif, a progressive, may draw pushback from some conservatives, but PTI’s non-partisan appointing based on merit deserves praise.
It is of symbolic importance that this time the Prime Minister himself is heading the EAC, ensuring that the council will be subject to higher transparency and accountability. This renewed attention and importance to the EAC marks a departure from previous governments, where the EAC met only a few handful times, and were not given any definite agenda. We expect well thought out executive policy and drafts for new resolutions out of this. The only point of contention that could be raised is that the council includes no women. This is unfortunate considering there are qualified female experts, who could have provided invaluable economic insight.
This urgency shown by the government to the EAC is the need of the hour, considering Pakistan is tip-toeing around a looming financial crisis. The biggest of all is the balance of payment situation. Foreign debt has surpassed $90 billion and the trade deficit stands at $18 billion as imports far exceed our exports. All this is made worse considering our deteriorating relations with the US, which has threatened to cut funds and influence the IMF.
Considering the financial emergency, this approach towards the EAC should be extended towards other standing committees of the parliament on the economy, which should be in close touch with the EAC, to avoid overlap and concentrate energies.