Every controversial decision is bound to have its consequences. The government’s decision to withdraw Atif Mian’s name from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), taken to appease the anti-Ahmadi outrage that had sprung after its announcement, has prompted a backlash of its own, causing more members of the EAC to resign in protest.
To announce their resignations so far are Dr. Imran Rasul, a London based economist and a UCL professor, and Dr Asim Ijaz Khwaja, professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School. Both of these economists had been brilliant additions to the EAC, who could have contributed invaluable service to the policy realm. The loss of these three academics is particularly detrimental considering they had written on resolving the macro and fiscal problems the country is facing- an issue that provides the bedrock for social protection and poverty alleviation policies.
The brain drain from what had once been an excellent council is a heavy loss for our country, whose economy was in dire need of revival. With this backtracking, PTI has undone the goodwill it had received for departing from tradition of past governments by enacting a new, highly qualified council. The remaining members of the EAC, though no doubt accomplished and capable, are nonetheless the same economic advisers that had been part of previous governments - including Ishaq Dar’s – who, incidentally, is explicitly implicated by the current government for being responsible for the prevailing fiscal predicament.
The EAC has lost its edge due to the unprincipled stance by the government and a principled stance by the economists. Nevertheless the damage is done, and the government should try to find eminent and capable replacements quickly- and keep its appointments as non-controversial as possible.