Govt shuffles economic team

ISLAMABAD:The leadership of ruling PPP has pulled up its socks to fulfil its commitments with the International Monetary Fund as it reshuffled its economic team to gear up imposition of Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST).President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met here on Monday evening and decided to take Dr Waqar Masood Khan as Secretary Finance in place of Salman Siddiq.Salman Siddiq who was preferred by former finance minister Shaukat Tarin over Dr Khan has been made Chairman Federal Board of Revenue that is a demotion in technical terms, as Revenue Division is part of the Finance Ministry. Suhail Ahmed who was looking after the FBR as Chairman has been transferred as Secretary Planning and Development Division.At the same time the PPP leadership has also given go-ahead to Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to apply for an extension in the standby loan programme of the International Monetary Fund. Seeking an extension beyond December 31 expiry of the of programme means reaffirming the Government of Pakistan’s commitment to impose RGST in addition to meeting rest of the conditionality.

According to sources close to the Finance Minister, the IMF programme has to be extended in technical terms as long as the Government of Pakistan does not decline fulfilment of its commitments under it. The sources were of the view that the programme was most likely to be extended for three to six months. The sources told TheNation that the Finance Minister himself was not clear whether or not the IMF would release any more funds before the passage of the General Sales Tax Bill 2010 from the National Assembly.The President and the Prime Minister also discussed the prevalent political situation in the country in the wake of JUI-F’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition and the MQM concerns over Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s irritating statements.The two leaders also exchanged notes over the conclusion of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit that has been termed as highly fruitful for Pakistan especially at the current critical juncture of time keeping in view regional and international geopolitical scenarios.The Prime Minister also briefed the President on Pakistan’s issues in the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) for which the latter was heading to Turkey on Tuesday. The top leadership also measured the pressure being build up by the Americans for an earliest army operation in North Waziristan Agency – Nation