ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan named Murtaza Syed, deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), as its new chief on Wednesday as the country restarts talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a stalled $6 billion programme.
Murtaza Syed, an “eminently qualified economist with rich IMF experience”, takes over at the end of the three-year term of incumbent Reza Baqir, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear if Syed would be a long-term replacement or an interim appointment by the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, which came to power last month after ousting Imran Khan through a no-confidence vote.
The government had the option of offering another term to Baqir, who was appointed by Imran Khan in 2019.
The appointment comes as Pakistan faces a number of economic challenges, including ballooning deficits and depleted foreign exchange reserves.
Pakistan’s new government has sought an increase in the size and duration of the IMF programme, which has been slow moving forward.
Increased autonomy for the central bank was among reforms agreed upon between the lender and Pakistan as part of the programme that began in 2019.
Legislation to ensure greater autonomy was passed earlier this year and includes insulating the central bank’s policymaking bodies from government interference and increasing the governor’s fixed tenure to five years from three.
As a result, the next governor, whenever formally appointed, will have more autonomy and a longer fixed tenure than his or her predecessors.
Some local media outlets previously reported the new administration of the country could extend his tenure “for a few months” amid negotiations with the IMF over the resumption of a $6 billion loan program.
However, the finance minister ruled out that possibility on Tuesday while saying he had conveyed the government’s decision to the outgoing SBP governor.
Pakistan is facing a major current account deficit with depleting foreign exchange reserves. The country is seeking external financing and recently requested the IMF to extend the size and duration of its ongoing loan program.
Ismail praised Baqir on Tuesday for being “an exceptionally qualified man,” adding that he worked well with the new Pakistani administration “during our brief time together.”
In a tweet today, Ismail said that Dr Baqir’s term expired on May 4. “As per law the senior most Deputy Governor takes over until [a decision is made on a new governor].”
“Therefore, Dr Murtaza Syed, an eminently qualified economist with rich IMF (International Monetary Fund) experience, will take over as Governor SBP. I wish him the best in his new role,” the finance minister said.
According to the SBP, Dr Syed has more than 20 years of experience in macroeconomic research and policy making and worked with the IMF for 16 years before resigning to join the State Bank of Pakistan.
Dr Syed has a PhD in economics from Nuffield College at the University of Oxford and has delivered lectures on public policy at Cambridge and Oxford Universities.