(Updates with more details, backgrounds, challenges for new finmins)
ISLAMABAD, April 16 (Reuters) – Pakistan appointed Shaukat Tarin as its fourth finance minister in two years on Friday, part of an overhaul of the government’s economic team as it enters a key period of budgeting and implementing IMF reforms.
Tarin, a former banker, held a portfolio of finance ministers for about a year in the previous government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), now against Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party.
His predecessor, Hammad Azhar, has been in office for less than three weeks.
Khan also replaced other major economic-related ministries, his office said, including economic affairs and power portfolios.
Tarin took the job just weeks before the annual budget was due, with economists saying Pakistan was likely to post its biggest deficit as a result of uncertain government policies exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The third wave of COVID-19 currently hitting the country will create additional uncertainty in areas such as revenue collection, making budget forecasting more difficult.
Pakistan expects its economy to grow 3% in the current fiscal year ending June 30, after revising its forecast higher than a little over 2%. Last year, GDP contracted 0.4%.
The International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth for 2020/2021 of 1.5% and the World Bank sees a 1.3% expansion.
IMF head of state Ernesto Ramirez Rigo said on April 8 that good data in January and February had suggested growth could beat forecasts but the third wave of the pandemic meant “maybe we might … need to reduce our expectations a little bit”.
Pakistan also needs to adjust its annual budget, he said.
The IMF approved a disbursement of $ 500 million to Pakistan last month for budget support after competing to review the $ 6 billion Extended Fund Facility program.
GDP growth was 5.8% when Khan took power in 2018.
About $ 2.5 billion in loans on the international bond market and recent historically high remittances are giving the economy breathing room. (Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Toby Chopra and Catherine Evans)