Economist approached to lead State Bank

Economist Shahid Kardar said on Tuesday he had discussed becoming the next governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) with Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani and had indicated he was willing to accept the job.

Kardar, who was finance minister of central Punjab province during the early years of former President Pervez Musharraf’s government, confirmed he met Gilani on Monday to discuss his possible appointment but had not yet heard anything officially.

“I was asked if I am willing and I have expressed my willingness,” Kardar told Reuters. “That’s all I know. I don’t have a confirmation, so I can’t tell you. I mean, he could have spoken to several people.”

The meeting between Kardar and Gilani was reported on Tuesday by local daily, which said he was likely to be appointed to head the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

“The meeting went well and the prime minister has cleared him for the top SBP position,” the paper said, quoting a highly-placed source.

The appointment will come at a crucial time as massive damage from flooding that began more than a month ago has heavily strained the already fragile economy.

The new governor is likely to struggle to keep inflation in check with prices being pushed up by food shortages and disruption to transport caused by the floods.

Severe flooding in Pakistan has destroyed cropland and livestock and displaced millions of people, causing damage the government has estimated at $43 billion, or almost one quarter of the South Asian nation’s 2009/10 gross domestic product (GDP).

Kardar has a masters from the University of Oxford and is also a chartered accountant.

A senior government official told Reuters that Kardar met Gilani on Monday and he would likely become SBP governor.

However, a formal official request for his appointment has not been put forward to Gilani for signature, the official said.

Yaseen Anwar, the State Bank of Pakistan deputy governor, took over as acting governor in June after former central bank chief Salim Raza resigned, citing government interference.

According to SBP rules, there cannot be an acting governor for more than three months and the deadline was Sept. 2.

Government officials had earlier said it was likely that President Asif Ali Zardari was expected to appoint Anwar as the governor of the central bank.