January 31, 2014 / 11:11 AM / in 4 years

Pakistan central bank picks new acting governor

ISLAMABAD, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Pakistan’s central bank has appointed Ashraf Wathra, a banker with a wealth of international experience, as acting governor, the finance ministry said on Friday after its previous chief resigned in a row with the government over policy.

The change in leadership comes at a time of chronic gas and electricity shortages, violent crime and a Taliban insurgency in Pakistan that have all hampered growth and contributed to falling foreign investment in the country of 180 million people.

Yaseen Anwar stepped down as central bank chief on Thursday citing personal reasons, with some officials pointing to policy differences between the governor and the finance minister.

“Anwar’s resignation has been accepted and Ashraf Wathra, the deputy governor, will be the acting governor,” said Shafqat Jalil, a finance ministry spokesman.

A formal statement on Wathra’s promotion was expected later.

Anwar and Wathra were not immediately available for comment.

The $255 billion economy grew 3.6 percent in the last fiscal year, below a target of 4.3 percent and well below growth rates of around 9 percent seen 10 years ago. Unemployment is officially at 6.3 percent but is probably much higher.

After Anwar’s resignation on Thursday, senior officials in the finance ministry said the “personal reasons” cited by the ministry were a cover for differences with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

“They have completely different views on how to tackle rising inflation and falling foreign exchange reserves,” said one official, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly on the issue.

Another official said Anwar was unhappy with last week’s appointment of Saeed Ahmed as central bank deputy governor.

Anwar was appointed central bank chief in July 2011 after Shahid Kardar stepped down amid rumours that he had developed differences with the finance ministry. Kardar’s predecessor, Salim Raza, resigned after 16 months in office.

Wathra brings 35 years of commercial and investment banking experience to his new assignment and has worked at Emirates Bank International, American Express and ANZ Grindlays Bank. (Editing by Ron Popeski)

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