Finance minister of the year 2001: Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan
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Finance minister of the year 2001: Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan

If ever a finance minister was in the firing line, Shaukat Aziz is that man. The 30-year veteran of Citibank is saddled with the task of selling yet another military government in Pakistan to a sceptical international investor community.

Shaukat Aziz faces the considerable challenge of rebuilding an economy that, in his own words, was in "a pretty bleak situation" when Pervez Musharraf staged his bloodless coup. When the general seized power in October 1999, all the talk was of default and isolation and a total breakdown in expenditure controls and relationships with bilateral and multilateral donor agencies. It is just as well that Aziz radiates the demeanour of a man who remains calm under fire. On one flank he is confronted by the IMF demanding deep structural reforms and economic progress before agreeing to move on from standby loans to a critical $1.5 billion medium-term poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF). At the same time Aziz has to fend off attacks at home from sections of the press, heady with a new freedom from censorship, stirring up criticism of the man they accuse of setting out with his begging bowl for loans for a nation already overburdened with external debt.

Aziz shrugs aside these populist attacks and has instead focused his efforts on the challenges confronting one of Asia's most ramshackle economies. Moreover, with the radical reforms he has initiated, Aziz is optimistic the PRGF is likely to be the last funding Pakistan will seek from the IMF.

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