Central bank governor: The iron lady at the heart of Pakistan’s new economy
Shamshad Akhtar breaks the mould in Pakistan. As central bank governor, she has been charged with managing the sudden growth in the country’s banking markets, as well as promoting economic development in some of the country’s more deprived areas – a key tool in the war on terror. Eric Ellis met her in Karachi.
IT WAS FRANCE’S wartime resistance leader and later president, Charles de Gaulle, who lamented how difficult effective governance was in a nation that has 246 varieties of cheese. Pakistan’s new central bank governor, Dr Shamshad Akhtar, would sympathize with the French general as she makes her way to her office in the State Bank of Pakistan building on Karachi’s chaotic II Chundrigar Road, Pakistan’s Wall Street, which the British Raj traders used to know as Macleod Rd.
In just one kilometre of the mercantile mayhem that the 53-year-old Akhtar has presided over in the year since her appointment, there suddenly seem to be as many banks in Pakistan as France has regional cheeses – Al Baraka Islamic Bank, Union Bank, Soneri Bank, Wall Street Exchange, Habib Bank, Indus Bank, Atlas Bank, National Industrial Bank, Kazbank, Muslim Commercial Bank, Oman International Bank, Bank of Punjab, Bank Alfalah – and the myriad others that have opened their doors in Pakistan’s continuing liberalization of its financial sector.