Incarcerated former prime minister Imran Khan has emerged as the top pick by Pakistani finance professionals to oversee the cash-strapped South Asian country’s economic recovery, according to a Bloomberg survey that did not name its 12 respondents.
As per the survey, Imran Khan, who is embroiled in multiple cases and was just handed a 14-year sentence on Wednesday, was ranked highest by 12 traders, economists and analysts from some of the nation’s biggest brokerages, who cited the former cricket star’s enduring popularity as a key reason to push through market-focused reforms in the long run.
Three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif – largely seen as a front-runner for the elections with Imran barred from contesting elections – came second, with respondents mentioning his experience in government.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was a distant third, with some of those surveyed citing a distrust of dynastic politics.
As per the report, Nawaz Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, have been gaining support from voters since his return to Pakistan last year.
“An analysis by Bloomberg Economics of Pakistan’s misery index — a combination of inflation and unemployment rates — showed Sharif’s party performed better in managing the economy over the past three decades compared with rivals, including Khan,” added the Bloomberg report.
Meanwhile, the Bloomberg survey found that Pakistan is likely to require another loan from the International Monetary Fund to stay afloat.
“All 12 survey respondents said they didn’t expect Pakistan to survive without a new IMF loan. Half of them said Pakistan can survive without a bailout for six months, in a sign the economy remains fragile,” said the report.
“Four respondents said Pakistan can survive without an IMF loan for three months while two said nine months. None said the country can survive for more than a year without a bailout.”
Last year in June, Pakistan clinched a last-minute $3-billion nine-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) with the IMF. To date, Pakistan has received two tranches cumulatively amounting to $1.9 billion from the Washington-based lender.
The ongoing program is set to end in April, and Pakistan is expected to receive $1.1 billion from the IMF.