Friday, October 14, 2016

IMF denies giving Ishaq Dar Finance Minister of the Year award

ISLAMABAD: The Emerging Markets newspaper does not belong to International Monetary Fund, said Harald Finger, the IMF’s Mission Chief to Pakistan on Thursday amid new revelations that five state-owned firms partially funded the publication’s latest edition.

Last week, the newspaper conferred Best Finance Minister of South Asia Award to Ishaq Dar and Best country in South Asia in infrastructure development to Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal. Government functionaries jumped to congratulate them for winning such a ‘prestigious’ award.

The ministries of finance and planning and development had claimed that the Emerging Markets is a World Bank and IMF publication and that it was a matter of honour for the country that the publication bestowed these awards to Pakistani political personalities.

“Emerging Markets is an independent publication,” said Harald Finger, the Washington-based chief of the IMF mission for Pakistan, while addressing a press conference from Washington through a video-link. He was responding to a question about whether he congratulated Finance Minister Dar on winning IMF/WB Best South Asia Minister award.

“The IMF is not involved with the Emerging Markets publication,” said Wafa Amr, IMF’s Washington-based media contact person for Pakistan, who was also present at the occasion.

After the finance and planning ministries boasted about their achievements, the country’s top dignitaries rushed to congratulate them for winning the IMF/WB award. Even Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated Dar for winning the award. “K-P Governor Iqbal Zafar, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Hider congratulated the finance minister for achieving the Finance Minister of 2016 for South Asia award,” a finance ministry handout read.

Planning ministry’s claims
The planning ministry not only declared Emerging Markets as a WB/IMF publication but also exaggerated the paper’s standing by claiming that it was an ‘international institution’. “Emerging Markets, which is an international institution, has declared Pakistan the best infrastructure development country in South Asia,” the ministry said. It added that Emerging Markets had invited the Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal to receive the award in Washington.

Funding
The latest edition of the magazine shows that five Pakistani state-owned enterprises funded the Emerging Markets edition that carried a supplement on Pakistan. This can be verified from the following URL. http://html5.pagesuiteprofessional.c.../default.aspx? pubname=&edid=ef5717c7-d7e7-441a-9ad2-b9d75f033f2b. It is a United Kingdom-based publication and is a subsidiary of Euromoney Trading Limited/Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

However, the management of the newspaper denies that there was a link between the funding and awards.

National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan, Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL) and Pak-Arab Refinery Company (PARCO) gave advertisements to the paper last month.

The NBP spokesman insisted that the bank gave the advertisement due to its prestigious global standing. He refused to disclose the cost of advertisement and maintained that nobody from the government pressured the bank to give the advertisement.

The response of the representative of the State Life Insurance Corporation was awaited till the filing of the story. Contacts with the ZTBL could not be established despite repeated attempts.

Newspaper version
“The Pakistan supplement, along with other supplements in the newspaper like Palestine, Vietnam and Argentina are sponsored content,” said Sara Posnasky, the magazine’s head of operations while responding to questions through email. She did not disclose the amount of funding.

“Our awards are entirely independent of all sponsored content and advertisements,” said Posnasky. She said that Emerging Markets has produced 60,000 copies over this year, which suggests that it is not a widely published magazine.

To another question, Posnasky said an editorial committee, chaired by editor Toby Fildes, decides the awards. She promised that Toby would provide more details about selection criteria. However, Toby did not reply till the filing of the story.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2016.




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