Controversial Brit takes Treasury top spot

The Treasury’s deputy chief executive and acting secretary, Gabriel Makhlouf, has been appointed chief executive and secretary, the State Services Commission said today.

Mr Makhlouf, who has been acting in the role since June 1 following the departure of former Secretary John Whitehead, arrived in New Zealand from the United Kingdom in March 2010 to join the Treasury.

He almost immediately caused controversy with a call for Treasury to drop all screening of foreign investment.

Commenting after NBR’s story on Mr Makhlouf’s position, readers were split.

For some, dropping all screening opened the country to the likes of May Wang (the once-bankrupt Crafar Farms bidder blocked by the Overseas Investment Office).

For others, it was more a case of quid pro quo.

“Of course Gabriel Makhlouf is right,” read another comment. “Anyone who disagrees with him will also be insisting any company in NZ which own assets overseas must sell them, or leave NZ.”

Mr Makhlouf is also a member of a special advisory group of state services leaders formed as part of Finance Minister Bill English's bid to slash $1 billion from state sector spending.

Private secretary to Gordon Brown
Prior to joining Treasury, Mr Makhlouf was the director, dispute resolution at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK - although perhaps his most notable role was that of private secretary to Gordon Brown during his time as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He joined HMRC in 2005 as the director, debt management and banking and in 2008 he was appointed as the director, banking services, HMRC.

Other senior management roles held by Mr Makhlouf in the United Kingdom Civil Service included director, international in Inland Revenue UK from 1998 to 2003 and director, Capital and Savings from 2003 to 2005.

From 2000 to 2004 he was chairman of the committee on fiscal affairs at the OECD.

Mr Makhlouf has been appointed for a five year term and will take up the position on 28 June 2011.

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