WB: New programme for Pakistan to focus structural reforms, health & education

ISLAMABAD (APP): The World Bank Group is preparing its new 5-year program of support for Pakistan, the Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for 2022-2026 with special focus on structural reforms, health, education, promoting climate friendly future, inclusive growth, and good governance.

During a week-long visit of the World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Hartwig Schafer to Pakistan concluded on Sunday, he discussed with the government authorities, the Pakistan government’s priorities for the next few years.

The CPF framework has been informed by broad-based stakeholder consultations to help ensure alignment with country priorities, according to a statement issued by the World Bank on Sunday. It said during the visit consultations have been held with federal and provincial governments, parliamentarians, private sector, civil society organizations including women and youth groups, media and academia, as well as development partners.

“I am pleased to see broad support for the direction of the new Country Partnership Framework, which is structured around human capital development – particularly ensuring health and education for girls and boys to give them the best possible start; promoting a cleaner and more climate-resilient future; fostering more equitable and inclusive growth; and strengthening governance,” Schafer said.

Schafer was joined in his meetings by the Country Director for Pakistan, Najy Benhassine, and the Pakistan Alternate Executive Director for the World Bank, Naveed Baloch.

During his visit Schafer met with Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss the key reforms. The Government’s ambitious plans for investing in human capital, social protection and job creation were also discussed. The Bank offered its support to ensure that new initiatives like ‘Kamyab Pakistan’ benefit from international experience, global knowledge and are implemented in a targeted, impactful and fiscally sustainable way.

In meetings with Minister for Finance and Revenue, Shaukat Tarin, Minister of Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan, and Minister of Energy Hammad Azhar, Schafer emphasized the importance of staying the course on the structural reform program launched by the Government, particularly in the power sector and with respect to fiscal sustainability.

“We urge the government to accelerate the pace of power sector reforms as these are critical for Pakistan to achieve higher economic growth and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hartwig Schafer, “The key issue for the power sector is to be on a financially viable footing to support the country’s green, resilient, and more inclusive development.”

The meetings also focused on the importance of building fiscal resilience through harmonizing the General Sales Tax nationwide, establishing an integrated debt management office, and ensuring a sustainable macroeconomic framework that encourages private investment and growth. Schafer also met Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Faisal Sultan.

He reassured them of the Bank’s continued support to finance the procurement of WHO-approved vaccines for Pakistan.

The Bank had earlier restructured the Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project (PREP) to provide $153 million for vaccine financing. He also assured Minister Umar of the Bank’s support to strengthen the planning function and statistical apparatus of Pakistan.

During his visit, Schafer also met with Minister/ Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, and Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr. Reza Baqir.

He acknowledged the Government’s commitment to green, sustainable growth, decarbonization and clean energy, nature-based solutions, and climate-friendly development. Recent macroeconomic, industrial and trade developments were also discussed.

During his meeting with Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Schafer was updated on the foundational progress made in developing the social protection system of Pakistan and reiterated the Bank’s continued support to the Ehsaas program, which is crucial to help citizens in need to cope with impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other socioeconomic shocks.

Schafer also held virtual meetings with Chief Minister Sindh, Murad Ali Shah, and Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Mahmood Khan. He reassured them of the Bank’s commitment to support their respective sustainable development agendas at the provincial level under the new CPF. He also met with a diverse group of parliamentarians and representatives from civil society and academia.

Pakistan has been a member of the World Bank since 1950. Since then, the World Bank has provided $40 billion in assistance. The World Bank’s program in Pakistan is governed by the Country Partnership Strategy for FY2015-2020 with four priority areas of engagement: energy, private sector development, inclusion, and service delivery. The current portfolio has 58 projects and a total commitment of $13.8 billion.

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