Italy to provide €20.5m for GB’s economic uplift

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ISLAMABAD: Italy would provide €20.5 million to support economic transformation initiatives in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Economic Affairs Division Secretary Noor Ahmed and Ambassador of Italy in Pakistan Stefano Pontecorvo signed an agreement in this regard on Thursday. Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar was also present on the occasion.

As per details, the agreement is a 28-year facility with 10 years of grace period and zero per cent interest rate.

Under the Economic Transformation Initiatives (ETI) Programme, the Italian government would provide infrastructural support, capacity building and technical assistance for the value chain of key agricultural products of GB so that the rural communities of GB are facilitated.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a remote mountainous region, with less population and comparatively higher incidence of poverty. Agriculture productivity is generally low due to poor access to quality inputs, huge post-harvest losses (45pc for apricot and 10pc for potato), lack of local processing and value addition and poor access to markets.

ETI Gilgit-Baltistan is the largest developmental programme of the GB government. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing $76 million over a period of seven years, while the Italian government has agreed to join hands with IFAD to provide a soft loan of 20.5 million to be utilized for financing the programme activities.

The objective of this programme is to increase the irrigated crop areas and production and improve connectivity with markets through investments in economic infrastructure.

This programme would improve incomes and reduce poverty and malnutrition in the rural areas of GB region.

Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar thanked the Italian government for providing this financial facility as it would ensure prosperity for the people of GB.

He said the government honours and appreciates financial cooperation from the Italian government and looks forward to strengthening bilateral relations in future specifically after the Joint Economic Commission meeting in October this year.

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