World Bank assures Pakistan of continued assistance for reforms

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) has agreed to enhance assistance for Pakistan to support the ongoing reforms, besides balancing a mix between project mode of financing and programme lending.

This assurance was expressed when a high-level Pakistan delegation, led by Economic Affairs Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, held two consecutive sideline virtual meetings with the senior management of World Bank Group at the margins of the ‘2020-Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group’.

Other members of Pakistan delegation included Special Assistant to PM on Petroleum Nadeem babar, governor & deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and high ranking officials of Economic Affairs Division, Finance Division, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Pakistan Embassy in the USA.

At the onset, World Bank Group Vice President for South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer appreciated the government’s initiatives to successfully combat and curtail the impact of Covid-19 pandemic. He also lauded the government’s efforts for ongoing reforms, particularly in the power, governance and financial sectors, “which would possibly allow the country to unleash the growth potential and help a faster post Covid-19 recovery”.

The vice president reaffirmed WB’s continuous support to Pakistan at this difficult time.

The two sides also discussed the performance of the WB’s ongoing portfolio in Pakistan, besides the bank’s probable initiatives in the near future.

Bakhtyar, while acknowledging the WB’s continuous support to Pakistan, said the government was committed to continuing with structural reforms in multiple areas of economy, governance and institutions, including simplification of decision making for project approval and implementation and regular portfolio review of foreign-aided projects.

He appreciated the WB’s proposed $12 billion initiative to help developing countries procure Covid-19 vaccines to treat up to 1 billion people as soon as effective drugs become available.

Hartwig, while responding to a proposal of Bakhtyar, amenably agreed to enhance WB assistance for Pakistan to support the ongoing reforms.

Meanwhile, during his meeting with International Finance Corp (IFC) Asia & Pacific Vice President Alfonso Garcia, Bakhyar stressed upon the need for IFC management to enhance their investment volume in Pakistan, particularly in the infrastructure, housing and tourism sectors.

“As the focus of present government remains on private sector-led growth, the IFC support for SMEs, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, should be the priority,” he emphasised.

Alfonso, while appreciating the government’s ongoing reforms efforts, accepted the invitation of Bakhtyar to visit Pakistan in the coming months to explore avenues to further enhance the IFC interventions in Pakistan.

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