World Bank chief pushes Pakistan to keep up momentum

Published: February 10, 2016
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PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

The World Bank Group’s president has pressed Pakistan to maintain the momentum of reforms aimed at achieving higher pace of economic growth to lift people out of poverty, with special stress on transforming the energy sector.

“Pakistan has a great opportunity to become more ambitious in reforming its economy so that more people are lifted out of poverty more quickly and prosperity is more widely shared among its people,” said Jim Yong Kim during his meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and economic ministers.

World Bank report warns Pakistan of ‘substantial’ fiscal risks

The WB chief is on a two-day visit to Pakistan — the first in more than a decade by the head of the lending agency. His push for reforms comes
at a time when the government seems divided over privatising the power sector. It has also stopped the process of privatisation of the Faisalabad Electricity Supply Company.

“Now is the moment for Pakistan to step up to a higher level of growth and opportunity for all its people,” a WB statement quoted Jim as saying. He acknowledged that the government has stabilised the economy over three tough years, and discussed in his meeting with the premier about the importance of pressing forward with reforms that would unlock the country’s potential.

Jim is said to have told PM Nawaz and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to strive for a higher level of ambition for economic reforms. “These could include strengthening the role of the private sector for job creation, accelerating energy reforms, making improvements at the community level for health and education, and ensuring anti-poverty measures are effective at reaching the poor.”

Appreciating award-winning Afghan refugee Aqeela Asifi’s inspirational role for Afghan girls’ education, the WB president said: “All girls deserve the right to an education.”

World Bank approves $35m loan to Pakistan for Indus River Basin

Both sides also discussed a Development Policy Credit loan amounting to $500 million to promote economic reforms.The WB has forecast that Pakistan’s economy will grow at a pace of 4.5% in the current fiscal — 1% lower than the official target and far lower than the needed pace of 7% to absorb the youth entering the job markets.

“The government believes in liberal and private sector-driven economy,” Nawaz told Jim. He said the government’s efforts were aimed at ensuring ideal business environment for the private sector as governments are not meant to do business.

The premier appreciated the WB’s support in Pakistan’s economic growth and resumption of policy lending after the present government took over. “The policy-based loans would go a long way in helping the government implement its reform agenda and further improve the business environment in Pakistan.”

Nawaz said the government was making all-out efforts to bring improvements in every sector, including development of mega hydropower projects, rail and road infrastructure, and education and health.

He underlined that the WB’s assistance for the Dasu hydropower project and the Tarbela-IV extension project would help the government improve the energy mix and reduce dependence on expensive fuels.

The WB president expressed full support for the government’s economic decisions and said the lending agency supported the structural reform agenda.

World Bank paints mixed picture of economy

“I can recall our first meeting when I had shared my worries about Pakistan’s security, energy and macroeconomic stability,” Jim told Nawaz. “Let me state that under your leadership Pakistan has witnessed phenomenal improvements in all three sectors and we support your endeavours.”

The WB chief applauded the economic policies of the government, saying that Pakistan’s economic outlook had become stable. “Pakistan is now on the path to increased economic growth and prosperity.” Jim also met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and Punjab government officials. In the next leg, he would meet Sindh government officials.

Jim underlined the importance of the role of the provincial governments in the effective implementation of reforms.

Earlier, at the launch of the Universal Financial Access Initiative, he said: “The movement towards digital economy is going to happen and my suggestion to Pakistan is to move now to take advantage of being a leader.”

The digitisation of Pakistan’s economy will help reduce corruption and increase available resources for expenses at household level, he added.

He also participated in a panel discussion on ‘Managing Displaced Populations’ and learnt how the country managed a large Afghan refugee population. “There is much the world can learn from Pakistan, which has for decades hosted refugees from other countries or had to cope with temporarily displaced people within its own borders,” said Jim.

WB Vice President for South Asia Region Annette Dixon said that one of the lessons from Pakistan’s experience was that the development community had to rethink its paradigm, “as we are in a situation where development cannot be separated from security”.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • kaz
    Feb 10, 2016 - 11:10AM

    The guy is very caring despite not being a Pakistani national. -_- Privatization should not be an option. Better management of these enterprises should be done. A separate entity to manage government enterprises without political intervention should be established. There should be healthy competition between government and private enterprises. Governments can’t dictate terms if they sell everything to private investors. You can’t expect to sell everything in your house to somebody and than dictate terms to him. It just does not happen.Recommend

  • Feb 10, 2016 - 12:06PM

    It will be interesting to know the basis of your upbeat comments Mr. Kim Yong Jim? Please release your formulas, results, and the data provided on which the findings are based. No offense meant but this is quite intriguing. Thank you and have a nice day. Recommend

  • Amanullah Khan
    Feb 10, 2016 - 1:31PM

    World Bank (WB) President’s clapping for Nawaz Government’s performance is limited to a couple of Macroeconomic indicators those included; GDP growth and improvement in revenue collection through unprecedented high level of levy on petrol and related products, supplemented by increase in price of gas and electricity. Although he knows the secrets and nitty-gritty of both the indicators but to maintain the traditions of being a foreign dignitary he has softly spoken. Dr. Kim has underlined the areas where the Government lacks. He has highlighted a few of the areas of concern e.g. strengthening the role of private sector for creation of jobs, accelerating the Energy reforms, improving better health and education facilities at community level and ensuring better anti poverty measures that means the policies are tilting towards a group. The widened gap between the rich and poor is due to rich friendly economic policies resulted by increasing cost of social services, increasing educated unemployment because of selected measures in investment policy tilting towards the big businesses. For creation of jobs at mass level it is instrumental to boost the investment in Small & Medium Enterprises (SME) those offer highest number of jobs and also pushes the growth to higher levels. SME is now the most neglected sector in the economy of Pakistan. The WB country office definitely shares the increasing suicide cases in Pakistan to the Head quarters, as a result of increase in the number of ultra poor. The world opinion makers also know motive behind the increasing investment in the Metros, Orange Lines etc. Pakistan has two rivers namely Indus and Chitral flowing from the mountains of Gilchistan to plains those have the potential to generate over 100,000 MW electricity but the Government’s choice is costly prescriptions of generation through using oil and failed attempts of Solar and coal based energy. Recommend

  • Shuaib
    Feb 12, 2016 - 3:56AM

    @Amanullah Khan:
    Most ridiculous comment yet. Inflation is down to record lows which means our Government is not putting a massive burden on the poor or middle class.

    When IK starts a Metro Bus project it is fine, when NS does, it is not. Stop this hypocrisy. We do need to invest in education and whether you can digest it or not. Punjab spends more on education as a %age of its budget than KPK.Recommend

  • Amanullah Khan
    Feb 13, 2016 - 11:12PM

    Mr. Shuaib! appreciate your good wishes for NS Government. Reduction in inflation is not due to any effort of Government but it is as a result of international phenomenon of recessions. Unprecedented decrease in oil prices have caused closing of a large number of businesses. NS Government has been a negative force in transferring the benefits of declining oil prices at global levels to the poor masses of Pakistan. Please put off the colored opticals then you will be in a better position to judge. Recommend

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