Monday July 15, 2024

Pakistan, WB to prepare partnership strategy

WB has proposed ten-year CPS having powers with Bank to review it after pause of four to five years period

By Our Correspondent
May 09, 2024
PM Shehbaz Sharif witnesses the signing of a joint communique by the World Bank’s Country Representative Najy Benhassine and Secretary of Economic Affairs Division Dr Kazim Niaz on May 8, 2024. — PID
PM Shehbaz Sharif witnesses the signing of a joint communique by the World Bank’s Country Representative Najy Benhassine and Secretary of Economic Affairs Division Dr Kazim Niaz on May 8, 2024. — PID

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the World Bank (WB) have agreed to jointly prepare a Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) framework whereby both sides might explore options for establishing medium to long-term relations for a four to ten-year period.

Now the WB has proposed a ten-year CPS having powers with the Bank to review it after pause of four to five years period. However, the final decision will be made during the preparation of upcoming CPS for Pakistan which already got delayed mainly because of political transition occurred in the country in 2022 and 2023. Initially, the CPS was supposed to be finalized from FY2022 to FY2026.

The WB president has proposed ten years CPS for recipient countries but it is yet to be seen how Pakistan decides to chip in the new under-consideration policy of the WB. Pakistan wants increased share in concessionary lending under IDA resources.

For four years, Pakistan has proposed $8 billion portfolio for different programs and projects and if it increased up to ten years, then the size of CPS framework might go up to $20 billion. But nothing is so far finalized.

According to the WB’s statement issued on Wednesday, the World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Martin Raiser, concluded his three-day visit to Pakistan today and reaffirmed the World Bank’s support to stabilize the economy and accelerate inclusive and resilient growth.

Raiser met with the Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and members of his government as well as key counterparts to discuss Pakistan’s development priorities. The discussions focused on economic and fiscal reforms, human capital development, adaptation to climate change, energy sector reforms and digitalization as a foundational enabler and accelerator of development. “I am pleased to learn about the government’s reform plans to boost growth and attract more private investment, leverage digital transformation to improve governance, strengthen climate resilience and invest in human capital to tackle daunting challenges such as child stunting and learning poverty,” said Raiser.

During his visit to Islamabad, Raiser met with Ahad Khan Cheema, Minister for Economic Affairs, Economic Affairs Division; Muhammad Aurangzeb, Minister of Finance and Revenue; Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Laghari, Minister of Energy (Power Division); Musadik Masood Malik, Minister of Energy (Petroleum Division), and Water; and Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Minister of State, Information Technology and Telecommunication. He also met with the development partners of Pakistan and members of civil society.

During his visit to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Raiser met with the members of the provincial government as well as Faisal Amin Khan Gandapur, a Member of the National Assembly. Discussions focused on the provincial developmental priorities and how can the World Bank step up its support in key sectors, like education, water and sanitation, health, rural roads, and livelihoods, in the face of climate change challenges, particularly in the Merged Districts.

Raiser also attended the National Education Conference on Out-of-School Children under the chairmanship of the prime minister. During this conference, he reaffirmed the World Bank’s commitment for urgent action to tackle the large number of out-of-school children and improve access to and the quality of learning in schools. Raiser was joined in his meetings by Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan, and Zeeshan Ahmed Sheikh, Country Manager for the International Finance Corporation.

Meanwhile, the Vice President of World Bank Martin Raiser visited Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) HQs on Wednesday and met Amjed Zubair Tiwana, Chairman FBR/Secretary Revenue Division. He was accompanied by Najy Benhassine, Country Director, Gailius J Draugelis, Operations Manager, Tobias Akhtar Haque, Lead Country Economist, Ms Irum Touqeer, Public Sector Specialist, Ardsher Saleem Tariq, Member (Reforms and Modernization) and Karamatullah Khan Chaudhry, Member (Digital Initiative) also attended the meeting. A detailed presentation on the FBR and its reforms agenda was made with special focus on initiatives under Pakistan Raises Revenue Project for Harmonization of Sales Tax, Track & Trace System, and improving ICT capacities of FBR.

Martin Raiser, Vice President of the World Bank, was appreciative of the FBR’s policy for digitalized tax administration and emphasized that these initiatives will bear even greater fruits if coupled with elimination of exemptions overtime through a combination of social assistance and introduction of sales tax based on consumption.

The chairman FBR added that the FBR is working closely with all the stakeholders on the digitalization initiative and making tax administration more broad-based.

He added that digitalization is not only important for revenue but for enabling FBR to make informed decisions for sustainable increase in the revenues. Martin Riser echoed the sentiments of chairman FBR and indicated that World Bank sees the current digitalization drive as an opportunity to strengthen its cooperation with the FBR.