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World Bank approves $500mln loan to Pakistan

By Our Correspondent
May 23, 2020

KARACHI: World Bank approved $500 million in a loan program to boost Pakistan’s pandemic emergency response and protect human capital investments in the country.

The program would help the country improve access to quality healthcare and education, support economic opportunities for women, and strengthen social safety nets as it braces to limit the impact of the COVID-19, the World Bank said in a statement.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is impacting day-to-day life in Pakistan – not solely from economic disruptions but also additional stress on public services that jeopardise human capital accumulation,” said Illango Patchamuthu, the bank’s country director for Pakistan. “This program underscores the criticality of universal healthcare and social protection services that are durable to exogenous shocks such as Pakistan is facing now.”

Known as the securing human investments to foster transformation (Shift), the program would support policy reforms to help Pakistan’s COVID-19 emergency response and protect human capital investments. It would support coordination between provinces and federal authorities to immunise millions of children and reduce their risks of contracting polio and other diseases. Shift also improves targeted safety net programs that would benefit 12 million people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, both at the federal and provincial levels.

“Pakistan’s ability to mitigate socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 depends on how quickly and efficiently social safety net programs can reach those most in need,” said Cristina Panasco Santos, task team leader for the program. “This program supports alignment efforts between Ehsaas, safety nets provincial programs to ensure that the most vulnerable and affected populations are identified and receive assistance.”

Shift supports three policy reforms aimed at building Pakistan’s workforce and improving social safety-net programs to increase the quality of essential services, especially primary health care and equitable access to basic education, and civil registration and vital statistics, recognise women’s economic contributions and support participation in the labour force through appropriate working conditions, improve efficiencies in safety nets for COVID-19 response, and strengthen the effectiveness national and federal safety net programs in the short to medium term. Pakistan is receiving financial supports from Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund to have resources to fight off the crisis. More than $2 billion of loans have so far been approved. The World Bank Group is deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new International Development Association resources through grants and highly concessional loans. It is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. “We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs,” the World Bank said.