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Friday December 03, 2021

ADB agrees $600mln loan to Pakistan for Ehsaas Programme

October 22, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday agreed to loan Pakistan $600 million to support the government’s social protection and poverty reduction initiative through the Ehsaas programme.

A government statement said the ADB assured new funding at a meeting held in Islamabad between Omar Ayub Khan, minister for Economic Affairs and Yong Ye, bank’s country director to Pakistan.

ADB’s country director informed the meeting that the bank has recently negotiated a new programme with Pakistan for providing $600 million for Integrated Social Protection Development.

“This programme would support efforts to implement high priorities from its Ehsaas Programme (social protection and poverty reduction) in a coordinated, cohesive and systematic manner,” the statement said.

Under the programme, institutional capacity for social protection and climate resilience would also be strengthened. Furthermore, access to primary and secondary education, health services and nutrition supplies would be enhanced for women (especially mothers), adolescents, and children of poor families. Khan appreciated the ADB for its continued technical and financial support, as well as the bank’s timely support for procurement of Covid vaccines.

Sources said the ADB committed $1.2 billion for procuring vaccines to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, out of which Islamabad had already utilised $500 million, while $700 million were still lying unutilised.

Now the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would have to accelerate the process for engaging multilateral donors, otherwise their criteria might be changed as the ADB also indicated that their announced window of $9 billion might be shifted on first come and first serve basis. The minister reiterated that the government was committed to provide maximum vaccination coverage to eligible population. Both the sides also discussed mobilising additional financial resources for mass vaccination drive in the country.

The minister highlighted the importance of improved road network and digital connectivity for service delivery and growth through enhanced mobility, farm to market access, trade, exchange of information and e-commerce. He also emphasised on capacity building of project executing agencies and staff for efficient project implementation.

Khan stressed on using digital tools and satellites for effective project monitoring across the country.

The ADB country head reiterated bank’s commitment to continue its technical and financial support to the government of Pakistan for priority areas. He also briefed the minister on ADB’s portfolio in Pakistan, highlighting that the ADB has committed to provide $6.3 billion under Country Operation Business Plan (2021-2023) to Pakistan.

At present, 32 projects worth $6.4 billion are under implementation in energy, road and transport, agriculture and irrigation, urban services, education, health and social protection.

Meanwhile, the minister also chaired a meeting to review the financing needs for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The meeting was attended by secretary EAD, NDMA chairman, director general (Health), ADB team and senior government officials.

The minister directed to ensure uninterrupted supply of vaccine and identify financing gaps, if any.