World Bank appreciates Pakistan’s strong response to COVID-19 pandemic

ISLAMABAD, Aug 20 (APP): The World Bank (WB) newly appointed Country Director in Pakistan, Najy Benhassine here on Thursday appreciated the strong response by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a meeting with Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the WB Country Director also highlighted the bank’s support to the emergency response with projects totaling almost half a billion dollars.

The support was provided to help the country prevent, detect and respond to the pandemic and strengthen public health preparedness.

It is pertinent to mention that the WB’s portfolio in Pakistan includes 56 active projects amounting to approximately $11 billion. The portfolio supports reforms and investments to strengthen institutions, particularly in fiscal management and human development.

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On the occasion, Dr Shaikh welcomed the newly appointed WB Country Director and appreciated the strong working relationship between the Pakistan and the bank, according to press statement issued by the Finance Ministry.

He highlighted the reforms initiated by the government to tackle the balance of payment crisis in 2018/19 and bring stability to the economy. Dr Shaikh shared details of how the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely impacted the economy and slowed down the reforms programme.

Dr Shaikh outlined the steps taken by the government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and stimulate the economy.

In particular, he highlighted the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas programme where over 16 million of the most vulnerable households have benefited from cash transfers.

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Similarly, support provided to SMEs and business in the form of subsidized payroll loans, deferred loan repayments and subsidy on power bills have supported economic activities during the pandemic induced downturn.

Dr Hafeez Shaikh also appreciated the support provided by the World Bank during the pandemic and stressed on the need to continue with the reform’s agenda.

In particular, he stressed on the need to strengthen public finances with a focus on enhancing the tax base and improved expenditure management. He requested technical inputs from the World Bank on the pension reforms currently being prepared by the Ministry of Finance.

Looking ahead both sides reaffirmed to strengthen the relationship and remove bottlenecks in executing the development projects funded by the World Bank.