The World Bank highlights policy changes aimed at fostering a ‘sustainable and productive’ Pakistan

Islamabad: The World Bank unveiled a series of Policy Notes on Tuesday, outlining essential policy adjustments crucial for fostering a “productive, sustainable, resilient, and healthy” Pakistan.

The statement revealed that Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s Regional Vice President for South Asia, who is currently in Pakistan to reinforce the Bank’s assistance, introduced these policy notes.

These notes, addressing child stunting, fiscal stability, private sector growth, energy, learning poverty, agriculture, and climate change, represent the outcome of extensive outreach and engagements conducted nationwide under the banner of “Reforms for a Brighter Future – Time to Decide.”

The primary aim is to contribute to the ongoing public policy discourse, particularly within the context of the forthcoming elections.

Martin Raiser emphasized, “Pakistan’s economy is currently entangled in a cycle of low growth, resulting in poor human development outcomes and a rising poverty rate. The country’s economic conditions render it highly susceptible to climate-related shocks, with insufficient public resources allocated for development and climate adaptation.”

He further added, “It is pivotal for Pakistan to make a choice between perpetuating past trends or embarking on challenging yet imperative actions towards a more promising future.”

The policy notes advocate for Pakistan to address its severe human capital crisis, encompassing high levels of stunting and learning poverty, by implementing a coordinated and comprehensive approach to basic services involving both provincial and federal authorities.

Raiser suggested improving the quality of public expenditure and undertaking substantial measures to broaden the revenue base, ensuring equitable contributions from all economic segments.

Furthermore, he emphasized pursuing reforms in business regulations and trade, along with reducing the government’s intervention in the economy, aiming to enhance productivity, competitiveness, and export potential.

Regarding agriculture and energy sectors, Raiser highlighted the need to eliminate distortions hindering their performance, including subsidy reform and the privatization of electricity distribution companies.

Martin Raiser underscored the pressing human capital crisis, stating, “Nearly 40% of Pakistani children suffer from stunted growth, while more than 78% struggle to comprehend basic texts by the age of 10. These alarming indicators demand immediate attention.”

During his visit, he plans to engage with government officials at both federal and provincial levels, as well as representatives from the private sector and academia. Additionally, he will inspect the DASU and Tarbela Hydropower Projects and visit project sites in Sindh and Punjab.

In a press conference following the launch of the report on Pakistan’s reforms, Martin Raiser emphasized the pivotal role of investing in human capital for sustaining the economy in Pakistan. He highlighted the significance of allocating more budget towards sectors like education, health, and environment, crucial for enhancing economic growth in the country.

Raiser stressed the necessity for tax reforms and measures to improve the tax-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio, essential for the proper execution of the budget’s development programs.

He emphasized the importance of fiscal discipline, citing it as a crucial factor for sustainable economic growth, and highlighted the regional environmental concerns within South Asia, where countries influence each other in environmental matters.

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