Pakistan, WB agree to jointly prepare ambitious new country partnership framework

VP reaffirms World Bank’s support to stabilise economy and accelerate inclusive and resilient growth

ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan and World Bank have agreed to jointly prepare an ambitious and focused new country partnership framework. World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Martin Raiser concluded his three-day visit to Pakistan yesterday 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 Ms Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunication. He also met with the development partners of Pakistan and members of civil society. During his visit to the province of 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 Honorable 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.

Minister Ahad Cheema welcomed Vice President Raiser and expressed gratitude for the ongoing support and assistance from the World Bank Group (WBG) to Pakistan. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to implementing key reforms across major sectors to foster sustainable economic growth. Discussions centred on the new Country Partnership Framework, where the Minister praised the World Bank’s teams for their guidance. He also highlighted ongoing efforts to accelerate project implementation and resolve bottlenecks. The minister requested that the World Bank consider expanding its development portfolio for Pakistan through innovative financing options and by encouraging private sector participation, with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Vice President Raiser commended the Government of Pakistan for their dedication to steering Pakistan toward economic recovery. He expressed satisfaction with the progress on various sectoral projects and socio-economic reforms, expressing confidence that these initiatives would lead to a more prosperous future for the people of Pakistan. The Vice President committed to deepening the partnership between the World Bank and the Government of Pakistan, particularly in areas such as human capital, climate change, agriculture, energy, water, and decent employment. He also assured the Minister of his full support in exploring new financial solutions to align with Pakistan’s development priorities.

Both sides also signed a Joint Communique wherein it was mutually agreed to engage in a long-term, focused partnership under the new Country Partnership Framework with annual reviews for assessing progress and course correction to achieve transformational impacts over a decade through a select set of critical development priorities. The initial set of priorities include structural economic reforms, improving foundational learning, energy sector reforms, climate adaptation and increasing economic opportunities, including in agriculture. In his closing remarks, Minister Cheema thanked the Vice President Raiser and his team for their visit, reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to providing full support at all levels of government to ensure the success of ongoing and future developmental projects.

Meanwhile, Vice President of World Bank Martin Raiser visited Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) 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 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. Mr. 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.

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