LAHORE - Deputy Country Director of Asian Development Bank Asad Aleem has said that the projects worth $2 billion for Pakistan are in the pipeline that will be finalised after through consultation with the private and public sectors.

He was speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan and Vice President Haris Ateeq also spoke on the occasion while Executive Committee member Mardan Ali Zaidi, representatives of ADB Ms Rie Hiraoka, Sheheryar A. Chaudhry and Nasruminallah were also present. Asad Aleem said that the projects related to food security, health, irrigation and education would play a pivotal role in economic development of Pakistan. He said that in this regard consultative sessions have been held with the actual stakeholders including Sindh and Punjab governments.

He said that the meetings have also been held with Karachi, Lahore Chambers and Pakistan Business Council to have feedback from the private sector. “Our objective is to know what should be done in Pakistan”, he added. “Strategy 2030 sets the course for ADB’s efforts to respond effectively to Asia and the Pacific’s changing needs”, the ADB team informed the house. Speaking on the occasion, LCCI Senior Vice President Mian Rehman Aziz Chan said that the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry fully recognises the role of Asian Development Bank in the economic development of Pakistan since 1966. Over the years, ADB has committed over 37 billion dollars to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and social services etc. He said that the Lahore Chamber is already calling for a targeted subsidy. He said that we want pharma sector of Pakistan to become self-sufficient. International private sector should collaborate in this sector with Pakistan that will also help transfer of modern technology to Pakistan. He also called for the promotion of mechanized farming and solar energy in Pakistan.

He said that at present, Pakistan is going through the toughest economic times of history as the devaluation of more than 30% has taken place in last one year, inflation has crossed 13% while the trade deficit has surpassed 39 billion dollars in the first ten months of current financial year. The State Bank foreign exchange reserves have depleted to around 10 billion dollars. These steep economic challenges have an adverse trickle-down effect on the growth of private sector.

Mian Rehman Aziz Chan said that Pakistan needs to ensure macroeconomic stability, fiscal consolidation and consistent improvement in the business environment through better facilitation of private sector. He said that we need to promote high value-added exports, expand social spending, increase the cost-effectiveness of energy sector and implement structural changes to remain economically sustainable. The role of private sector in transformation of our economy in pivotal. He said that one of the biggest impediments in the growth of private sector is inadequate access to finance. The credit availability to the private sector in Pakistan is only around 16% of the GDP, which is the lowest in the region. Furthermore, the SMEs in Pakistan get only 6.5% of the private sector credit. He said that this scenario makes it clear that the traditional banking system in Pakistan is crowded out and does not enable the private sector to play an adequate role in dealing with the current economic challenges. LCCI SVP said that access to finance enables the private sector to play its role in economic development as a provider of income, jobs, goods, services and innovation to enhance people’s lives and help them escape poverty. It also can provide the Government with the fiscal room to meet basic infrastructure requirements and the tax revenue to tackle urgent priorities and address wider development challenge.

He said that in this scenario, the support provided to the private sector by the Asian Development Bank through its Private Sector Operations holds paramount importance. LCCI Vice President Haris Ateeq hoped that important areas like SMEs, women entrepreneurs, renewable energy and skill development of workforce would be given special focus in ADB’s Private Sector Operations. He said that the business community attached great hopes with the government of Pakistan’s development vision for improving economic management, building resilience, boosting competitiveness and private sector development because of the ADB’s country partnership strategy 2021–2025 for Pakistan. Haris Ateeq hoped that ADB will carry on to play its role in helping its member states for a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia with special focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

He appreciated the fact that ADB’s support is significantly different from IMF. The support of IMF is only available when there is a critical situation like balance of payment crisis. On the other hand, the support of ADB is on long term basis and covers the important areas like infrastructure, urban services, private sector, energy and food security, transport networks, and social services.