MANILA – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a provisional assistance of at least $1.2 billion a year under a new country partnership strategy with Pakistan for 2015-19 for institutional reforms and infrastructure upgrading.
The financial assistance package will target six sectors—energy; transport; agriculture, natural resources and rural development; water and other urban infrastructure and services; public sector management; and the finance sector, says an ADB statement on the bank’s official website.
“The main challenge in Pakistan is to deliver higher, sustained, and inclusive growth to cut poverty and create productive jobs for the growing labor force,” said Werner E. Liepach, Country Director at ADB’s Pakistan Resident Mission. “The thrust of the new partnership will be to support the government to improve connectivity, productivity and access to markets and public services.”
The bulk of the assistance is earmarked for infrastructure improvements in the power, transport, agriculture, and urban services sectors.
The bank says that Pakistan is off track on several targets with regard to the Millennium Development Goals and overall development remains “uneven and below potential”. The bank urged the government to continue efforts to reduce and restructure fiscal deficits to help provide more space for development spending on infrastructure or social services.
Under the new CPS, in collaboration with other development partners, ADB will support the rehabilitation of power transmission and distribution systems, the construction and rehabilitation of highways and provincial roads connecting to the National Trade Corridor, and water infrastructure upgrades in parts of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
It will help rehabilitate the Indus Basin Irrigation System and invest in bus rapid transit systems in Karachi, Peshawar and Punjab. ADB’s non-sovereign operations will target select investments in clean, renewable power sources to boost energy security.
ADB will help strengthen the regulatory environment to encourage more public-private partnerships, and will assist the country’s biggest social safety net program – Benazir Income Support Program – to expand its outreach to an additional 2.4 million women beneficiaries.
Support will be given to improve access to finance for women and other underserved groups, and to help small and medium-sized enterprises tap trade credit and other financial products and services.
Given Pakistan’s vulnerability to natural disasters, and rising threats from climate change, ADB will help establish a government-owned disaster risk fund to mitigate risks and enhance resilience to natural disasters, and to ensure swift responses after calamities.