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ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Wednesday said it endorsed a new five-year country partnership strategy (CPS) to help restore economic stability and growth in Pakistan, enhance people’s well-being, create jobs, and expand economic opportunities as the country works to overcome the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The ADB said that the pandemic had interrupted the macroeconomic recovery in Pakistan, resulting in a sharp contraction in growth, a rise in public expenditures, and a loosening of monetary policy to mitigate the health and economic impacts.

“As with many countries in the region, Covid-19 has affected Pakistan, revealing the extent to which the population is exposed to economic and social vulnerabilities,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Eugene Zhukov.

“The new CPS 2021–2025 will build greater resilience of the population and help tackle Pakistan’s persistent structural challenges.” The ADB’s assistance over the next five years prioritises support for three interlinked pillars: improving economic management, building resilience through human capital development and social protection, and boosting competitiveness and private sector development.

The ADB will support macroeconomic stabilisation in Pakistan and maintain support for reforms to improve the country’s trade prospects and external positions.

The ADB will continue to help improve the energy sector through reforms and sovereign and non-sovereign investments.

It will continue deepening and diversifying Pakistan’s financial markets to promote investment, growth, and private sector development.

Under the CPS, the ADB will expand investments and help accelerate reforms in secondary education and technical and vocational education and training.

The ADB will address the challenge of out-of-school children and target children from poor and vulnerable households.

The ADB has helped expand cash transfers to the poor and will bolster evidence-based policy formulation through a newly-established policy research unit.

The ADB aims to improve health care and will continue to help manage public health issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

To boost competitiveness and private sector development, the ADB will focus on building livable cities, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, and investing in rural infrastructure.

The ADB will seek to strengthen agricultural value chains, improve connectivity, and increase access to finance.

“The government has expressed its strong commitment to the ongoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program,” said ADB Country Director for Pakistan Xiaohong Yang.

“The CPS places a strong focus on combining reforms with physical and social investments to improve sustainability and generate lasting development impact.”

The ADB will play a pivotal role in supporting Pakistan to attract private sector investment in renewable energy, small and medium-sized enterprises, trade, and supply chain finance.

Through its recently issued local currency Karakoram bonds, the ADB expects to expand opportunities for financing priority sector projects in which the bank was not previously present, including agribusiness and social sectors.

In addition, the ADB will explore more public–private partnership opportunities for Pakistan.

Women in Pakistan are less economically active and underrepresented in skilled jobs. The ADB will continue to promote women’s economic empowerment and enhance women’s resilience to external shocks.

The bank aims to increase women’s access to financial services, raise women’s skills and education levels, and bolster social protection under the Ehsaas Kafaalat programme.

The ADB will continue to boost Pakistan’s resilience to climate change and strengthen adaptation and disaster risk management. Under the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation, the ADB will continue to promote regional connectivity and trade with Pakistan’s neighbors by developing economic corridors and improving border crossings.

This will facilitate cross-border trade and supply-chain efficiency by simplifying customs procedures and setting up a Pakistan single window.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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