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ISLAMABAD: Omar Ayub Khan, minister for Economic Affairs (EAD) has stated that Pakistan has witnessed significant macroeconomic imbalances due to a combination of multiple factors such as rising international commodity prices, global financial crisis, and domestic supply constraints in the recent years.

Speaking at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) through video link, Ayub said the government’s immediate aim was to consolidate the emerging macroeconomic stability through appropriate monetary and fiscal measures, aimed at crowding-in the private investment, mobilising domestic savings and reviving the economic growth process.

The services sector contributes more than 58 percent to the GDP and has emerged as major driver of the economic growth in the recent past. There is still unexplored potential in key services such as domestic commerce, transport, finance and insurance, communication, housing, tourism, and social and community services. Appropriate measures would be designed to effectively harness the potential of that sector, he added. The minister said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were a commitment to end poverty in all forms and dimensions by 2030. This involves targeting the most vulnerable, increasing basic resources and services, and supporting communities affected by conflict and climate-related disasters.

The SDGs are a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Pakistan has displayed commitment to the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development as it was one of the first countries to endorse it globally in 2015.

He said that with the pandemic, the government had been focused on managing the repeated Covid-19 infection waves, implementing a mass vaccination campaign, expanding its cash transfer programme, and providing accommodative monetary conditions to sustain economic growth.

The minister said he would like to brief the participants about the initiatives taken by the government for poverty reduction and one of the main initiatives was the Ehsaas programme, which was a social safety and poverty alleviation programme launched in March 2019, added Ayub.

He said Ehsaas programme specially focused on investment in social sector and human development.

The purpose of that programme was to promote financial inclusion and access to digital services, he added.

One of the main objectives of this programme is women empowerment. Ehsaas aims at empowering 10 million poorest women in Pakistan and helping them to achieve their potential.

Women empowerment is absolutely critical to end poverty and is a key principle of the Ehsaas.

The programme constantly follows the 50 percent rule for women inclusion in all its initiatives including interest-free loans, scholarships and asset transfers.

Kafaalat programme that has recently been launched by the prime minister will ensure financial and digital inclusion of seven million disadvantaged women across Pakistan.

He said he would also like to talk about the National Poverty Graduation Programme (NPGP), which was supported by the government of Pakistan and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The programme aims at assisting the poor in coming out of poverty, simultaneously improving their overall food security, nutritional status, and resilience to climate change.

The programme activities are planned to be implemented in 388 Union Councils of 23 districts across Pakistan.

Another initiative taken by the government of Pakistan is Kamyab Jawan Programme, first of its kind in Pakistan, which would provide assistance and resources to youth on a national level.

Through this platform, the country’s youth aged 15 to 29 years will benefit from youth empowerment programmes, loans for young entrepreneurs, and start-ups enabling legislations and representatives’ councils.

Through this programme, Pakistani youth is finally being integrated into civil institutions and given opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty.

The loans will be disbursed to SME beneficiaries across Pakistan, covering; Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The programme aims at providing 25 percent of the loans to women entrepreneurs. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP): BISP is a federal scheme that launched back in 2008. Its purpose was to provide unconditional cash support to help struggling families living in poverty in Pakistan. It remains the largest support programme in the country.

The BISP distributed approximately PKR 90 billion ($542 million) to five million low-income Pakistanis.

Additionally, the programme uses tools such as its BISP debit cards to make cash transfers convenient.

The programme, especially, helps women and low-income Pakistanis from minority groups to gain access to financial assistance.

The financing for development process mainly includes the 2030 agenda and the SDGs and boosting financing for development is fundamental for the implementation of the 2030 agenda. The UN strategy for financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development plays a significant role in supporting the efforts of Pakistan in pursuit of the SDGs.

Pakistan was the first country to adopt the SDGs 2030 agenda through a unanimous resolution of the country’s Parliament and the government conducted discussions on the post-Millennium Development Goals (PMDGs) with all stakeholders for coordinating and strengthening efforts at Federal and Provincial levels to achieve its sustainable development and poverty reduction targets. The consultation process emphasized the need for national categorization of SDGs, improved data collection and enforcement of monitoring mechanisms.

The involvement of the private sector is paramount in achieving SDGs. In order to attract the private sector investment, Pakistan, taking the lead, is developing the first SDGs Investor Map to empower global investors with insights, tools, networks, and facilitation for transactions. Pakistan as an emerging economy has private investment opportunity of $96.2 billion in infrastructure related SDGs in aligned sectors of power, digital access, transport, clean water and sanitation. Pakistan could greatly benefit from the knowledge and resource base available with UNESCAP for economic and social development of Pakistan. The government reaffirms this partnership, outlining our collective aspirations for a new reality for Pakistan – a reality free from poverty, vulnerability and deprivation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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