WORLD BANK DELEGATION IN PAKISTAN

The PM also shared his future vision of Pakistan with the WB delegation

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI, 
Islamabad

Mar 31 - Apr 06, 2003
 

The World Bank Vice President for South Asia, Ms. Mieko Nishimizu, has said that Pakistan economy was now in a much better shape and it could absorb the external shocks such as the impact of US-Iraq war, had Pakistan not implemented the reforms programme, it would have gone financially bankrupt and could not would have been able to absorb any external shock like Iraq crisis, she observed.

The World Bank chief for the region was talking to the newsmen in Islamabad after completing her five-day visit to Pakistan. The objective of her visit was to acquaint herself with the current economic situation and specially to meet the new political leadership of Pakistan. "I wanted to know the views of the political government and what is on the mind of the new political leaders", Ms. Nishimizu remarked. She was glad to note that the new political set up was appreciative of and committed to the reforms programme.

She, however, mentioned that Pakistan economy was not completely out of wood and there was lot to be done yet. "Foreign exchange reserves of $10 billion were not enough that we should go home and sleep, efforts should continue to further consolidate the gains", she remarked adding that the outlook of the country's economy was good and on the growing track.

During her visit Mieko met the President, the Prime Minister his Advisor on Finance and the provincial chief ministers.

She said that the World Bank has question mark whether the new political government would keep up with the pace of reforms introduced by the Musharraf administration during the last three years. During her meetings with provincial chiefs and other government officials "she understand that continuity of reforms was high on the agenda". She said that she got the most comprehensive briefing from the Punjab government. Mieko said that Pakistan had been pursuing a world-class reforms programme and the same pace should continue.

Answering a question, she said that CBR structural reforms were critical. She agreed that there would be resistance when an old system is replaced with the new one. She also defended the performance of the WAPDA's uniformed chairman saying he had reduce the line losses despite a number of difficulties. She said that the power sector reforms needed much more pace since this sector was eating up country's huge resources. Mieko said the World Bank had not asked the government for the downsizing and it was rather its own initiative to which we agreed. "There is enormous inefficiency in running of government and we only compliment government's effort to do away with the inefficiencies," she remarked.

She said that privatisation programme also needed to be pursued with commitment.

During his meeting with World Bank delegation headed by Ms. Mieko, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali assured them of continuity and consistency of economic policies and said that now fiscal policies would not be changed on personal whims and caprices of individuals. "Pakistan would remain fiscally responsible and would not change its fiscal and economic policies". The WB delegation asked Pakistan to vigorously implement reforms process in banking and energy sectors and tax collection machinery. The Bank also asked to make viable Fiscal Improvement Plan for public sector enterprises, specially for WAPDA.

The PM also shared his future vision of Pakistan with the WB delegation. He also discussed the role of education and health sectors in improving the quality of life of the common man. "We believe consistent economic policies to effect an economic turnaround and sound economic policies along with prudential fiscal measures would establish firmly Pak position in the comity of nations," he added.

The WB Vice President lauded the country's smooth transition to democratic role and said that this fact has been much appreciated by the donors. Earlier, the WB's Vice President attended a detailed briefing, presented by different ministers and heads of departments covering all sectors of the national economy.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Shaukat Aziz welcomed the support extended by World Bank which has averaged around US dollars 600 million per year as well as extensive technical assistance and capacity building provided by the World Bank. The government is also working to improve investment climate by removing irritants and reducing cost of doing business. In this regard, interest rates and tariff have been substantially reduced and several other steps are underway.

The Advisor discussed various poverty reduction initiatives, which include Prime Minister Falahi Programme, Khushhali Bank and Zakat Programmes. He said higher economic growth will help reduce poverty.

Minister for Education, Ms. Zubaida Jalal explained education sector reforms, which are focusing on improving quality and developing of education.

CBR Chairman said that the government would shortly present World Bank a blue-print to even further improve tax administration through application of IT, human resources, and infrastructure.

The government so far has introduced Large Tax Payers Units and Model Income Tax Office at Lahore. He further said that five more Model Income Tax Offices would also be established at Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Quetta, and Karachi. Eventually this quality service would be available throughout the country.