The federal government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday signed six agreements amounting to $1.543 billion to finance projects related to the energy sector, urban infrastructure, social protection, roads and water resources, the Ministry of Economic Affairs in a statement.
The agreements were signed by Economic Affairs Division Secretary Mian Asad Hayaud Din and ADB's Country Director Yong Ye in Islamabad. Minister for Economic Affairs Omar Ayub Khan witnessed the signing.
Giving a breakdown of the agreements, the statement said they included a $300m policy-based loan to support financial, technical and governance reforms to strengthen the country's energy sector, $385m to improve urban infrastructure in five cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, $235m to dualise a 222-km Shikarpur-Rajanpur section of the Indus Highway and $603m to strengthen and expand the Ehsaas programme.
In addition, agreements were also signed for two project-readiness facilities — a $5m loan for Kurram Tangi Integrated Water Resources Development Project and a $15m loan for phase two of the KP Cities Improvement Investment Project.
The economic affairs minister "expressed deep appreciation" for the ADB and thanked its president, senior management and board of directors for their "continued and enhanced financial support towards reforming energy sector, improving road networks, enhancing social protection and developing sustainable cities in Pakistan".
Khan said the $385m urban infrastructure project would help the provincial and city governments in KP to improve the liveability of five cities — Abbottabad, Kohat, Mardan, Mingora, and Peshawar — and benefit 3.5m people. Under the project, work would be done on providing water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and green infrastructure, according to the statement.
The loan would also provide institutional support to improve the performance of municipal corporations in the five cities with a focus on gender-friendly services, it added. The project also supported the government's development priorities and Prime Minister Imran Khan's vision of Clean Green Pakistan, the ministry stated.
The ADB would also finance $235m for the second phase of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor Development Investment Programme under which the Shikarpur-Rajanpur section of the Indus Highway would be widened to a four-lane carriageway. The section traverses Sindh and Punjab on the western side of the Indus River via Kandhkot, Kashmore and Rojhan, according to the ministry's statement.
"The dualisation of Indus Highway (N-55) will not only boost local economic activities but also promote intra [and] inter-regional trade and movement of people by improved connectivity and reduced travel time. The section will be equipped with bus shelters, trauma centers and rest areas as well as road safety facilities," the statement quoted the minister as saying.
Regarding the Integrated Social Protection Development Programme, Khan said it would support the government's Ehsaas programme, including social protection and poverty reduction schemes.
"Kurram Tangi Integrated Water Resources Development Project is one of the top priority projects in the erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) which includes the construction of a dam with water storage facility, hydropower generation and construction and upgrading of irrigation system covering 140,000 hectares."
The project would help in increasing agricultural production and improving the country's food security situation.
The minister reiterated the federal government's commitment to helping all provinces, as well as, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir in achieving inclusive development and sustainable growth, the statement said.
Speaking on the occasion, ADB Vice President Shixin Chen noted that the government "continued to make progress" in implementing comprehensive economic, fiscal and structural reforms, despite the challenging situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also appreciated Pakistan's vaccination campaign against the coronavirus. The ADB had earlier this year approved a $500m loan for Pakistan to help it procure Covid-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, ADB Director General Eugene Zhukov assured that the Bank would continue supporting the government's development projects and it "stands committed to support Pakistan for a green, resilient and sustainable recovery".
"The financial support will strengthen Pakistan's economy and reduce the risk of external economic shocks," ADB Country Director Yong Ye said.