The World Bank has approved a $500mn loan programme for Pakistan to provide better opportunities for women, strengthen its social safety nets and improve access to quality healthcare and education as the country continues to bear the brunt of the coronavirus.
The Securing Human Investments to Foster Transformation (SHIFT) programme will support policy reforms to help Pakistan’s COVID-19 emergency response and protect human capital investments, read a statement by the World Bank.
The initiative will support greater coordination between provinces and federal authorities to immunise millions of children and reduce their risks of contracting polio and other diseases, said the World Bank. The SHIFT also improves targeted safety net programmes that will benefit 12 million people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, both at the federal and provincial levels.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic is impacting day-to-day life in Pakistan – not solely from economic disruptions but also additional stress on public services that jeopardise human capital accumulation,” said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Illango Patchamuthu.
“This programme underscores the criticality of universal healthcare and social protection services that are durable to exogenous shocks such as Pakistan is facing now.”
According to the World Bank, the SHIFT supports three policy reforms aimed at building Pakistan’s workforce and improving social safety-net programmes.
The reforms are meant to increase the quality of essential services, especially primary health care and equitable access to basic education, and civil registration and vital statistics; recognise women’s economic contributions and support participation in the labour force through appropriate working conditions, and improve efficiencies in safety nets for COVID-19 response, and strengthen the effectiveness national and federal safety net programs in the short to medium term.
Task Team Leader for the programme, Cristina Panasco Santos, said Pakistan’s ability to mitigate socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 depends on how quickly and efficiently social safety net programmes could reach those most in need.
“This programme supports alignment efforts between Ehsaas, safety nets provincial programs to ensure that the most vulnerable and affected populations are identified and receive assistance,” she said.
Cristina Panasco said the World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, was taking broad, fast actions to help developing countries strengthen their response to the COVID-19.
"We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. We will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans," she said.
Cristina Panasco said the project would be financed from the International Development Association and would have a 30-year maturity with a five-year grace period.