The PML-N government’s economic policies received glowing endorsements from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, both of whom were in Islamabad to attend the Universal Financial Access initiative of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). A visibly satisfied Ishaq Dar sat between the two delegates on the stage; his claims of economic progress being corroborated.

President Kim was the most expressive. While meeting with the Prime Minister on Tuesday, he said that Pakistan is on a path of progress and prosperity made possible by the economic stability bought by the present government’s financial team. While the World Bank President was certainly playing for the gallery to an extent, his assessment is vital. With a stable government and investor friendly policies in place, Pakistan is a much more attractive place to invest than the Pakistan of five years ago, but without endorsements from prominent financial institutions, big investors will be wary. The strongly worded statement of President Kim will go a long way in convincing investors to set up shop in the country. Similarly, Queen Maxima’s address praised the government. She said that new regulations had supported the emergence of branchless banking, a growing microfinance sector, effective payments systems and a more constructive approach to customer identification – all necessary for big business and exactly what they want to hear.

However it must be kept in mind – by Ishaq Dar the most – that both individuals praised a very specific set of policies within the mandate of their respective organisations; the economy at large still needs fixing. The World Bank has a clear mandate, slashing of government spending, the privatisation of most business and a free trade environment, and President Kim only praised the policies that have achieved this. Things such as the alleviation of poverty, unemployment, and the minimum wage were neither mentioned nor discussed. Queen Maxima, only talked about increasing the access to banking institutions. These statements must not be taken as a blanket approval of the economy; much more needs to be done. Worryingly, during the meeting he Prime Minister, as if reading from a World Bank script, said that providing subsidies or engaging in business is not the job of the state. Big business may appreciate it, but the vast majority of poor who bank on cheap government goods and services will only despair.