ISLAMABAD-Pakistan and World Bank on Monday signed loan agreement worth $371 million related to increasing the utilisation of quality health services in Punjab and to improve the performance of irrigated agriculture for farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Noor Ahmed, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Economic Affairs signed the financing agreements on behalf of the government of Pakistan while representatives of government of Punjab and government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signed their respective project agreements online. Patchamuthu Illangovan, Country Director World Bank, signed the projects agreements on behalf of the World Bank. Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar witnessed the signing ceremony.

Pakistan and World Bank signed two agreements worth US$ 371.0 million to support projects in agriculture and social sectors. The first project related to supporting human capital accumulation in Punjab by Early Investment Project – US$200.0 million. The objective of the project is to increase the utilization of quality health services, and economic and social inclusion programs among poor and vulnerable households in the select districts in Punjab.

The total approved cost of the project is US$ 330.0 million including World Bank financing of US$200.0 million. The project will (i) strengthen the quality of primary healthcare services; (ii) introduce a conditional cash transfer (CCT) program; (iii) support economic inclusion for young parent; (iv) strengthen the quality of early childhood education (ECE) and lower primary education; and (v) increase the efficiency and sustainability of Punjab’s pro-poor initiatives. The project will address gaps in human endowments by promoting skilled birth attendance, immunization, school enrollment for early education and addressing constraints for income generating activities and diversification of income sources. The project will target the 11 (out of 36) most vulnerable districts of Punjab. Among the 11 districts, 8 districts are from South Punjab, where poor households are concentrated.

Second project, which was signed, was Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Irrigated Agriculture Improvement Project - US$171.0 Million. The objective of the project is to improve the performance of irrigated agriculture for farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The total cost of the project is US$219.30 million. The World Bank will finance US$171.0 million and the remaining cost will be borne by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The development objective of the project will be achieved through multiple aspects of performance: (a) improving the performance of on-farm water management by rehabilitating watercourses, introducing advanced irrigation technologies, and strengthening the capacity of communities, farmers and the On-farm Water Management Directorate; and (b)improving the performance of agriculture by raising productivity and prospects for value addition by strengthening farmers’ capacity and filling existing knowledge gaps regarding priority agriculture value chains.

The project will cover all districts and tehsils of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the newly merged FATA areas. The Minister for Economic Affairs thanked the World Bank for extending continuous support to the Government of Pakistan in its efforts to achieve sustainable economic development in the country.

County Director of World Bank appreciated the commitment of government of Pakistan to develop the underprivileged areas of the country and betterment of health and education sectors and reaffirmed that his organization would continue to cooperate with Pakistan for sustainable economic growth and development projects.