The World Bank has committed to signing two agreements worth $371 million with Pakistan to support projects in the agriculture and social sectors. These agreements consist of two projects, focused on the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

One of the projects, centred around Punjab, includes a $200 million for Human Capital Accumulation in Punjab by way of the early investment project. The aim of the project is to focus on strengthening the utilisation of quality health services and to inculcate economic and social inclusion programs among poor and vulnerable households in the select districts in Punjab. Other than healthcare, the project also aims to enact educational reforms, like promoting skilled birth attendance, immunisation, school enrolment for early education and addressing constraints for income-generating activities. The project is borne out of earlier talks about signing loan agreements which should focus on social sectors as well as economic – it is laudable that the action has been immediate.

Indeed, agreements with the World Bank are being signed by representatives of nearly all the provinces. The second project, the $171m Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Irrigated Agriculture Improvement Project, aims to improve the performance of irrigated farming in the province by introducing advanced irrigation technologies and enhancing past techniques. The World Bank and the Sindh government have also decided to launch a COVID-19 response programme, at the cost of $135 million, in the province, as well as a locust control programme.

While it is diligent of the federal and provincial government to step up for action and secure loan agreements in this climate – that too in fields where improvement is sorely needed – it is hoped that the government is keeping a check on its debt. If there are sectors where it can divert funds rather than enter into more loans, such as the issue of locust control, it should do so.