ISLAMABAD-The World Bank’s (WB) Board of Executive Directors approved $304 million in financing for Punjab Resource Improvement and Digital Effectiveness Programme (PRIDE). The programme supports efficiencies in public resource management that generate savings and create fiscal space for growth-generating investments in the Punjab province.

“The PRIDE programme is integral to the World Bank’s whole-of-country approach in helping Pakistan strengthen public financial management systems at the federal and provincial levels,” said World Bank Pakistan Country Director Najy Benhassine. “Punjab is the largest province, accounting for 55 per cent of the population and about 60 per cent of the economy, so improving quality and access to public services is key to Pakistan’s development.”

The PRIDE Programme will support the government of Punjab in strengthening fiscal risk management and budget formulation to ensure reliable resource allocation for public services. The programme will improve revenue collection by increasing registration of businesses and real estate, and simplifying tax administration processes such as registration, filing, payment, refunds and appeals. In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the programme also focuses on deploying technology-based solutions to enhance public service delivery and increase access to online services for firms and individuals. This will support Punjab in digitising key government services to streamline processes and increase efficiencies in the public service delivery.

“With prolonged restrictions on face-to-face services due to COVID-19, the PRIDE programme will help the provincial government expand its existing citizen feedback model and accelerate the use of technology for revenue mobilization and public procurement,” said Akmal Minallah, Task Team Leader for the programme. “The programme also puts in place monitoring and transparency mechanisms at the provincial and local levels that increase government accountability.”

PRIDE supports the Punjab Growth Strategy and the Punjab Public Financial Management Reforms Strategy, which both aim at developing a robust public financial management system. The programme also aligns with the Responsive Investment for Social Protection and Economic Stimulus that the government of Punjab designed to stimulate recovery from the pandemic and increase resilience to future shocks. Together with PRIDE, these initiatives layout a roadmap for Punjab to accelerate digitization of government services and ensure business continuity during emergencies. Pakistan has been a member of the World Bank since 1950. Since then, the World Bank has provided $40 billion in assistance. The World Bank’s programme in Pakistan is governed by the Country Partnership Strategy for FY2015-2020 with four priority areas of engagement: energy, private sector development, inclusion, and service delivery. The current portfolio has 53 projects with a net commitment of $10.5 billion.

On the other hand, World Bank has appreciated Pakistan government’s reform agenda in various sectors and reiterated commitment to support Pakistan through International Development Association (IDA) 2020 during COVID-19 crisis. The commitment was made during a virtual meeting of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh with Managing Director, World Bank Axel Van Trotsenburg, and Vice President SAR, World Bank Hartwing Schafer. The virtual interaction was held as part of annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank 2020. In his remarks, the Adviser Finance also appreciated the role of the World Bank in extending assistance to Pakistan to provide much-needed fiscal space to fight COVID-19 pandemic effectively. “The World Bank is our long-running development partner”, he added. The meeting was also attended by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Khusro Bakhtiar and SAPM on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar. Governor State Bank, Dr Reza Baqar also participated in the meeting through video link. During the meeting, Hafeez Shaikh gave an overview of the country’s current economic situation and highlighted reforms for sustainable economic growth. He said the Government of Pakistan has followed an aggressive policy for curtailing its expenditure and focused on raising revenues by mobilizing internal resources. Tax collection increased by 17 per cent before COVID-19 crisis, the primary deficit was in surplus in March 2020 which was a great achievement. However the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has reversed the economic gains of the government, he stated.

 The Adviser Finance underlined that Government of Pakistan devised a mechanism for cash transfer to support 16 million deserving families during testing times. He said the Ehsaas Programme was also acknowledged due to its transparency and in-time facilitation during the pandemic. Likewise, Government took numbers of steps to keep small businesses afloat by sharing the load through subsidies on pay rolls etc. On the occasion, SAPM on Petroleum and Minister for Economic Affairs briefed about the efforts underway in the energy sector, for bringing efficiency into the system by streamlining ageing power plants in the Government sector and commitment to resort to renewable energy in future.