In anticipation of Pakistan’s upcoming election, the World Bank issued a stern warning, emphasizing that while international lenders and development partners can offer advice and financial assistance, the responsibility for critical decisions lies squarely with the country itself.
Najy Banhassine, the World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan, conveyed concerns about the nation’s future in an interview titled “Time to Decide,” where he discussed the imperative need for reforms. He highlighted that policy decisions in Pakistan are significantly influenced by powerful vested interests, including military, political, and business leaders.
Moreover, Banhassine drew attention to a hidden crisis in human capital, characterized by alarmingly high child stunting rates, inadequate learning outcomes, and elevated child mortality rates. He underscored the disheartening fact that Pakistan’s economic model no longer succeeds in alleviating poverty, and expressed deep concern over the reversal of poverty reduction achievements witnessed until 2018.
The World Bank official noted that Pakistan grapples with a growing list of challenges and economic hardships, including inflation, surging electricity prices, severe climate-related shocks, and insufficient public resources for financing essential services.
According to World Bank data, Pakistan has registered an average real per capita growth rate of merely 1.7 percent from 2000 to 2020, a stark contrast to the growth rates observed in South Asian nations during the same period. Furthermore, Pakistan’s human development indicators lag behind those of its South Asian counterparts and align more closely with several sub-Saharan African countries.
To address these pressing issues, the World Bank has presented a comprehensive proposal aimed at reshaping existing policies. This transformation entails a shift away from underfunded, inefficient, and fragmented service delivery and social protection systems toward a coordinated, efficient, and adequately funded service delivery framework.
The proposal is primarily geared towards assisting the most vulnerable segments of the population, with a particular focus on reducing alarmingly high child stunting rates and enhancing educational outcomes, especially for girls. It also advocates redirecting public expenditures from wasteful and inflexible allocations that benefit a select few, towards targeted investments in public services, infrastructure, and climate adaptation, with a focus on the most marginalized communities.