KARACHI: Philippe H. Le Houérou, new Vice President of World Bank Group’s South Asia Region made an introductory visit to Pakistan from August 21 to 24, 2013. He was accompanied during this trip by Isabel M. Guerrero, the outgoing Vice President. He called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and met with key members of his cabinet including Federal Ministers for finance, planning & development, petroleum & natural resources, State Minister for water and power and key government officials.
In the difficult current economic situation of the country, Le Houérou agreed with the government’s economic plan. He congratulated the government on the successful discussions with the International Monetary Fund and the rapid implementation of initial reform actions. He assured the government of the World Bank Group’s support for stabilizing the macro economy, deepening the needed structural reforms and implementing the needed sectoral investments. “The World Bank Group stands ready to assist the government in reform implementation through policy and performance based support”, said Le Houérou. “The complex challenges facing the country call for not only implementation of multisectoral fundamental reforms and investments but also their careful sequencing.”
He also discussed the government’s development priorities and the programming of $1.5 billion International Development Association IDA support to Pakistan for the next 10 months, in the areas of policy reforms and investments, particularly in energy, revenue mobilization, governance and social sectors. However, investment needs of the energy sector alone far exceed the financing available from the public sector and development agencies combined. Hence reforms to improve financial sustainability and create conducive framework for attracting private and sovereign fund investment will be critical in getting the sector out of crisis and provide stability in the long run.
He welcomed the government effort to boost Pakistan’s regional cooperation and extended the World Bank Group’s support to the Central Asia-South Asia initiative CASA1000 and Pakistan-India power connectivity. Le Houérou felt that in view of the serious energy crisis facing the country, Pakistan needs to focus on both the immediate needs and longer term integrated resources planning of the energy sector. In terms of knowledge sharing, he encouraged Pakistan to sustain and share its experience of the social protection program, which is a global best practice of objective targeting of the poor.
He also met the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif in Islamabad and acknowledged the World Bank’s strong development partnership with the province and the well performing World Bank financed programs in the social, rural and urban development sectors. He also appreciated the provincial government’s focus on governance and transparency, and on promoting job enhancing industries. They both agreed timing of the reforms is important, and emphasized the need for swift decision and speedy implementation.
Le Houérou who led World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region as Vice President prior to his current assignment held several meetings in Islamabad and Lahore with representatives of diplomatic missions, development agencies, academia, thinktanks, private sector and civil society to deepen his knowledge of the country.
In Lahore, Le Houérou visited the World Bank financed Walled City of Lahore Project and met with the project authorities as well as the elders and youth of the beneficiary communities.