Pakistan's Premier Multilingual News Agency

World Bank urges Pakistan to address human capital crisis for a prosperous future

Islamabad, 28 November, 2023 (GNP): Martin Raiser, Vice-President for South Asia at the World Bank (WB), sounded an alarm concerning Pakistan’s “silent human capital crisis,” urging authorities to make crucial decisions to pave the way for a brighter future for the country.

Raiser, currently in Pakistan to reaffirm the World Bank’s unwavering support for the nation’s populace, unveiled a series of policy notes aimed at outlining essential policy shifts crucial for fostering a productive, sustainable, resilient, and healthy Pakistan. The official statement released on Tuesday highlighted the urgency of these policy changes.

The comprehensive policy notes, encompassing critical areas such as child stunting, fiscal sustainability, private sector growth, energy, learning poverty, agriculture, and climate change, emerged from extensive outreach and engagements conducted nationwide under the banner “Reforms for a Brighter Future — Time to Decide.”

“Pakistan’s economy is mired in a low-growth pattern, coupled with inadequate human development outcomes and escalating poverty. The prevailing economic conditions render Pakistan highly susceptible to climate shocks, with limited public resources available for developmental initiatives and climate adaptation,” stated the WB official.

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Emphasizing the pivotal moment facing Pakistan, Raiser urged the country to deliberate on maintaining past patterns or embarking on essential but challenging strides towards a prosperous future.

The policy notes underscored the urgency for Pakistan to address its acute human capital crisis, notably the prevalence of stunting and learning poverty, by embracing a unified and coherent cross-sectoral approach to basic services, involving both provincial and federal governments.

Furthermore, the recommendations highlighted the imperative to enhance the quality of public spending and undertake substantial measures to broaden the revenue base, ensuring equitable contributions from all segments of society.

In alignment with fostering growth, competitiveness, and exports, the notes urged Pakistan to pursue regulatory reforms in business and trade while reducing state intervention in the economy to amplify productivity.

Moreover, the suggestions stressed the importance of rectifying distortions in agriculture and energy sectors through subsidy reforms and privatization of electricity distribution companies.

Martin Raiser emphasized the severity of the crisis, stating, “Almost 40% of children in Pakistan suffer from stunted growth, and over 78% of Pakistan’s children lack basic reading comprehension by age 10. These indicators underscore a profound human capital crisis demanding urgent attention.”

Raiser proposed that with increased investment in water and sanitation, equivalent to around 1% of GDP annually, coupled with enhanced local coordination, stunting rates could be halved within a decade, substantially impacting growth and incomes.

During his visit, Raiser will engage with Pakistani officials at federal and provincial levels, alongside private sector representatives and academia. Additionally, he will visit key infrastructure projects, including the Dasu and Tarbela hydropower projects, and tour project sites in Sindh and Punjab.