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Pakistan needs to take tough decisions: DFID

ISLAMABAD: The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has asked the government to take ‘tough decisions’ to reform various sectors of the economy.

The DFID is working with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to support Pakistan’s economic reform programmes.

Talking to a group of journalists on Tuesday, DFID Chief Economist Rachel Glennerster said there exists a good understanding of what is to be done, and now is the time to take tough decisions and prioritise decisions for implementation.

If the government wants to take tough fundamental reforms, it is hard to do in multiple sectors at one time. “If you can take tough long-term decisions, they can be pushed towards implementation very effectively”, Ms Glennerster said.

The government should think in a big way and explain to the people the benefits of the decisions, which may be short-term. Then the international community will come and support, she said.

The DFID official said that Pakistan has a long list of priorities, and the first priority should be to improve economic development and then the government can focus on implementing measures for improvement.

The main challenge for the government now is to think where it wants to prioritise reforms and follow detailed steps to start implementing these reforms for long-term prospects of economic growth.

For this, if the government has to go to the IMF, the right thing to do is to get into the programme, she said.

The United Kingdom was integral to Pakistan’s completion of a three-year IMF programme in 2016, averting a financial crisis in 2013.

The chief economist said that she was encouraged by lots of optimism to improve the economic situation of Pakistan. “I am also encouraged by the seriousness with which a lot of people in and outside the government were thinking about the reforms in the economy”, she remarked.

She was of the view that challenges remain in trade integration, energy, agriculture and in all other sectors.

The DFID’s budget for assistance to Pakistan in various social sectors for 2018-19 is £325 million, and the planned budget for 2019-20 is expected to be £302m.

In 2018-19, the DFID’s largest bilateral spending was in human development, followed by economic development, governance and security, and climate and environment.

Top three spending programmes in 2018-19 were: the second phase of Punjab Education Support Progra­mme (£67.2m), Pakistan Economic Corridors Programme (£56.3m), and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa education sector programme (£41m).

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