World Bank projects 1.8 percent growth for Pakistan as 40 percent fall below poverty line

Shoppers crowd at a market area in Lahore, Pakistan on March 31, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 April 2024
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World Bank projects 1.8 percent growth for Pakistan as 40 percent fall below poverty line

  • The bank notes macroeconomic risks remain very high amid a large debt burden and limited foreign exchange reserves
  • It says the current macroeconomic outlook projects growth that is below Pakistan’s potential, with little poverty reduction

KARACHI: The World Bank announced in its latest development update on Tuesday Pakistan’s economy is expected to grow by only 1.8 percent in the current fiscal year ending June 2024, emphasizing the need for structural reforms and warning that 40 percent of the population has slipped below the poverty line.

Pakistan’s economy has grappled with persistent financial woes in recent years, leading to a subdued economic performance marked by high inflation, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and slow growth. After concluding a short-term, $3 billion standby facility, the country now plans to pursue a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to stabilize its economy and address long-standing structural challenges.

According to World Bank’s latest “Pakistan Development Update: Fiscal Impact of Federal State-Owned Enterprises,” the subdued economic recovery in recent months emerges from tight monetary and fiscal policy, continued import management measures aimed at preserving scarce foreign reserves and muted economic activity amid weak confidence.

“The structural reforms needed to durably improve the economic outlook are known,” World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Najy Benhassine said in a statement. “Developing a clearly articulated reform implementation plan that is ambitious, credible and that shows quick progress is now essential to restore confidence.”

“In particular, better fiscal management will help to lower inflation, narrow the current account deficit, improve financial sector stability and increase credit to the private sector, all of which are critical for robust economic recovery,” he added.

The bank said in a statement that after a contraction in the last fiscal year, economic activity had strengthened over the first half of the current fiscal year on the back of strong agricultural output.

“But growth remains insufficient to reduce poverty, with 40 percent of Pakistanis now living below the poverty line,” it continued. “Macroeconomic risks remain very high amid a large debt burden and limited foreign exchange reserves.”

The bank noted a sustained medium-term recovery would require a prudent macroeconomic policy mix coupled with reforms to improve the quality of expenditures, broaden the tax base, address regulatory constraints to private sector activity and reduce state presence in the economy through the privatization process.

“The current macroeconomic outlook projects growth that is below Pakistan’s potential, with little poverty reduction and continued erosion of living standards,” the lead author of the bank’s report, Sayed Murtaza Muzaffari, said.

The report also highlighted the high fiscal costs of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in key sectors of the economy.

It pointed out these SOEs had been consistently making losses since 2016, and the government had been providing significant financial support to them through subsidies, grants, loans and guarantees, leading to large and growing fiscal exposure.

“Direct government support to SOEs in the form of subsidies, loans and equity investments accounted for 18 percent of the federal budget deficit and 2 percent of GDP in FY22,” said Qurat Ul Ain Hadi, co-author of the report.

The World Bank recommended rapid progress with government plans for privatization, restructuring and divestment.

In addition, it called for new guarantee issuance rules, mitigating credit risks, ensuring adherence to International Financial Reporting Standards and developing risk monitoring procedures.


Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

Updated 19 May 2024
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Nida Dar becomes top wicket-taker in women’s T20Is despite Pakistan’s loss to England

  • Despite Dar’s milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead
  • Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds

ISLAMABAD: Nida Dar, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team, made history by becoming the top wicket-taker in Women’s T20 International cricket with her 137th wicket during the second match against England in Northampton on Friday.

Despite her milestone, Pakistan fell to England by 65 runs, allowing the hosts to secure a 2-0 series lead.

England, batting first, were restricted to 144-6, thanks in part to Dar’s two wickets. However, Pakistan struggled in reply, collapsing to 79 all out within 15.5 overs as English spinners Sophie Ecclestone, Alice Capsey and Sarah Glenn collectively snagged seven wickets.

The International Cricket Council recognized Dar’s historic performance on its website after the match.

“Dar overtook Australia’s Megan Schutt (136 wickets) to lay her claim at the top of the leading wicket-takers chart in women’s T20I on Friday, 17 May,” the ICC proclaimed. “She is the only Pakistan woman in the top 10 list.”

The Pakistan skipper, who started the game with 135 career wickets, was on the verge of setting the new record during Pakistan’s recent home series against the West Indies.

In the match against England, she edged closer to the milestone by getting Capsey stumped in almost the middle of the game and later, in the final over, clinched her landmark 137th wicket by dismissing Amy Jones.

Pakistan are now gearing up for the third and final T20I against England, set to take place on May 19 in Leeds.


Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan to send two-member delegation to Kyrgyzstan, offers free evacuation to stranded students

  • The decision comes after five Pakistani students were injured in mob violence against foreign nationals in Bishkek
  • Deputy PM Ishaq Dar will lead the delegation on Sunday morning to review arrangements for the return of students

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif decided to send a two-member delegation to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek and offered free travel facilities to all Pakistani students stranded there on Saturday, following mob violence against foreign nationals enrolled in various universities that led to evacuation requests.
The violence erupted on Friday night after videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.
According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.
Speaking to Arab News on Saturday, many students reported the Pakistan embassy had advised them to stay indoors, though they had run out of food and water. Some even expressed fears that rioting might resume at night and requested evacuation by the authorities.
A statement released by the PM’s Office in the evening indicated that Sharif had directed Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Maqam, to address the situation in Bishkek.
“Both officials will depart for Bishkek early tomorrow morning [on Sunday] via a special plane,” the statement continued. “Throughout the day, the Prime Minister had been monitoring the situation and staying in contact with the Pakistani ambassador in Bishkek.”
“Despite the satisfactory situation,” it added, “the decision to send this delegation was made to ensure necessary support and facilities for Pakistani students.”
The two Pakistani officials will meet with senior government officials in the Kyrgyz capital to ensure medical treatment for injured students and review arrangements for their return.
In an earlier statement, the prime minister noted that those who wanted to return to Pakistan would be “facilitated at the government’s expense.”
Sharif also declared that his administration would not leave the students alone during such a difficult time and would remain in contact with them and their parents through the embassy.
Meanwhile, the foreign office activated its Crisis Management Unit to facilitate and assist Pakistani nationals in the Kyrgyz Republic and their families. The unit can be contacted on the following numbers: +92519203108 and +92519203094, or via email at [email protected].
The country’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham said earlier in the day that five Pakistani medical students had been injured in the mob attack. One student was admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury, while the other four were released after receiving first aid.
“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”


Journalists protest temporary closure of Quetta Press Club, demand media freedom inquiry

Updated 18 May 2024
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Journalists protest temporary closure of Quetta Press Club, demand media freedom inquiry

  • Police locked the facility after rights activist Mahrang Baloch decided to hold a seminar at the facility
  • The Balochistan Union of Journalists issued a statement, describing it as an attack on press freedom

KARACHI: Journalists in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province on Saturday condemned the temporary closure of Quetta Press Club by police, demanding an inquiry into what they called an attack on media freedom in violation of the country’s constitution.
The incident took place after the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), an ethnic rights movement led by local activist Mahrang Baloch, organized a seminar at the press club, prompting the police to lock the facility. However, supporters of the rights movement broke the lock and entered the club.
Last year, Baloch gained national visibility by leading a protest march to Islamabad, saying her objective was to bring attention to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in her province, though the government denied the state’s involvement in any such activities.
“The Balochistan Union of Journalists strongly condemns the closure of the Quetta Press Club by the administration in harsh terms, considering it an attack on press freedom and a blatant violation of the Article 19 of the Constitution,” said a statement that called for investigation into the issue.
“The closure of the Press Club is an assault on the freedom and rights of journalists, which is unacceptable,” it added. “This move by the administration is a conspiracy to silence journalists, and we will protest vigorously against it.”
The union pointed out that journalists were already facing threats and challenges, though it added they would continue to fulfill their responsibilities and remain undeterred by such measures.
“Article 19 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants every citizen the freedom of expression, and the closure of the Press Club is a clear violation of it,” the statement continued. “The Balochistan Union of Journalists demands a high-level investigation into the matter so that journalists can fulfil their duties without fear or danger.”
When contacted, Banaras Khan, the general secretary of Quetta Press Club, told Arab News the district administration had asked the club’s administration to cancel the program, citing security reasons.
“Half of the participants came and half were on their way when the police locked the gate,” he said, adding he had refused to cancel the program.
“I informed the authorities that I wouldn’t force the participants to leave,” Khan revealed. “If the provincial administration wanted to, they could, but they should then lock the gate, and we would leave as well,” he said, highlighting his disagreement with the officials that made him warn that the journalists would vacate the premises in protest.
Shahid Rind, a Balochistan government spokesperson, said, however, it was the decision of the police, deployed outside the club for its protection, to lock the facility as a strategy to deal with the large crowd, adding the government had no intention to stop the program.
“Our position is clear,” he said. “We didn’t put any locks, nor did we want to stop the seminar.”
Rind said the organizers had mentioned in their invitations only registered participants would attend the program.
He said the gate was temporarily locked by the police.
“After that, the seminar continued throughout the day,” he added. “If we had wanted to stop the seminar, or if the state had wanted to stop it forcefully, would the seminar have been allowed to take place?”


Seven Pakistanis, including two women, feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list this year

Updated 18 May 2024
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Seven Pakistanis, including two women, feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list this year

  • The American magazine annually compiles the list to celebrate 300 young people for their innovative abilities
  • The seven Pakistanis have contributed to the fields of art and finance along with enterprise and consumer technology

ISLAMABAD: Two women among a group of seven Pakistanis were featured in the popular Forbes 30 Under 30 list this week, earning international recognition for their leadership abilities in their respective professional fields.
The American business magazine annually compiles the 30 Under 30 list to celebrate 300 remarkable individuals under the age of 30, selected across 10 categories, each featuring 30 standout figures.
These young leaders are recognized for their innovative contributions and influence in areas such as technology, arts, finance and science, marking them as trailblazers poised to shape the future of their industries in their respective regions.
Among the fintech entrepreneurs facilitating access to capital, Forbes named Lahore-based Aleena Nadeem on top, saying her company EduFi was helping more Pakistanis go to university.
“Nadeem’s concept is simple,” the magazine wrote. “She realized some paycheck-to-paycheck families couldn’t handle lump sum payments at the start of a semester— but could afford tuition paid monthly.”
“EduFi has partnered with 27 Pakistani colleges (a number that’s doubled in the past six months), who funnel prospective customers its way,” the article added. “It does its own credit-vetting, then pays tuition for approved students who repay the loan on a monthly basis as they study.”
It also mentioned Bushra Sultan, a Pakistani filmmaker, creative director and production designer, saying her work addressed her country’s constraints on women.

an undated file photo of Bushra Sultan, a Pakistani filmmaker, creative director and production designer. 


“Her most notable work is in fashion and beauty,” the magazine said. “A campaign for Demesne Couture called ‘Guria’ depicted two opulently dressed women being controlled like puppets by giant hands pulling strings, a comment on the country’s wedding industry and the demands made on brides.”
“Sultan is also known for her audacious ‘Chimera’ campaign featuring headless women,” it added.
Much like Nadeem, Pakistan’s Sarkhail Bawany was listed among the fintech entrepreneurs.
Bawany is the head of product at fintech company Abhi, which empowers workers to withdraw a percentage of their salary before the next paycheck when they need emergency cash.

An undated file photo of Pakistani enterprenure Pakistan’s Sarkhail Bawany. (Photo courtesy: LinkedIn/sarkhailbawany)


“Abhi works on a B2B2C model, partnering with companies such as Unilever Pakistan to offer the service as a benefit to employees,” Forbes said, adding the company had also expanded to the Middle East and Bangladesh.
Others Pakistanis on the list include Kasra Zunnaiyyer, the co-founder of Karachi-based Trukkr, which has developed a management platform for Pakistan’s logistics sector. Zunnaiyyer made it to the Forbes list in the Enterprise Technology category.
The line-up also had Adeel Abid, Aizaz Nayyer and Ali Raza, who established the Karachi-based platform for freelancers called Linkstar.
“The company helps freelancers create free portfolio websites that can be upgraded with advanced functionalities such as international payments and social media integration,” the magazine announced.


Pakistan calls for removal of technology restrictions to aid developing nations at UN meeting

Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan calls for removal of technology restrictions to aid developing nations at UN meeting

  • Access to emerging technologies in the Global South is often influenced by geopolitical concerns
  • Pakistan says equitable access to technology can help developing nations meet future challenges

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani diplomat at the United Nations urged technology-producing nations on Friday to remove restrictions on the equitable spread of scientific knowledge and equipment, saying it would help advance developing countries.

Access to emerging technologies in the Global South is often influenced by geopolitical concerns, as international relations and trade policies can dictate the availability and distribution of these resources.

This geopolitical gatekeeping not only restricts technological advancement in less developed nations but also perpetuates global inequities in access to cutting-edge tools and innovations.

In case of Pakistan, US export controls limit access to high-end technologies, particularly those with dual-use capabilities that might be diverted for military purposes.

“Unless fair and equitable access to new and emerging technologies is provided to developing countries, and all undue restrictions removed, the Global South will lag even further behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ambassador Usman Jadoon, Pakistan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting.

According to an official statement, he underscored the transformative power of science in improving lives and anticipating threats through climate modeling, disease surveillance, and early warning systems.

Additionally, he highlighted Pakistan’s significant strides in nuclear technology, space exploration and biotechnology, saying that his country wanted to leverage scientific advancements for progress and stability.

“New and emerging technologies play an undeniable role in the progress of any society and in maintaining international peace and security when used in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter,” he continued.

Ambassador Jadoon mentioned Pakistan’s concerns about the unregulated military applications of emerging technologies and supported calls for establishing legally-binding norms to regulate their use, ensuring regional and global stability.

He affirmed his country’s commitment to unlocking the potential of science for peace and progress, advocating for responsible scientific practices and international cooperation to build a safer and more prosperous future.