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Pakistan’s GDP can be increased 30% by bridging gender gap: ADB

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Pakistan, Xiaohong Yang has termed the gender inequities a significant challenge for Pakistan with low literacy rates and labor force participation for women, saying that if Pakistan closed the gender gap, it could raise GDP by as much as 30 percent.

The ADB will support women’s economic empowerment, provide quality opportunities for social advancement, and enhance women’s resilience to external shocks, she said while explaining the new country partnership strategy (CPS) for 2021–2025 here.

She siad the ADB would aim to increase women’s access to financial services and raise their skills and education levels – increasing their access to higher-skilled and waged employment such as the ICT sector, and bolster social protection programs, where women are the primary beneficiaries.

ADB, she said would also prioritize interventions to cut women’s time poverty and drudgery by improving their access to modern technology, particularly in the agriculture sector, connecting them to affordable and reliable energy, and contributing convenient water supply and sanitation solutions.

Further the ADB would also help ensure women’s access to safe transport systems and urban spaces while improving the capacity of executing and implementing agencies to implement gender-inclusive projects.

With a youthful, growing population and strategic location, Pakistan has the potential for rapid economic growth and development.

Under Vision 2025, the country aims to achieve upper middle-income status and provide quality jobs to its growing labor force, she added.

The country director added that the ADB’s assistance to Pakistan would focus on three strategic pillars: improving economic management, building resilience through human capital development and social protection, and boosting competitiveness and private sector development to expand economic opportunities.

Given the economic and social vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic, this CPS places particular emphasis on building resilience. ADB will seek to upgrade education and health facilities, improve the quality of health care, strengthen social protection systems, and upskill workers so they can weather future crises, she added.

With respect to poverty reduction, she said the ADB would seek to enhance productivity and well-being by improving education, nutrition, health systems, clean water and sanitation, affordable housing, and social protection.

“The ADB will promote system-wide reforms on skills development, and investments in secondary education with a special emphasis on increasing girls’ enrollment. The challenge of out-of-school children will also be addressed through support for Ehsaas Kafalat conditional cash transfers for primary education, targeting children, particularly girls, from poor and vulnerable households.”

With respect to ADB’s response to COVID-19, Xiahong Yang said in 2020, ADB commited $500 million to help finance the government’s counter cyclical economic stimulus with a focus on boosting safety nets for the jobless and helping poor and vulnerable groups including women and children.

ADB also provided a $300 million emergency support loan and re purposed $30 million to help reduce the socioeconomic and health impacts of the pandemic. ADB worked very closely with other international financial institutions and bilateral agencies during the COVID-19 crisis and mobilized about $1.22 billion in cofinancing from other development partners.

In addition, ADB quickly mobilized about $6 million in grants, together with $9 million in co-financing from other bilateral donors for immediate humanitarian and health emergency expenditures and training for health workers, she added.

She said a robust private sector was critical to Pakistan’s goal of achieving upper-middle-income status, but the high cost of doing business limits its competitiveness. Unreliable access to basic infrastructure is also a significant constraint for private sector activities, while access to finance remains limited for women entrepreneurs, small businesses, and other underserved segments. ADB will support the government in implementing tariff and tax reforms. The streamlined import tariff and tax procedures will help private businesses thrive and facilitate export diversification, she added.

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