UK to triple Pakistan’s aid


ISLAMABAD: The United Kingdom has decided to triple Pakistan’s financial aid from the next fiscal year 2024-2025, increasing it from the current £41.5 million to approximately £133 million annually.

The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) head in Pakistan Jo Moir told The News that a majority of the provisional increase support would be used in various sectors, but the Official Development Assistance (ODA) would be mostly spent on Pakistan’s climate mitigation needs.

“We are pleased that Pakistan and the [International Monetary Fund] IMF have agreed to a new deal under Standby Arrangement (SBA) programme, which will help Islamabad achieve debt sustainability during the programme period.

“We ask Islamabad to continue structural and other economic reforms, especially improving governance in state-owned entities. Pakistan seems to negotiate new programme once the existing arrangement is completed,” Moir said in an hour-long exclusive interview at the UK High Commission in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave.

The British envoy dwelt upon various economic, social, and developmental issues confronting Pakistan and stated that she had been looking after her assignment in Islamabad since last September 2022. The hospitality of the people of Pakistan had impressed her.

She said that the UK’s first-ever female High Commissioner, Jane Marriott, would be assuming her assignment in Islamabad in early August 2023 as she had worked in Kenya prior to getting new responsibility in Pakistan.

On increased financial aid by more than three times, the FCDO’s head in Pakistan explained that it would be hard to share the exact number as the UK had planned to increase the aid share up to 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) so provisionally this number of financial might go up from existing £41.5 million in the ongoing financial year 2023-24 to approximately £133 million in the next fiscal year 2024-25.

The UK, she said, was going to publish a development strategy for aid recipient countries, including Pakistan, after a period of five years. The aid strategy is in the process of transition whereby the FCDO would bring changes in the traditional way of development for possessing experience of over 60 years.

“Under new development strategy, UK would focus more on helping Pakistan over structural issues, population growth, unlocking the potential of the private sector to achieve higher growth and reducing negative effects of climate change,” she added.

She said there would be four major goals, including improving human capital, under which the technical assistance would be provided for governance structure, health, and education sector, as well as ensuring family planning with the help of better coordination among the federal and provincial governments.

Under the objective of the second goal, she said that the climate response and adaptation to disasters and the BISP would be used to reach out to affected people in case of any disaster. The water governance, she said, would also be improved.

Responding to a question about the water pricing mechanism, she said that she did not know about any recommendation from their side but overall efficiency of water use would be improved. The third goal would be achieving an open society and improving the effectiveness of government institutions. It will also focus on overcoming gender-based violence and women’s empowerment.

The fourth goal, she said, would be focusing on economy and trade and added that the FCDO supported the IMF program in which the efforts would be generating more revenues and curtailing expenditures to maintain the budget within the agreed framework.

“The private sector and green financing will help Pakistan to achieve higher and sustainable growth,” she added.

To another query about curtailing population growth after the devolution of power in the aftermath of the 18th amendment, she said that the UK’s development aid would work more along with the Council of Common Interest (CCI) in order to work closely in collaboration with the federal and provincial governments.

For the education sector, she said that they knew that over 22 million children were out of school, and there were some estimates that this number had gone up by 3.5 million after the last devastating floods.

She reminded there might be some children who might have gone back to school, but access to education was still confronting issue in Pakistan.

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