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Strengthening Exports is Critical for Pakistan’s Sustained Economic Growth

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Pakistan’s economy recovered in Fiscal Year 2021, in part due to the government’s effective use of targeted lockdowns to manage the spread of COVID-19, while also permitting economic activity to largely continue, according to a new World Bank report released today.

The October 2021 Pakistan Development Update: Reviving Exports shows that the country’s real GDP growth rebounded to 3.5 percent in FY2021, after contracting by 0.5 percent in FY2020 with the onset of the global pandemic. In addition, inflation eased, the fiscal deficit improved to 7.3 percent of GDP, and the current account deficit shrunk to 0.6 percent of GDP – the lowest in a decade.

“With effective micro-lockdowns, record-high remittance inflows and a supportive monetary policy, Pakistan’s economic growth rebounded in FY2021,” said Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “These measures, together with the expansion of the Ehsaas program and support to businesses, were key to strengthening the economy and recovering from the economic fallout associated with COVID-19.”

However, due to strengthened domestic demand, imports have grown much higher than exports in recent months, leading to a large trade deficit. To sustain strong economic growth, Pakistan needs to increase private investment and export more. In examining the country’s persistent trade imbalance, the report identifies key factors that are hindering exports: high effective import tariff rates, limited availability of long-term financing for firms to expand export capacity, inadequate provision of market intelligence services for exporters, and low productivity of Pakistani firms.

“The long-term decline in exports as a share of GDP has implications for the country’s foreign exchange, jobs, and productivity growth. Therefore, confronting core challenges that are necessary for Pakistan to compete in global markets is an imperative for sustainable growth,” said Derek Chen, Senior Economist, World Bank. “Since long-standing issues with the persistent trade gap have resurfaced, this edition of the Pakistan Development Update on “Reviving Exports” provides a timely, in-depth assessment and policy recommendations that can help spur exports.”

The report provides policy recommendations that can help improve Pakistan’s export competitiveness:

  • Gradually reduce effective rates of protection through a long-term tariff rationalization strategy to encourage exports,
  • Reallocate export financing away from working capital and into capacity expansion through the Long-Term Financing Facility,
  • Consolidate market intelligence services by supporting new exporters and evaluating the impact of current interventions to increase their effectiveness,
  • Design and implement a long-term strategy to upgrade productivity of firms that fosters competition, innovation and maximizes export potential.

The Pakistan Development Update is a companion piece to the South Asia Economic Focus, a twice-a-year World Bank report that examines economic developments and prospects in the region and analyzes policy challenges faced by countries. The Fall 2021 edition titled Shifting Gears: Digitization and Services-Led Development, showed that South Asia’s recovery continues as global demand rebounded and targeted containment measures helped minimize the economic impacts of the recent waves of COVID-19. But the recovery remains fragile and uneven, and most countries remain far from pre-pandemic trend levels.

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Development

Despite COVID-19 connectivity boost, world’s poorest left far behind 

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Digital connectivity is indispensable to overcome the pandemic, and for a sustainable and inclusive recovery. Photo: United Nations/Chetan Soni

Some 2.9 billion people still have never used the internet, and 96 per cent live in developing countries, a new UN report has found. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the estimated number of people who have gone online this year actually went up, to 4.9 billion, partially because of a “COVID connectivity boost”.   

This is good news for global development, but ITU said that people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use. 

“While almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet,” Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General said. 

“ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.” 

‘Connectivity boost’ 

The UN agency’s report found that the unusually sharp rise in the number of people online suggests that measures taken during the pandemic contributed to the “COVID connectivity boost.” 

There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17 per cent due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking.  

Uneven growth 

According to the document, users globally grew by more than 10 per cent in the first year of the COVID crisis, which was the largest annual increase in a decade. But it pointed out that growth has been uneven. 

Internet access is often unaffordable in poorer nations and almost three-quarters of people have never been online in the 46 least-developed countries.  

A ‘connectivity Grand Canyon’ 

Speaking in Geneva, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU said: “The internet divide runs deep between developed and developing countries. Only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet. 

“In Europe, the shares are almost 90 per cent, which is the gap between those two regions of almost 60 percentage points. And there is what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, has called in his Common Agenda blueprint for the future, “a connectivity Grand Canyon”. 

‘Digitally excluded’ 

The report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the Internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, with the gender gap more pronounced in developing nations. 

Poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills continued to hinder “digitally excluded” communities, ITU noted. 

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Development

World Bank Group and Azerbaijan Sign Agreement to Strengthen Partnership

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The Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the World Bank Group signed today an Agreement on Establishing and Operation of Offices in Azerbaijan.

The Agreement was signed by Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov, on behalf of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Anna Bjerde, on behalf of the World Bank Group. Prime Minister of Azerbaijan Ali Asadov and Governor of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Elman Rustamov also took part in the signing event.

The signing of the new Establishment Agreement will greatly facilitate the work of the World Bank Group in Azerbaijan, including administration of its offices in Baku, to support joint efforts to achieve a green and resilient recovery through sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth.

“Our partnership with the World Bank has seen Azerbaijan’s incredible transition from a lower-income country to a donor of the International Development Association, the part of the World Bank Group that helps the world’s poorest countries,” said Ali Asadov, Prime Minister of Azerbaijan. “This agreement will help augment these achievements.”

The World Bank has financed over 50 projects, with total commitments of $4.4 billion, spanning many national development priorities, including building human capital, strengthening access to infrastructure, public services and jobs, investing in agricultural competitiveness and rural development, and supporting the livelihoods of internally displaced persons.

“We look forward to continuing to grow and develop our collaboration with the Government of Azerbaijan and to bringing the best experience and expertise the World Bank can offer in support of Azerbaijan’s 2030 vision and development goals,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia.

As the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has been supporting the private sector in Azerbaijan and has invested around $850 million in the country, including mobilization.

“A vibrant private sector is crucial for economic growth. The signing of this agreement with Azerbaijan comes at a time when the country is taking steps to have the private sector drive economic diversification. IFC is committed to continue supporting sustainable growth in Azerbaijan by helping mobilize the power of the private sector,” said Wiebke Schloemer, IFC’s Acting Vice President for Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

2022 will mark the 30th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s membership in the World Bank.

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Development

ILO launches new tool on social dialogue

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The ILO has launched a new tool  to help its constituents enhance the effectiveness and inclusiveness of their national social dialogue institutions.

The tool was developed as part of the Plan of Action on social dialogue and tripartism  (2019-2023) that was endorsed by the ILO Governing Body at its March 2019 session . The Plan also implements the resolution and conclusions on social dialogue of the International Labour Conference (ILC) held in June 2018 .

The self-assessment method for social dialogue institutions (SAM-SDI) guides the social dialogue actors – governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations – through a process that analyses the inclusiveness and effectiveness of their social dialogue institutions. Based on this analysis, they can devise and implement an action plan to increase the institution’s impact on policy-making.

Social dialogue, based on respect for freedom of association and the right to effective collective bargaining, has a crucial role in designing policies to promote social justice and social and economic progress.

Social dialogue institutions have a key role to play in the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs), particularly SDG 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Social dialogue is also an essential component of SDG 8 , which promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. It is also central to the achievement of SDG 5, on gender equality.

The SAM-SDI consists of six inter-linked steps. It is available online in English, French and Spanish, on a self-contained USB card and through an interactive e-Platform hosted by the ILO’s International Training Centre.

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