The World Bank on Tuesday underlined the importance of deepening Pakistan’s reforms and investments in priority development areas so that the country can achieve a higher level of economic growth to reduce extreme poverty and increase shared prosperity.

“I have been impressed with the government’s success at stabilizing the economy under difficult circumstances, and I support its aim to accelerate sustainable and equitable growth to lift more people out of poverty,” said World Bank’s Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati in a statement after concluding her three-day visit to Pakistan.

“The priorities that we discussed include initiatives to improve people’s everyday lives, such as energy, health, education, and the social safety net-as well as expanding the tax base and strengthening governance and capacity of key institutions to support these services”, she remarked.

She pointed to the youth bulge, as a potential asset for Pakistan’s development, but to benefit from this would require improvements in education and training, including for girls and women. “Increasing numbers of young people in Pakistan mean job creation is a priority, and this will require improvements in the business and investment climate, privatization, and tapping the potential of regional integration,” said Indrawati.

During her three days to Pakistan, Indrawati called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, met with his economic team led by Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, and heard updates on the progress of economic reforms being implemented by the government. Sources in Finance Ministry informed The Nation that World Bank’s Managing Director during in meeting with Ishaq Dar had expressed some concerns over the transparency and continuity of reform process of the PML-N government. They had also discussed the issue of approval of $500 million Development Policy Credit, which was not approved by WB in June this year due to the government’s failure in introducing reforms in power sector. The Bank could approve this loan in September this year.

According to the press statement issued by WB, Indrawati started her visit in Lahore at the Badshahi Mosque and a beneficiary registration center for the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). She was encouraged by the joint effort of the Federal and Provincial Government to expand the BISP through conditional cash transfers for education outcomes. She met with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and learned about province-level reform efforts and development projects under implementation and preparation with World Bank Group support.

Indrawati emphasized the importance of the private sector’s contributions to the growth and development of Pakistan during her visit with representatives of academia, think-tanks, private sector, civil society, diplomatic missions, and development agencies.

She addressed members of faculty and students from 80 universities all over Pakistan through video link from the Higher Education Commission auditorium in Islamabad. Indrawati was apprised of women’s participation and the community led approach in development projects being administered by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and Balochistan. She met with the MDTF project beneficiaries and expressed a keen interest in women’s participation in the design and implementation of projects.

She was accompanied by Annette Dixon, Vice President for the South Asia Region of the World Bank during the visit.