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The new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic gave the global community, particularly Pakistan, a chance of social sector and institutional reform, which must take place simultaneously, every crisis offers an opportunity, said World Bank country director Illango Patchamuthu.

“We work with the federal and provincial ministries of finance, trade, energy, education, and planning and development to discuss structural reforms which have been delayed over the years at a time. Structural reforms must go hand in hand because fiscal challenges remain there and are further restricted due to coronavirus reaction,” Patchamuthu said during an online COVID-19 policy response dialogue.

The Country Director of the World Bank said that his organization is working on refinancing part of its $600 million – $2 billion pipe to help recovery efforts, support jobs through public works and micro-enterprises, and deal with the growing food security problem.

Illango initially said that the World Bank had been able to redeploy the $40 million aid program to help the government immediately acquire health facilities and supplies that had already begun to reach districts and local authorities, regarding its initiatives in support of Pakistan during the COVID 19 crisis.

He added that the Bank’s Board recently approved a pandemic fund for Pakistan for $200 million, which was part of the $14 billion global funding facility to overcome the pandemic.

“Of the $200 million programs, $150 million includes immediate medical device purchasing response, and $50 million the Ehsaas cash transfer program to support disadvantaged families”.

The Country Director of the World Bank stressed the need for human capital development and pointed out that Pakistan was spending about 3 % of GDP on health, that is, $242 per capita spending on health, which had to be increased.

World Bank has launched a $160 billion plan to track investment and budget support, technical assistance, and earnings-based funding for all client countries over the next 15 months beginning April 1 of this year, in preparation for World Bank global support during COVID-19 crisis.

He said that the World Bank announced a global fast track financing facility at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. It would provide emergency health facilities and products such as ventilators and personal protection equipment.

“We have been working with many client countries such as Pakistan [on medical equipment and supplies],” he said.

Aliya Kashif, the World Bank’s Senior Health Officer, says Pakistan’s health care system is not prepared to manage such emergencies. The World Bank, therefore, works with the government to strengthen health ability to respond effectively to the crisis.

About Patchamuthu Illangovan, World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan:

Mr. Patchamuthu assumed responsibility as the World Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan on October 1, 2015. Before his current position, he has held several managerial, operational, and technical positions in East Asia and Pacific and South Asia regions of the Bank. His previous assignments include Senior Regional Advisor for Europe and Central Asia Region, a newly created position following the establishment of the Bank’s new operating model in July 2014. He also served as Manager, Operations for Afghanistan in Kabul; Advisor to Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Region in Washington D.C.; Country Manager for Laos in Vientiane; and Sector Leader for Southeast Asia in Bangkok. Mr. Patchamuthu’s Bank career span over two decades, including leading teams that have delivered complex and innovative operations to Bank clients in the environment and natural resources, water energy, and urban sectors. Mr. Patchamuthu, a Srilankan national, joined the World Bank in 1993 as an Environment and Natural Resources Specialist.

Check out the Recovery Townhall 11th Ed.: Patchamuthu Illango

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