Islamabad: Amid severe economic and political crisis situation in Pakistan, the World Bank has expressed concerns over the Punjab Human Capital Investment Project (PHCIP), noting that it made ‘limited progress’ in the implementation of the components of social protection, education and health.
According to local media reports, objective of the project was to “increase the utilization of quality health services, and economic and social inclusion programs, among poor and vulnerable households in select districts in Punjab.”
These included — health services quality and utilization ($115 million); economic and social inclusion ($65 million); efficiency and sustainability through social protection services delivery system and project management ($20 million).
Punjab Human Capital Investment Project’s implementation of the social protection, education, and health components made only limited progress. The improvement of healthcare facilities, the remodelling of ECE classrooms, the registration of beneficiaries for the Health CCT and Economic Inclusion (EI) component, and the distribution of cash and assets to the registered beneficiaries are among the important operations in progress.
Due to sluggish procurement, little social mobilisation and difficulties making timely payments to the recipients, overall disbursement and spending remain low.
As per reports, project documents stated that actions to speed up the process have been agreed upon with the Government of Punjab and include completing critical procurements by March 15, 2023, improving the cash disbursements procedure, and introducing a predictable and enhanced monthly payment.
The PHCIP Project
Government of Punjab in Pakistan is the sponsoring agency of the project through the World Bank – International Development Agency and in-kind counterpart funding.
While the signing and the effective date of the project is May 18, 2020, PHCIP’s closing date of the loan agreement is June 30, 2025.
The approved project would cost $330 million in total, of which $130 million will come from counterpart finance and $200 million from the World Bank.
Who will benefit?
As many as 11 districts of Pakistan’s Punjab province will benefit from the Punjab Human Capital Investment Project.
These include Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, Rajanpur, DG Khan, Rahimyar Khan, Bahkkar, Mianwali, Bahawalnagar, Lodhran, Layyah and Khushab.
The gestation period of PHCIP is from 2021 to 2025, while its lead agency is Punjab Social Protection Authority (PSPA).
Pakistan Economic Crisis
The Shehbaz Sharif-led government in Pakistan has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the past few months seeking clearance of its ninth review. If the review is approved by the IMF board, the global financial institution will release $1.1 billion for Pakistan, which is part of a $6.5 billion bailout agreement. This IMF bailout will end at the close of the current financial year, which concludes on June 30.