Pakistan to Receive Rs104 billion in aid for South Punjab

Written by  Published by:Pakistan Views Wednesday, 16 December 2015 17:36

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday signed a multi-year Indicative programme for €653 million to be spent over a period of 2014-2020 mostly in aid to the country’s rural areas, specially South Punjab.

Economic Affairs Division (EAD) Secretary Tariq Bajwa and EU Ambassador to Pakistan Jean-Francois Cautain signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Tuesday.

The aid will be given for rural development, education, governance reforms and improvement of human rights, according to the finance ministry. However, due to limited size of the envelope and huge sectoral requirements, the EU may not be able to make any major impact in these areas.

For the first time, the EU has signalled its intent to reach out to South Punjab – a neglected and undernourished area that is appearing on the radar of foreign powers due to its vulnerability to the extremist elements. So far, the focus of the donors community has largely remained on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and to some extent on Balochistan.

“The EU is open to broadening its support to reform agendas beyond Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Sindh especially into Balochistan, Fata and possibly South Punjab,” an EU document stated.

Under its multi-year programme, the EU also plans to increase interaction with Pakistan’s provincial governments by reducing reliance on the federal government, which the EU believes is in line with the country’s ongoing devolution process.

The EU would give €340 million or 52% of its total six-year aid package for spending in rural areas of the country. The EU stated that the rural development programme is aimed at promoting full integration of structurally poor and backward regions into the mainstream national development agenda of Pakistan by enhancing opportunities for economic growth and sustainable livelihoods in rural areas.

“The support aims at widening access to basic public services, reducing social and economic inequality between households and communities and improving resilience, increasing income generating activities and contributes to peace building and consolidation of political stability in insurgency affected areas”, it added. The spending will be largely in K-P, Fata, Balochistan, Sindh and possibly in South Punjab.

An amount of €210 million or roughly one-third of the total aid is earmarked for improving equitable access to education and completion of quality basic and secondary education for children, including reducing gender and regional disparities. The assistance in education sector is aimed at accelerating human development and achieving related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU would also give €97 million or 15% of the aid for governance reforms and improving human rights. The amount is planned to be used for strengthening the capacity of civil society, social partners and social dialogue, media and other independent organisations.

The €653 million programme sets out the EU’s development strategic objectives in support of a stable, democratic and pluralistic Pakistan, said EU Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain.

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