ISLAMABAD:28 April: The World Bank’s Board of Directors on Thursday approved two projects totalling $550 million aimed at supporting Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen education and natural gas sectors, which are critical to Pakistan’s growth and development.
The $350 million Second Punjab Education Sector Project will support the Punjab government’s education sector reform programmeme which is designed to increase child school participation and student achievement. The $200 million Natural Gas Efficiency Project aims at enhancing the supply of natural gas by reducing physical and commercial losses in the pipeline system.
Significant shortfalls persist in both school participation and student achievement in Punjab. To address these challenges, the Punjab government is implementing the Punjab Education Sector Reform Programme (PESRP), which aims at improving schooling outcome through institutional development and strengthening, improved monitoring and enhanced governance and accountability.
The WB has supported this programme since 2008. During this time, the reform programme has put in place and strengthened important initiatives. Over 850,000 additional students - more than half of them girls – are now enrolled in low cost private schools supported under government subsidies tied to minimum school quality standards; some 400,000 female students receive quarterly stipends tied to school attendance; and free textbooks are provided to all students in public schools. The new results-based project will build on these achievements and support the second phase of the reform programme over the period 2012-2015.
“With a target school-aged population of over 12 million children, 30 percent of who remain out of school and with relatively low levels of learning, continuation of our support to the government’s reform programme is critical,” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank country director for Pakistan. “The second phase of the programme aims to take the next evolutionary step and zero in on improving service delivery performance at the school level. A key focus will be improving teacher quality and performance, which is critical for better school quality, and, thereby helping retain students in school and attract new children to school.”
The challenges in the gas sector are also significant. Pakistan faces severe scarcity of gas, with production failing to keep pace with demand. Other critical challenges include inadequate allocation of gas, inefficient end-use of gas, and high levels of unaccounted-for gas (UFG). More than 10 percent of gas supplied in Pakistan is unaccounted for, which is unaffordable and a major contributor to the current gas supply crisis. UFG is typically at 1-2 percent in OECD countries.
The main focus of the Natural Gas Efficiency Project is to reduce UFG to about 5 percent by 2017 in distribution areas served by the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC).