PESHAWAR: The number of applications received for a World Bank grant from the seven tribal districts of the province is so high that the implementing partner Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (Smeda) is not sure if the grant would be enough to cover the economic damage.

The Economic Revitalisation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas project was started in 2011 to help Pakistan in economic recovery and revitalisation of the crisis-affected areas of the province and the then Fata by creating sustainable employment opportunities through rehabilitation of small and medium enterprises, investment mobilisation and institutional capacity building.

The multi-donor trust fund project cost is $20 million. It was started in August 2011 and would continue till June 30, 2020.

Official says last time 5,000 applications were received and almost 40 per cent were rejected

“We have received 35,000 applications, which are five times more than what we received earlier. I fear funds would not be enough to cover all verified applications,” said Javed Iqbal Khattak, the provincial chief of Smeda.

He said that they were not expecting such a high number of applications in comparison to previous years. Last time from erstwhile Fata, they received 5,000 applications and almost 40 per cent were rejected as people had even applied for grant for their damaged houses.

Due to shortage of funds, only 500 could be given grant to revitalise their businesses whereas the rest were left out as there was no grant money left for them.

“This time priority would be given to the businessmen of those areas, which have not been granted any financial support under this project so far,” said the official. Those areas include Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai and North Waziristan tribal districts.

“We have requested World Bank to increase this grant money somehow as it is not enough looking at the damage done to businesses in the conflict-affected areas like tribal districts of the province,” said Mr Khattak. He said that it was for the first time that data of businesses of the tribal districts was recorded and digitised. There was urgent need to look for more financial resources and donor bodies to pool in this project.

“At the moment we are totally relying on the donors and cannot say for sure all the damage reported to us through these applications would be compensated financially,” said the official, who seemed hopeful to gather governmental and non-governmental bodies to coordinate and pool in this grant for revitalisation of the economy and businesses of the crisis-affected parts of the province.

Contrary to common perception about erstwhile Fata, now part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as districts, business and trade was one of the main sources of livelihood as huge wholesale distributors, gowdowns, transport, textile and many other businesses were thriving before militancy and security crisis hit them.

A man having textile industry on a 32-acre land in Miramshah, North Waziristan has also applied for the grant. Pesticide manufacturers, trailer owners, filling station owners and even the owners of small private hospitals and clinics have submitted applications for the grant to restart their businesses.

“The grant we give them is not enough but it just motivates them to kick start their business. It is a positive activity and all donors should come forward to pool in this fund,” said Mr Khattak.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2019