ISLAMABAD: The World Bank will assist the Balochistan government in launching a livelihood and entrepreneurship project aimed to create employment opportunities for rural communities and achieve sustainability of enterprises in eight districts, including the five affected by the prolonged presence of Afghan refugees.

Rates of poverty in the eight districts of northern Balo­ch­istan — namely, Zhob, Chagai, Nushki, Sherani, Killa Saif­ullah, Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Mastung — are high since long and the presence there of refugees for about 40 years, has put an unsustainable strain on resources of the province.

A World Bank report says that the $50 million project expected to be approved next month by the bank’s executive board, includes grant assistance worth $35m from the International Development Association (IDA) and another of $15m from MDTF, the World Bank-administered trust fund for crisis-hit areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

According to the relevant documents, promoting enterprise development and livelihoods will be the major component of the project which will be allocated $32.26m and which will support local entrepreneurs and individuals to enhance profitability, job creation and income. The activities will be implemented in the areas adversely affected by refugees.

Using IDA resources specific for refugees and host communities, the federal government will implement a national-level project to undertake necessary reforms with regard to refugees and also develop sophisticated monitoring systems to track refugees based in Pakistan.

The UNHCR is liaising with the government for additional rights for refugees, including registration of businesses, issuance of drivers’ licences and ownership of assets.

In the context of prevailing socio-economic conditions in the targeted districts, the proposed interventions will be guided by the principle that support would be extended with the aim of enhancing profitability of an enterprise, which implies facilitating improved productivity, higher sales and reduced cost of production.

The project support will contribute towards job creation by enabling rural enterprises to grow and create job opportunities and through skills enhancement, which is cited as the main constraint for employment.

With a financing of $9.46m on economic mobilisation, the project will support both the refugees and host communities in rural and peri-urban areas of selected districts to collectively access technical and financial resources and address issues related to low population density and high cost of delivery in an inclusive manner.

A baseline study completed as part of the project preparation shows that Sherani and Nushki districts have negligible social capital and will require greater investments in building enterprise and saving groups.

According to the documents, the project will rely heavily on local facilitators and technical resource persons who will be representing the project at the community level. The project will adopt a multi-tiered and private sector-oriented approach towards implementation. As part of the project, a ‘citizens engagement strategy’ will be developed and rolled out to seek change community perceptions regarding savings and investments and also to promote inclusive enterprise development, focusing particularly on women, youth and refugees.

The aim of the strategy will be to develop adequate methods of citizens’ engagement given the intra- and inter-district diversity within Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2019