ISLAMABAD: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) — a commercial arm of the World Bank Group — on Wednesday announced that it would double its investments in Pakistan to $1.5 billion during the current fiscal year.

“IFC has committed approximately $1.5bn in short and long-term investments in Pakistan in FY23, doubling its investments from the previous year amidst a backdrop of economic challenges in the country”, the IFC said in a statement, adding that its projects in Pakistan aim to provide much-needed jobs, increase productivity in the private sector, enhance gender inclusion, and address the impacts of climate change.

“Our investment and advisory programmes over the last fiscal year showcase IFC’s commitment towards helping realise the significant potential of Pakistan’s private sector,” said Zeeshan Sheikh, IFC Country Manager for Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Moving forward, we want to increase our focus on facilitating access to finance particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), sustainable and digital infrastructure, as well as support to export-oriented industries that help create jobs and are critical for the country’s economic growth”, he said.

Strategic areas of engagement during the last year included investments in agriculture and healthcare. IFC invested in the agribusiness sector by providing working capital to support local farmers and distributors, helping sustain jobs. To help meet growing healthcare needs, IFC also supported Alliance Healthcare to enable the leading private healthcare provider in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to expand its Northwest Teaching Hospital and Northwest General Hospital. Alongside these investments, IFC enhanced its banking sector support to bolster manufacturing and export-oriented industries and help smaller businesses strengthen their value chains.

To support climate action, sustainability, and gender inclusion, IFC expanded its advisory work to collaborate with the State Bank of Pakistan to redefine environmental and social risk management frameworks for the country’s banking sector. The Climate2Equal Initiative was launched to help companies increase the participation of female employees in climate-related actions and policy decisions.

In addition, agreements with Gul Ahmed Textiles, CCL Private Pharmaceuticals, and Unity Foods have supported efforts to enhance resource efficiency and gender diversity within their operations.

Through its Public Private Partnership (PPP) Advisory unit, IFC is currently supporting the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority as the lead transaction advisor in structuring a private concession to upgrade airports in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

The country’s first-ever airport PPPs are expected to transform the sector, maximize revenue for the government, and provide improved services to the public.

IFC continues to evaluate new advisory and investment opportunities, including PPPs, in areas such as water, waste management, and sustainable infrastructure, to identify and structure bankable projects to crowd in greater private capital. Enhancing access to finance, promoting the development of digital infrastructure and VC/startups, and providing financing to export-oriented industries will also remain a key part of IFC’s strategy.

Since 1956, IFC has invested approximately $11bn in Pakistan. Through this work, IFC has supported diverse sectors such as renewable energy, financial inclusion, infrastructure development, agribusiness, manufacturing, housing, healthcare, and trade, among others.

IFC — a member of the World Bank — is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. It is operating in more than 100 countries, using its capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries.

In FY23, the IFC committed a record $43.7bn to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of global compounding crises.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2023

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