WB sets up ‘Centre of Excellence’ at PU

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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has established a ‘Centre of Excellence’ at the University of Punjab in Lahore to address the issue of management of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation.

The centre of excellence will play an important role in addressing the issues by supporting local capacity building and by facilitating knowledge sharing within countries and across the region.

The centre is one of the three centres established by the World Bank in South Asia. The other two centres have been established in Bangladesh and India. Set up with funds provided by AusAID, these centres are as part of the Management of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation (MLARR) programme in the region. A fourth such centre is being developed at a university in Nepal.

The World Bank says that a significant bottleneck for infrastructure development in South Asia is the delay in land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced communities.

There is a significant dearth of trained professionals able to support governments and infrastructure companies in this area.

The MLARR programme has been supporting these institutions through course development and training with the aim of fostering more sustainable infrastructure delivery and socioeconomic growth across the region.

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World Bank seeks end to extreme poverty by 2030

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WASHINGTON: World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday called for a global drive to wipe out extreme poverty by 2030, acknowledging that reaching the goal will require extraordinary efforts.

“A world free of poverty is within our grasp. It is time to help everyone across the globe secure a one-way ticket out of poverty and stay on the path toward prosperity,” Kim said in a speech in Washington.

Kim unveiled his first sweeping agenda since taking office last July, as the Washington-based World Bank faces competition from emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil, which want to set up their own development bank.

Kim, a Korean-American physician with a background in fighting disease in developing countries, said the goal would be to lower the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day from 21 per cent of the global population in 2010 to just three per cent by 2030.

“Below 3.0 per cent, the nature of the poverty challenge will change fundamentally in most parts of the world,” Kim said, according to the prepared text of the speech delivered at Georgetown University.

“The focus will shift from broad structural measures to tackling sporadic poverty among specific vulnerable groups,” Kim said.

“The fight against mass poverty that countries have waged for centuries will be won.”In 2000, the international community set eight UN Millennium Development Goals to be reached by 2015.

One of them, to halve extreme poverty, was accomplished in 2010, five years ahead of time, Kim noted, after developing countries invested in social safety nets and created buffers to protect against crises.

“To reach the 2030 goal, we must halve global poverty once, then halve it again, and then nearly halve it a third time — all in less than one generation,” he said.

In a post-speech question-and-answer session, Kim said the goal would be achieved only if progress is seen “in many, many countries at once.”

What if we’re down to below 3.0 per cent for the world but there are many countries that have 70 per cent poverty? Well, I have to say I wouldn’t consider that a success.”

To slash extreme poverty, Kim said higher economic growth rates will be needed, in particular sustained high growth in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

But he expressed concern that the crisis that has gripped the global economy since 2008 was lingering.

“As recent events in Cyprus show, it is too early to declare victory,” he said, nevertheless adding that there is growing evidence indicating “that we are on the right track.”

In addition, Kim said, efforts must be made to curb inequality and ensure that growth reduces poverty, especially through job creation.

Nations must also guard against potential shocks, such as new food, fuel, or financial crises and climatic disasters.

The World Bank leader set another poverty-reduction target: to increase the incomes of the poorest 40 per cent of the population in each country.

Speaking ahead of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington later this month, Kim said the goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity require coordinated efforts.

“They are goals which we hope our partners — our 188 member countries — will achieve, with the support of the World Bank Group and the global development community,” he said.

Oxfam, the international anti-poverty organisation, welcomed Kim’s vision but criticised the lack of a target for shared prosperity.

“It is not enough to increase the income of the bottom 40 per cent in every country,” said Didier Jacobs, acting head of Oxfam’s Washington office.

“Income of the poor should rise faster than average and the gap between the very rich and poor should be reduced.”

World Bank approves $400 million for supporting education in Sindh

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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has approved a package of assistance worth US$400 million to support the Second Sindh Education Sector Reform Program (SERP II).

The program will support Sindh Governments efforts to increase school participation and measure student achievement by improving sector governance and accountability and strengthening administrative systems.

Improving school participation is a priority in Sindh as the government has underlined this further by passing Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, said Rachid Benmessaoud, Country Director for the World Bank Pakistan.

The World Bank is committed to take the next evolutionary step and zero in on improving service delivery performance at the school level and thereby, increase child school participation through this program. School participation in Sindh has shown a very slow improvement over the past few years and with huge disparities across districts, especially for girls in rural areas.

An important factor behind the low education outcomes in the province is poor management and minimal monitoring and accountability of the government school system.

The situation has been compounded by three years of continuous flood damage to school infrastructure and disruption in service delivery in many districts across Sindh.

Realizing these facts, the Sindh government has focused the second generation of reforms on introducing key governance and accountability measures to improve education outcomes in Sindh. These include a continued emphasis on merit and need-based teacher recruitment, professionalizing the education management cadre, public private partnerships in remote rural areas, and measuring and reporting on student achievements in the primary and middle grades.

“We anticipate that SERP II will contribute to substantial improvements in education sector service delivery and management over the next three years, by directly focusing improvement efforts on students, teachers and education managers,” said Umbreen Arif, task team leader of the project.

We look forward to lending our technical and financial cooperation to the Government of Sindh in its promising and ambitious endeavor to reach national and global education targets of Education for All.

The SERP II will provide financial, technical, and advisory support through a results-based specific investment credit with the majority of disbursements contingent on the satisfactory achievement of pre-specified program implementation progress and performance targets in ten initiatives that aim to address gaps in and/or current poor practices in education sector management and governance.

The credit is financed from the International Development Association (IDA), and will be on standard IDA blend terms, with a maturity of 25 years, including a grace period of five years.

Swiss govt shuts the door on Zardari case

ISLAMABAD: The decades-old Swiss case saga has finally ended in favour of President Asif Ali Zardari after Swiss authorities informed the government that a corruption case involving him cannot be reopened in their country on legal grounds.

According to sources, the Swiss attorney general, in reply to a letter sent by the government three months back, told the law ministry that the case could not be reopened because it had become time-barred under the Swiss law.

The government had written the letter to Swiss legal authorities in the first week of November last year in line with the Supreme Court’s order in the NRO case seeking revival of the case accusing President Zardari of receiving kickbacks in the award of a pre-shipment contract to a Swiss company in 1994.

The letter, addressed to the Swiss attorney general, had been sent through the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s embassy in Switzerland.

Submitting a copy of the letter before the apex court, Law Minister Farooq Naek had said that there had been no change in the draft approved by the five-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, during the hearing of the NRO judgment implementation case on Oct 10.

Approving the draft presented by the minister, the court had given the government five weeks to send the letter to Swiss authorities.

Through the letter, signed by Law Secretary Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasey, the government had sought withdrawal of a letter written by former attorney general Malik Abdul Qayyum to his Swiss counterpart Daniel Zappelli on May 22, 2008, telling him that the Pakistan government was withdrawing the mutual legal assistance in the graft case against Mr Zardari after promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

“This is with reference to the letter dated 22nd May, 2008, addressed by Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the then attorney general of Pakistan, to Mr Daniel Zappelli, Attorney General, Geneva, Switzerland.

“In view of the directives given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Paragraph 178 (copy attached as Annex-I) of its judgment dated Dec 16 December, 2009, in the case of Dr Mobashir Hasan, reported as PLD 2010 SC 265, the aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as never written and, therefore, revival of requests, status and claims, is sought,” the draft approved by the SC and read out by Justice Khosa in the court while dictating the order said.

The letter had not only asked for reopening the $60 million case against the president but also emphasised at the same time the legal protection and immunity available to him, without mentioning constitutional provisions.

The NRO case that had gripped the country for over 30 months had finally come to an end when the Supreme Court approved the government’s letter – after having rejected three previous drafts – it had ordered while hearing the case about implementation of its verdict against the NRO.

SC summons PM’s son-in-law over nomination for WB post

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has summoned all records of the nomination of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s son-in-law, Raja Azeem-ul-Haque, as an executive director of the World Bank. Daily Sitara Sindh Reported

Moreover, the apex court also issued notices to Raja Azeem-ul-Haque, Secretary Establishment and Secretary Finance, summoning them to appear before the court.

The SC had taken suo motu notice of the issue and a three-member bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, was hearing the case here on Wednesday.

Issuing notices to the three parties, the court subsequently adjourned the case for hearing until the second week of January.

Prime Minister Ashraf had appointed his son-in-law to the post by using his discretionary powers, even though some government officials had been critical of the nomination because of Haque’s ‘quick promotions’ within a few years from grade 18 to 21.

According to a report published in Dawn, the finance ministry had also opposed the nomination even though the summary for his appointment was moved by the Economic Affairs Division. Ultimately, the finance ministry had to give in to the wishes of the Prime Minister Secretariat, said the report.

Haque, an officer of the Income Tax Group, was working in grade 18 when the PPP government came into power more than four years ago. He left this job and was hired by the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution in grade 20 about two years ago.

Soon after Raja Pervez Ashraf assumed the PM’s office, he was elevated to grade 21 and has been serving in the Prime Minister Secretariat to date.