ISLAMABAD: South Asia needs to spend as much as $2.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2020 to bring its power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard needed to serve its growing population, a World Bank report says.
Pakistan would need to increase it’s infrastructure development investment from existing 3% of the GDP to 10% of the GDP with policy interventions and improvement in regulations for attracting investment by facilitating by private sector and foreign investors.
This would also require involvement by private sector foreign investors and efficiency improvement in the government as this goal would need to be met by setting short term, medium term and long term goals, World Bank experts
Luis Andres, Matias Herrera Dappe and Dan Billers co-author of the report informed a Video Conference arranged by the World Bank for journalists of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The report, “Reducing Poverty by Closing South Asia’s Infrastructure Gap”, is the first analysis of the region’s infrastructure needs by the World Bank. It says the region, which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, could address its “enormous” infrastructure needs by tapping private and public sector funds as well as by introducing reforms.
“Many people in South Asia remain unconnected to a reliable electricity grid, a safe water supply, sanitary sewerage disposal, and sound roads and transport networks,” said Philippe Le Houérou, Vice President for the South Asia Region at the World Bank.
If the region hopes to meet its development goals and not risk slowing down —or even halting— growth, poverty alleviation, and shared prosperity, it is essential to make a priority of closing its huge infrastructure gap, which the report defines as the gap between where South Asia’s infrastructure is today and where it should be. The task would be difficult but not impossible with a concerted effort by governments in the region, where access to infrastructure compares with Sub-Saharan Africa.
“For the past twenty years, the South Asia and East Asia regions have enjoyed similar growth rates. Yet South Asia’s access to infrastructure services lags significantly behind both East Asia and Latin America with some access rates comparable only to Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Dan Biller, report co-author and Sector Manager of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency Economics & Sustainability Group.
For instance, in South Asia only 71 percent of the population has access to electricity, ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa at 35 percent, but well behind the rest of the developing world at above 90 percent. According to businesses in South Asia, a lack of electricity is the biggest barrier to their growth.
South Asia is the region with the highest incidence of open defecation in the world—with 680 million people (41 percent of the population) relying on it in 2011. In terms of telecom access (measured as fixed and mobile lines per 100 people), South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa rank at the bottom (72 and 54) with less than half the access found in Europe and Central Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean (157 and 125). This situation is of great concern given South Asia’s low level of urbanization, with most people living in rural areas, says the report.
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