The World Bank and Pakistan
Pakistanis today are worse off than they were twenty years ago, and ironically, the World Bank is still somehow “providing relief” to the country. This begs us to ponder: what is the crux of the matter? And why has this noble intervention failed Pakistan?
Time and again, the World Bank (WB) has vowed to inject millions of dollars into Pakistan for the betterment of its economy. More profoundly, it has focused on the development and improvement of Karachi, which has the highest GDP and dominates the national market with a staggering 20% share. As per the WB’s website, its “current financing package of $838 million [for Karachi] is for investments in water supply, sewerage, public transport, public spaces, urban governance and solid waste management interventions.”
To undertake this hefty task, they have launched several projects in the city, such as the Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project (KNIP) in 2017, the Competitive and Liveable City of Karachi (CLICK) in 2019, Karachi Mobility Project (KMP) in 2019, Karachi Water and Sewerage Services Improvement Project (KWSSIP) in 2020 and more recently, Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (SWEEP) in 2021. Hence, there is no doubt that the WB has consistently injected money, introduced new projects, and begun aid reliefs within Pakistan’s economy. Albeit for a better cause, for the past 10 years, this surge of funds and projects has not worked in the country’s favour since inflation is at an all-time high, purchasing power has fallen, and GDP per capita has only decreased. Pakistanis today are worse off than they were twenty years ago, and ironically, the WB is still somehow “providing relief” to the country. This begs us to ponder: what is the crux of the matter? And why has this noble intervention failed Pakistan?
In the case of Karachi, we must evaluate a few of the WB’s projects to understand where the injury lies and how they may be able to fix it. KNIP’s intention to transform Karachi’s Saddar neighbourhood into a vibrant area that is accessible to the public and creates vendor culture seems an honourable gesture. However, in a city that is constantly suffering from severe flooding and poor infrastructure, this endeavour is hopeful, at best. As of now, KNIP is to be restructured for the third time since 2017 as the city is still recovering from the aftermath of COVID-19 and the inevitable monsoon season that causes havoc annually.
Since the damage to its infrastructure requires more attention, the “$20 million of Credit funds originally allocated to Component 1 were repurposed for labour-intensive emergency works, such as repairs and reconstruction of existing infrastructure.” The dates to begin the actual reconstruction of the neighbourhood keep getting pushed up, and the monetary funds that the WB allocated for this project are allotted to rebuild, hence resulting in a pushback that has probed the WB to introduce more policies, and the project is now being restructured.
Another recent case study is the SWEEP project by the WB. The aim of this project was to rebuild Karachi’s infrastructure after the massive monsoon flooding that resulted in the devastating destruction of entire neighbourhoods. As per Climate Homes News, SWEEP intended to improve “solid waste management, but two years into the five-year project, there is no sign of progress.” Only 3% of the 100-million-dollar budget was spent on the city, but on the WB’s website, the improvement is indicated as “satisfactory.” Therefore, realistically speaking, nothing has been done, and provincial documents indicate that $91,891 has been spent on “furniture.” The money trail in these projects is covered with bureaucratic jargon, and the author also indicates that an official from SWEEP claimed that $91,891 was too high of a cost to be spent on furniture, so the use of this money, too, is questionable.
Furthermore, the Climate Homes News article also criticizes WB’s previous CLICK project that caused flooding to worsen. The “green belts” created during CLICK to sustain flood water have created bottlenecks on main streets as they had not consulted a local urban planner, and this mishap has ruined more infrastructure than improved the situation. Hence, the projects that the WB has often carried out in Karachi have either stopped being funded, worsened the existing conditions, or never shown any real sustainable benefit to the residents.
The writer holds an undergraduate degree in Literary Studies from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School and an MPhil in South Asian Studies from the University of Cambridge. She can be reached at email@example.com
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