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Islamabad (Staff Reporter) Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar while addressing the Seminar on “Economic Development and National Cohesion” organized by the Embassy of Republic of Korea and the Institute for Policy Reforms emphasized that economic development is the basic element to win the people’s confidence. Poverty on the other hand breeds public discontent which threatens the unity of a nation.

The Minister went on to say that Pakistan has an unparalleled ethnic and geographical diversity with a lot of human resource potential. This potential needs to be fully tapped and aligned with the national priorities with the ultimate aim of attaining national cohesiveness and equitable economic prosperity. He added that the present government is cognizant of the fact that unless fruits of economic development are equitably distributed, the dream of national cohesion will remain elusive.

He, said that one of the key areas for accomplishing the goal of national cohesion is modernized and efficient transport and communication infrastructure. Similarly the importance of social safety nets as a measure to achieve economic inclusiveness can also not be overemphasized. The Minister said we have not only continued the National Income Support Programme, of which BISP is a major component, but have also increased the cash grant per beneficiary family from Rs 12,000/- to Rs 18,000/- per year. The budgetary allocation has been increased from Rs 40 billion in 2012-13 to Rs 102 billion in the current financial year.

Muhammad Ishaq Dar added that the improvements in Pakistan’s economy are manifested by an overall improvement in macroeconomic indicators. In FY14, Pakistan achieved, as mentioned above, GDP growth of 4.02 percent - the highest in six years - and increased it further to 4.24 percent in FY15, reaching the highest level in seven years. The fiscal deficit which stood at 8.2 percent (8.8 percent when the government took office) at the end of FY13 has been brought down to 5.3 percent in FY15. There has also been a significant increase in Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves in the past 18 months. Having touched the predicted low level of less than US$ 8 billion in February 2014, Pakistan’s reserves have continued to grow due the our serious efforts and have now reached the record level of over US$ 20 billion. Positive macroeconomic performance has resulted in a soaring stock market and increased investment.

The Minister expressed gratitude to Government and people of the Republic of Korea for their continued and long standing economic support which is contributing greatly in Pakistan’s economic development. He mentioned that the2015-2017 Economic Development Cooperation Fund Framework Agreement amounting to US$ 500 million was signed on 2 October 2015 in Islamabad. Under the Framework Arrangement, various projects in hydropower, road infrastructure, agriculture, improvement of power distribution system, information technology and health sector will be completed.  It should be our goal that, in addition to financing from Korea, Pakistan also benefits from Korean knowledge and experience, Minister remarked.

Concluding the speech the Minister underscored that sustainable development and growth can only be achieved by higher education, continuous professional development and motivation to work with equal and just opportunities and system of reward for all. All these factors contribute to create a fair, just and equitable society for all leading to social cohesion. This is proven by the Korean experience, the Minister added.