IFC to help Pakistan offset effects of Disney ban

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WASHINGTON: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has discussed with the International Finance Corporation a programme that could help offset Walt Disney's decision to discontinue outsourcing to Pakistan, says a statement issued on Friday.

Mr Dar met IFC's Executive Vice President Jin Yong Cai in Washington on Thursday evening and discussed a proposal to assist Pakistan towards initiation of the ILO/IFC “Better Works Programme”. The IFC is a member of the World Bank Group and offers investment, advisory and asset management services to encourage private sector investments in developing countries.

The “Better Work” is a partnership programme of the International Labour Organisation and the IFC, uniting the expertise of the ILO in labour standards with that of the IFC in private sector development. The programme aims to improve both compliance with labour standards and competitiveness in global supply chains.

The US entertainment giant Walt Disney has dropped Pakistan from its list of ‘permitted sourcing countries’ from April 1 because of its alleged "poor governance standards”.

The decision has stripped Pakistan of $200 million exports of textile products.

On Mr Dar's request for early initiation of the ILO/ IFC “Better Works Programme” in Pakistan to offset the Disney decision, Mr Cai “responded very positively”, and offered to help Pakistan meet the required formalities for joining the programme, the statement said.

Minister Dar told the IFC official that Pakistan's Permanent Representative at Geneva had already met DG ILO to start the initiation process. He also assured the ILO chief that Pakistan was prepared to meet two basic requirements for joining the programme: Ensuring security to the ILO personnel carrying out this programme in Pakistan and taking the four provinces on board with respect to ownership and absorption of the “Better Works Programme”.

Mr Cai assured the delegation that all possible steps would be taken to ensure the early initiation of this programme in Pakistan and that his office would coordinate and work with the Embassy of Pakistan towards this end, the statement said.

Mr Cai also discussed an IFC plan to set up a company in South Asia for infrastructure projects, which will specially benefit the energy sector of Pakistan.

The IFC official told the minister that his organisation also wanted to establish an international Pak Rupee programme, which would protect local businesses from exchange volatility. He also expressed interest in issuance of the Pakistani rupee bond and setting up currency swap line.

Mr Dar is visiting Washington to attend spring meetings of the World Bank Group and also to represent Pakistan at the economic forum of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.

At the World Bank, the finance minister held a separate meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ali Tayyeb Nia and discussed the timeframe of the Joint Economic Commission that is scheduled in the next quarter.

There are about 50 items on the agenda of the upcoming JEC meeting.

“They also discussed increased trade within the ambit of UN sanctions,”said a statement issued after the meeting. The sanctions prevent UN members from conducting major commercial deal with Iran.

At a meeting with Philippe Le Houerou, the World Bank's vice president for the South Asian region, Mr Dar informed him that Pakistan was ready for the third review of the IMF and that the progress on various requirements by the IMF was on track.

The finance minister highlighted government's priority areas of four E's — i.e. economy, energy, extremism and education. The finance minister also spoke about efforts of the government to improve regional connectivity and trade with its neighbours, mentioning in particular the meeting of the joint economic commission with Afghanistan.

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