US, Pak holds dialogue on economic assistance, flood relief

Washington: The US and Pakistan held a meeting of the Working Group on Economics and Finance to review the South Asian nation's economy, its reform efforts and the ongoing flood recovery programs.

Held under the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, the meeting yesterday was attended by the Federal Minister for Finance Hafeez Shaikh, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides, National Security Staff Senior Director for International Economics David Lipton, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Charles Collyns.

The two sides focused on how to strengthen foundations of the economy to expand employment opportunities and move towards self sufficiency and away from donor dependency.

According to the State Department, US recognised measures Pakistan implemented in recent months to expand revenue collection and control this year's fiscal deficit, and encouraged the Pakistan government to continue efforts to strengthen the sustainability of its fiscal framework over time and to build broad consensus for these measures.

"Major structural reforms, including in the energy sector, remain necessary to help create the conditions for strong growth and employment creation," the State Department said in a statement.

Updating the US side on positive developments in Pakistan's economy, Shaikh presented Pakistan's growth strategy intended to enable a sustained period of increased growth.

Shaikh indicated that Pakistan plans to develop its 2011-12 budget, based on national consensus, with measures to continue progress on sustainability and encourage international investors and partners, the statement said.

Appreciating Pakistan's leadership for its initiative in convening a broad ranging national "Energy Summit" to encourage dialogue among all the stakeholders, US said Pakistan needs to find the means to return the energy sector to financial solvency, based on consensus and action across different economic, societal and political stakeholders.

Both sides also agreed that closer consultations on assistance priorities have helped achieve greater focus in US assistance to energy, economic growth, stability, education and health as key areas for Pakistan's future development.

The two delegations reviewed the status of US programs to assist the recovery from last summer's floods in Pakistan.

Approximately USD 310 million is committed to support recovery and rehabilitate small infrastructure. This includes the provision of seeds and fertiliser last fall, and plans are underway to repair roads, rebuild schools and rehabilitate irrigation control systems, the statement added.

The US also confirmed its contribution of USD 190 million to flood victims.

Both sides stressed their intent to work to overcome obstacles to rapid implementation of those programs.