The World Bank approved two credits in March worth a total of $215 million, in support of population and education programmes. Both credits are from the World Bank’s concessionary finance arm, the International Development Association (IDA) and have a 35-year maturity.

The two programmes will build on the government’s social action programme (SAP), which aims to reform and strengthen basic social services, including primary education, primary health, population, rural water supply and sanitation.

A credit of $65.1 million will finance key components of the government’s population welfare programme over the next four years. This will cost a total of $287.6 million. The balance will be met by government and donor financing, the World Bank says.

The project’s long-term targets are to expand the coverage of family planning services to 100 per cent in urban areas, and 70 per cent in rural areas, compared with 54 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, at present. It also aims to double contraceptive use and reduce fertility rates by 10 per cent. A new village outreach programme is designed to increase the number of village health workers to 12,000 from a few hundred, providing each village of 2,000 or more with one health worker.

Pakistan is the world’s eighth most populous country with more than 120 million people. At the present growth rate of 3 per cent a year, the population is forecast to double again within 23 years. This is the highest growth rate of all the large Asian countries.

The second credit, for $150 million, is to support the government’s five- year programme to increase primary school education and improve the quality of education in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The IDA’s credit will finance about 18.4 per cent of the total programme cost, which is estimated at about $813 million. The NWFP government will provide about $596 million and other donors will finance the remainder.

NWFP contains about a sixth of Pakistan’s population, 80 per cent of whom live in rural areas. The literacy rate is about two-thirds that of the national average. The project aims to increase primary school enrolment by about 886,000 students. An additional 23,000 classrooms will be built or rehabilitated. The programme hopes to double the enrolment rate for girls to 60 per cent.