The World Bank, on Friday, signed six project agreements, worth $1.336 billion in loans with Pakistan to provide economic assistance to propel the cash-strapped country's foreign exchange reserves and help support social sector programmes. The loan was signed by the board of executive directors of the bank, a day earlier under its International Development Association (IDA) programme.

The signed agreements are: to support the government's initiatives in social protection, disaster and climate risk management, improving infrastructure for resilience, agriculture, food security, human capital development and governance sectors, news agency PTI reported, quoting the Dawn newspaper reported.

Secretary of Ministry of Economic Affairs Noor Ahmad, signed the financing agreements on behalf of the government of Pakistan, while representatives of the provincial governments of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan signed their respective agreements online.

Najy Benhassine, Country Director of the World Bank, signed the agreements on behalf of his organisation. Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtyar also attended the ceremony.

The first $600 million loan agreement pertained to the Crisis-Resilient Social Protection Programme (CRISP) to support the development of a more adaptive social protection system that will contribute to future crisis-resilience among poor and vulnerable households in the country, PTI reported.

"Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of families across Pakistan face economic hardship, particularly those working in the informal sector, who have no savings or are not covered by existing social safety net programmes," said Benhassine.

The CRISP will help in expansion of Ehsaas social protection programmes to better reach informal workers through an innovative, hybrid approach that will blend social assistance with promotion of increased savings that informal workers, particularly women, can depend on in the event of economic shocks.

Earlier in the week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to release the next tranche of $500 million loan for Pakistan after approving four pending reviews of the country's economic progress.

For the first time in 68 years, Pakistan’s economy contracted in the outgoing fiscal year with a negative 0.38% due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.