The number of programmes funded by the USAID in Pakistan will be cut down to 35 from 150 by 2013, senior USAID official Alex Thier revealed — adding that the reduction will not affect the funding numbers.
In an exclusive interview with Express News, the USAID Assistant to Administrator for Afghanistan and Pakistan Thier said that USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah, together with his team, looked at their total number of programmes with input from the Pakistani Government, civil society and other stakeholders.
“We wanted to have a more concentrated and focused programme. We wanted to make sure we were having an impact with these programmes in Pakistan,” said Thier, adding that the portfolio was too large.
“What we’ve done is that we had 150 planned and on-going projects. We have now narrowed that to 50 projects and by the middle of next year we’ll only be funding 35 projects in Pakistan.”
Thier was quick to add that the reduction has nothing to do with declining assistance. “With the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, our civilian assistance with Pakistan has increased. Its still a very high level of assistance. It is the second largest programme that the USAID has anywhere in the world.”
The USAID official said that they were now focusing on five key sectors: energy, economic growth, stabilisation, education and health. According to figures received from the USAID, in 2012, they expect to spend an estimated $865 million on projects in Pakistan.
Thier said that energy was the top priority for the USAID.
“We have done some remarkable things in the past couple of years that will lead to an additional 900 megawatts being added to the grid by early 2013. That is roughly 20% of the electricity shortfall in Pakistan addressed just through USAID programmes.”
The USAID official also said that they are working on public-private partnerships in the fields of health in collaboration with the federal and provincial governments. “We estimate that with our new health programmes, we will save 190,000 lives over five years.”
When questioned about the effective utilisation of the assistance, given the high level of corruption in the country, he said: “In Pakistan 50% of our funding is government to government assistance.
“We are very careful about where that money goes and we have extensive safeguards to make sure that there is no corruption in that process.
Since 2011, relations between the US and Pakistan have plummeted to an all time low in the aftermath of the Raymond Davis affair, the Bin Laden raid and the Salala airstrike. But Thier asserted that the state of relations have not impacted civilian assistance.
“What the US wants from Pakistan in the long term is a Pakistan that is more stable, more prosperous, more secure. Our development assistance is linked to these direct foreign policy objectives that both of our governments have. The message we got from government of Pakistan is that these programs are some of the most important aspects of the relationship.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.