If the success of foreign assistance could be graded, Washington’s aid to Pakistan apparently would not fare too well.
In a report compiled by the US think tank, Centre for Global Development (CGD), Washington has been given ‘dismal grades’ on its assistance programme to Islamabad.
The US development approach towards Pakistan has “failed to achieve what its creators and administration proponents had hoped”, says the report.
The factors for this failure, according to the report’s authors, are numerous: rising anti-US sentiment over the drone war, the failure of Pakistan’s government to introduce reforms, development challenges in Pakistan, and “deep scepticism of Pakistanis at all levels about US aims in their country”. The report also cites that diplomatic incidents have led to interruptions in the bilateral dialogue between the two allies.
A report card for the US assistance programme in Pakistan is marked with Cs, Ds and Fs – a C grade for the lack of clarifying the mission of assistance, and an overall D for agreeing “on a limited set of development outcomes with the Government of Pakistan against which to measure progress”.
The report’s authors say, “The government-wide development strategy for Pakistan still lacks clear leadership, mission, transparency, and adequate exploitation of non-aid tools.”
The report lays the blame on both sides – bureaucratic and political hurdles have been damaging to US development policy vis-a-vis Pakistan, and the “size and timing of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) legislation created counter-productive expectations of what could be achieved in Washington and Pakistan.”
The CGD report card also awards an F for the US’ failure in letting Pakistani products compete in US markets – a demand Pakistan has made on several occasions.
The report also cites the State Department audit report from May this year, which identifies corruption as a key impediment in providing assistance.
“The mission struggles with the challenge of programming more than $2 billion in annual aid funding for development and security assistance programs, a challenge made more daunting by the security environment and by government institutions at all levels that suffer from both a lack of capacity and pervasive corruption,” said the report.
In its recommendations, the authors advise that Congress and the US administration should rework its time frame for spending KLB funds – from a period of 5 years to 10. Another recommendation includes channelling US assistance through other donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and look to programs like the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).
US assistance to Pakistan has been a controversial subject since the legislation of the KLB bill came to light. A provision involving the military invoked the ire of the General Headquarters and right-wing political parties. Recently, the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop was accused of corruption in the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Pakistani version of Sesame Street.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.