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Opinion

Mushtaq Rajpar
November 1, 2017

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Foreign donors cannot solve all the problems of any country; it is neither their concern nor their responsibility. There is a general perception in Pakistan that every government get loads of foreign money for development but that it is not spent on the people.

But if one is to study the details of foreign funding in Pakistan, the number may not be as high as assumed by people. No country would be interested in giving huge funding to a country like Pakistan to finance its development needs.

Foreign governments realise time and again that they do lot of good work in other countries but the locals there don’t know that. That is why their funding involves a considerable amount for advertisement campaigns to spread their development achievements through mass media and inform the local public about the good work they are doing.

On June 19 this year, USAID signed a fresh agreement with the Federal Planning and Development Ministry to continue to support the government in various fields. The press release mentioned: from ‘2005 to 2016 USAID has spent Rs840 billion (in dollar terms $7.9 billion) in Pakistan’. This of course includes the 2005 earthquake funding and support, not all of which was transferred directly into the government’s kitty.

Analysts have continued to point out that there are reservoirs of hatred against the US in Pakistan, which can be exploited whenever needed. To counter this anti-American perception and public opinion, the US government spent unprecedented money in Pakistan in a number of areas. The key project was the Kerry-Lugar Civilian Assistance to Pakistan – worth $7.5 billion. It is not clear to date how much money actually landed in Pakistan from this approved allocation. There were a few years when on average close to a billion dollars were being spent in Pakistan.

The Kerry-Lugar aid package for Pakistan was the largest portfolio of USAID anywhere in the world. That is why a full time position of ‘Head of Non-Military Assistance to Pakistan’ was created in Pakistan, and the USAID Director Dr Rajiv Shah travelled to Pakistan quite a few times, twice alone in Sindh in 2010 and 2011, in the post flood and rain period in both upper and lower Sindh.

Many people in Sindh, including journalists, were interested in knowing how much USAID is spending in Sindh. To figure out an exact number was hard and continues to be difficult due to the nature of projects – with some province specific and others spread across the country. Sindh complains that most of the foreign funded projects do not cover Sindh. From the Kerry-Lugar funds one estimate that came up was that around half a billion dollars were spent in Sindh on various projects in energy, agriculture, health, public health, water and education.

The largest funding was provided for the health sector, which included the construction and equipment of three state-of-the-art health facilities in the province, two in Karachi’s JPMC and one in Upper Sindh. The Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences (JIMS) is one of them; it borders Balochistan and Punjab and the area needed a big hospital with a modern diagnostic lab services. All three hospitals are now operational and providing services. With a funding of $18 million, a 133-bed hospital complex was established last year. The hospital gives a strong ground to the Sindh government to start a medical college in the city which will give permanent medical experts and researchers to the city and to the region. The Sindh government could replicate the model in other divisional headquarters such as Mirpurkhas and districts like Sanghar, Naushero Feroze and Dadu, areas which are generally neglected.

Another major project of USAID in Sindh is in the education sector – known as the Sindh Basic Education Programme, amounting to $155 million. USAID announced the construction of 120 schools. After five years, the project has not been completed, resulting in increased overhead cost. In fact, USAID later cut down the number of schools from 120 to 106, strange as they had enough funding for construction; $81 million was allocated for construction through contractors. Unlike the popular view that USAID gave money to the Sindh government, USAID remains in control of all funding and allocation is being spent through contractors approved by them. Around $74 million was kept for other components of the school project – including community mobilisation, teacher training and reform of the education department.

No other foreign country has invested that much money in the province of Sindh as the US has in the last seven years through USAID. The funding has definitely helped build schools and new hospitals while also helping upgrade many more mother and child healthcare centres in district hospitals, which sadly both the federal and provincial governments were unable to invest in. Sindh received more funding also because the Punjab government under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif refused to take USAID assistance. That unspent money was diverted to Sindh.

From Washington’s attitude and approach it is clear that the current Trump administration will not allocate new funding for Pakistan, and so a major resource of financing for development programmes may be drying out. USAID will leave behind an impressive legacy of a new modern school system made via a public-private partnership. How the Sindh government continues to maintain, sustain and fund the school system’s infrastructure and replicate the model in other districts will be seen when the time comes.

 

Email: mush.rajpar@gmail.com

Twitter: @MushRajpar

 

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