USAID programme active despite differences

Salahuddin Haider

USAID programme
USAID programme

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 – INQUISITIVE as I was to know whether the USAID programme as being projected now on TV and the print media, too was struck by the high and low in political perceptions of Islamabad and Washigton, I saw the deputy Mission Director of the USAID programme in Karachi, collected facts and figures, and felt convinced after analyzing these that the economic and social development programme of the United States for Pakistan, has kept on working unhindered, which in many ways was satisfying for me, and perhaps for many others.

Voices raised in the past, and continuing till date from weaker to powerful quarters for reviewing the bilateral ties because of the drone attacks within Pakistani territories, do have their own purpose, but US officials do emphasise unhesitatingly that their international aid programme, has benefitted Pakistan in major sectors like energy, education, economic growth, health and stabilization of infrastructure in Khyber Pukhtoonkhaw province. Facts speak for themselves. The US Aid is the second largest in Pakistan, totaling $ 3.5 billion since 2009, and another $ 800 million in pipeline for the current year. At government to government levels, some 40 percent of this has been through federal and provincial establishments.

The USAID deputy chief in Karachi, Leon Stephen Waskin, nicknamed Skip, felt genuinely proud for being involved with such a marvelous assignment. He is responsible for Sindh and Balochistan areas, but did shed some light on overall activities of his organization at the national level. He was happy that economic growth largely focused on energy sector, which Pakistan badly needs to develop to end its chronic shortages, a constant source of discomfort to the ordinary people to small,medium and large industries, and often causing street agitation which is indisputably a matter of deep concern for governments in Pakistan or anywhere else. Other programme worth the name included diary projects in southern Punjab and Northern Sindh, agri-business support fund for improving production, horticulture, larger market approaches for domestic and international purposes.

Then there was rehabilitation of 2.7 million families in Tarbela,Jamshoro, and Muzafargarh near Multan. In real terms, it would mean relief for 14 million souls considering that each family averaged 6 persons. United States help has also been for Gomal Zam dam project, and in training thousands of linemen for grid station safety programme. Also it has been working with power generation companies to improve their efficiency. The Hyderabad company , commonly called HESCO is an example in case. Bhasha Dam, and some $ 20 million for feasibilities for government programme of thermal coal, solar energy projects. The choice is left to the recipient, Skip, feeling happy to be addressed as such, revealed.

The programme is so large and wide spread that it would be like writing history book, but just separating education from the rest, for the present, would perhaps give a bird eye view of how investment can be possible for our future to be bright. Recognising that education was the key to future prosperity and economic growth, one of the many publications of the organization, working here since decades, does acknowledge that Pakistan needed a workforce with the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s global marketplace.

Millions of school-age children in this country, do not receive basic education, leading to a literacy rate lower than the regional average. Sad state of affair because these facts are sifted by the UNESCO and can not be discounted as fiction. Many schools are in disrepair, and many teachers need training. Pakistanis at all income levels need better access to higher education. Unlocking every child’s full potential with a quality education is one of the United States top assistance priorities. The USAID goal is to help 3.2 million children read at or above their grade levels. The two countries are working together to create two and four year accredited degree programme at 90 teachers colleges and universities. More than 2,600 future teachers were currently enrolled in these programme and some 1,900 of the talented ones have been awarded scholarships.

These publications do provide considerable insight as to how in Pakistan, the US funds the largest Fullbright academic exchange programme in the world. Almost 900 Pakistani students have studied in American universities, and another 10,600 low income students have attended college at home as a result of US funded scholarships. Centres for advanced studies at three Pakistani universities are being established to focus on applied research in agriculture, energy and water. Yet another important programme is funded to the extent of $ 155 million to support government of Sindh’s basic education program. This includes upto $ 81 million for the construction of 120 schools in seven districts of Sindh and five towns of Karachi.

This will advance the Sindh govrnment’s school reform policy to merge and consolidate schools and to reconstruct flood-damaged schools. Yet another $ 4 million is meant to repair and rehabilitate schools damaged in the 2011 floods in the fourh Sindh districts of MirpurKhas, Sanghar, Umerkot and Tando Allahyar. The US ambassador Richard Olson and consul general in Karachi Michael Dodman have visited some of these projects to keep themselves abreast of the progress in this important segment of the literacy programme, which is investing in future.

“Newly introduced ‘adjustment taxes’ to document economy, increase in GST to 17 percent, gradual withdrawal of un-targeted subsidies and reforms in PSE’s and continuation of BISP are major component of reform agenda,” he went on to add. However, Dr Suleri argued that there must be a ‘cap’ on indirect taxation and innovative governance as keeping on regressive taxation would not serve any more. He commented that Pakistanis are most tax paying society in a way that that even poorest of poor who live on social protection are paying taxes leveled through indirect taxation.

On energy sector he said that although government has paid substantial amount to end circular debt but it would further accumulate again unless we give fuel to energy efficient plants, control distribution losses and change energy mix for electricity production. He concluded by urging all the parties to exhibit political wisdom and unite on agenda for common economic reforms.

Tahir Dhindsa, Editor SDPI Economic Bulletin moderated the proceedings and maintained that Pakistan has exceeding becoming dependent on external budgetary support including foreign aid and loans from international financial institutes such as IMF. He said that this year’s budgetary exercise was shadowed by IMF, whose mandatory demands for entering into fresh loan, have been embedded into the budget.

He said that Pakistan needs monitory support and a steady growth of 3 to 5.5 percent over next few years to avoid a structural default. This demands carrying forward the structural adjustment process to improve fiscal situation. He also presented three major reforms to follow in short and medium term basis that include un-interrupted supply of electricity to industrial sector, improve revenue through direct taxation and support to manufacturing and agriculture sector simultaneously. Courtesy Pakistan Observer

Email: salluhaider@gmail.,com

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