Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs


Pakistan’s “Pocket of Productivity”: Empowerment through Identification

This is a joint post with Julia Clark.

Pakistan’s ahead of the pack.

Why? It’s National Database and Registration Authority—NADRA, the agency in charge of national identification—recently announced that it will begin issuing identity cards to orphans with unknown parentage; those without birth certificates or other documentation. This move effectively ensures citizenship rights for children who would otherwise have been excluded under regulations that require proof of nationality and parental lineage to obtain an ID card.

“Aid as Religion” and CGD’s Pakistan Report

In a recent blog post, Pakistani economist Anjum Altaf lambasted our recent report on the US development approach to Pakistan, “More Money, More Problems,” for not being sufficiently skeptical of the US development program, especially the US aid program, in Pakistan. Dr. Altaf criticized our 2011 report too. You can review last year’s discussion here.

More Money, More Problems for US Development in Pakistan – Milan Vaishnav and Danny Cutherell

Despite an unprecedented increase in US civilian assistance to Pakistan, more money has led to more problems in achieving long-term development goals in the fractious and fragile state.  My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are Milan Vaishnav and Danny Cutherell, co-authors of a recent report written jointly with CGD president Nancy Birdsall. The new report--More Money, More Problems: A 2012 Assessment of the US Approach to Development in Pakistan--assigns letter grades to US government efforts in ten areas and provides recommendations for more effectiveengagement in Pakistan.

Supporting Pakistan’s Democratic Machinery

It’s not a stretch to say that United States-Pakistan relations are at a low point. Indeed, it seems just when Washington and Islamabad think bilateral relations cannot get any worse, they inevitably do. The latest fallout stems from the accidental NATO bombing in November 2011 of Pakistani military outposts, resulting in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan immediately shut down critical NATO supply routes and the negotiations to re-open them have gone nowhere. To add insult to injury, Pakistan faces a slew of minor crises on its home front, relating to the economy, politics, and of course, security. In Washington, support for civilian assistance to Pakistan is rapidly waning. With this as background, the United States is also undergoing two major personnel transitions in Islamabad. U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter and USAID Mission Director Andrew Sisson have both announced their intention to step down this summer. This staff turnover, while a distraction in the short run, also provides an opportunity for the United States to re-brand its civilian assistance program in Pakistan. Our latest open letter to Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides urges the United States to support Pakistan’s “democratic machinery” with more USAID innovation, stronger Pakistani think tanks and research groups, and more independent media.

Civilian Assistance to Pakistan: Time for Tough Choices

This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated that the United States will be working to significantly decrease the number of development projects it is currently supporting in Pakistan, from the current 140 to 35 by the end of September 2012. In Dr. Shah’s words, “If we [the U.S.] are trying to do 140 different things, we are unlikely to do things at scale in a way that an entire country of 185 million people can see and value and appreciate. We are just far more effective and we deliver much more value to American taxpayers when we concentrate and focus and deliver results.” Shah goes on to clarify that the United States will not be cutting back on the overall amount of assistance it provides: it plans to adhere to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman framework of $7.5 billion over 5 years.

I applaud Administrator Shah’s call for greater focus in the U.S. assistance portfolio and his explicit emphasis on “results.” After all, as my colleague Connie Veillette has pointed out, the Obama Administration’s Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on global development explicitly called for greater emphasis on “selectivity” and “results” in U.S. development assistance.

Pakistan’s Politicians Play Deadly Games with Patients’ Lives

There are new reports of casualties in Pakistan but not from terrorism. Instead, some 150 poor patients died after receiving contaminated drugs from a public cardiology pharmacy in Lahore because the country’s politicians abolished the federal health ministry without creating an appropriate national drug regulatory agency, as explained in a recent Lancet article by Dr. Sania Nishtar. The failure was not only predictable but predicted.

What to Do About U.S. Aid to Pakistan -- Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian

The debate over U.S. foreign assistance in Pakistan has grown hotter lately, with Stanford political scientist Stephen Krasner arguing in Foreign Affairs that the United States should get tough by threatening to halt aid to Pakistan to force the country into cooperating better on security matters. CGD president Nancy Birdsall responded with an article in Foreign Policy. Drawing on the recommendations of a 2011 CGD study group report, Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the U.S. Approach to Development in Pakistan, she argued that U.S. development assistance should be focused on helping to create a stable, prosperous Pakistan—goals that are in America’s own best interest and would be ill-served by trying to use the aid as a bargaining chip.