The recent New York Times editorial, Is Pakistan Worth America’s Investment?, perpetuates the idea that the United States can use its economic assistance to Pakistan as a cudgel to extract better performance from the government in its fight against terrorism. There are two problems with that idea.
CGD Policy Blogs
This is a joint post with Alexis Sowa.
Last weekend marked the first time in Pakistan's 60-plus year history that a democratically elected government completed its term. This is a major achievement for Pakistan. It also raises the possibility of a new chapter in US-Pakistan relations because a new civilian government led by the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the winning party) might prove to be surprisingly open to US help in addressing Pakistan's huge development challenges.
At a recent CGD roundtable, water expert John Briscoe gave a whistle-stop tour of Pakistan’s water economy. In a conversation framed by comments about Pakistan’s history of resilience and ingenuity, he laid out the compelling facts about Pakistan’s dire situation:
“No superpower that claims to possess the moral high ground can afford to relinquish its leadership in addressing global disease, hunger, and ignorance,” said former US senator Richard Lugar. “Our moral identity is an essential source of national power… We diminish ourselves and our national reputation if we turn our backs on the obvious plight of hundreds of millions of people who are living on less than a dollar a day and facing severe risk from hunger and disease.”
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.
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.
Last year my former colleagues Molly Kinder and Wren Elhai joined Nancy Birdsall for a listening tour in Pakistan that sought to gather input from a range of experts for CGD’s June 2011 report on the U.S. assistance program there. Last month, in support of CGD’s upcoming follow-up report on status of the program in 2012, I travelled to Pakistan for another round of discussions.
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.
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.