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Partner; don’t donate

July 10, 2010

I, like most people wish to know what happens to all the aid that is thrown into the “black Hole” called Pakistan. Pakistan has been on the receiving end of billions of dollars worth of aid over almost throughout its existence without much to show for it. It may be time now for all international donor countries to ask themselves the question whether to donate to the Government of Pakistan or participate and partner with the people of Pakistan via economic initiatives and investments.

Foreign sponsored economic initiatives within Pakistan are vital to not only the survival and growth of Pakistan but also to the core issue facing Pakistan today; Terrorism.  I deliberately use the word initiative over donation or even assistance. Initiative to me implies an initiation with involvement and perhaps some connotation of partnership. Donation and just as well assistance tend to imply a non involvement and an implication of a cold, even callous disregard. There is the element of pity in donation that may serve to invoke feelings of resentment and most certainly bruised ego.

But for all the self pity and bruised egos the fact remains that for too long now many in the developed World have provided funds and well meaning assistance to Pakistan that served to line the pockets of the ruthlessly corrupt politicians and fatten their Swiss bank accounts. None or very little of the total aid given to Pakistan has been used to improve living conditions, healthcare, infrastructure and education. Pakistan is perhaps one of few “failed” nations in the World that spend just around 1 % of its GDP on education. It then does not inspire much confidence in the minds of the people of Pakistan as well as (I hope) the donors to Pakistan about aid and donation. Hence, it then should not surprise many when the people of Pakistan wonder and exclaim what has the developed World done for us?

The question many in the donor countries to Pakistan need to consider is whether they want to Partner with the People of Pakistan or the Government of Pakistan represented by the corrupt politicians.  The Government of Pakistan vis a vis the politicians of Pakistan are masters at cooking the books, creating ghost institutions like schools and for good measure bringing the dead back to show as the legitimate intended recipients of foreign aid. The Pakistani concept of checks and balance implies deposit the check to raise the balance of funds. Who does not know that the concept of accountability even in this day and age does not exist in Pakistan? 

Back in I believe early 2009, around the time the US announced $ 700 million counter terrorism aid to Pakistan.  I, at that time, took the initiative to write to Senators Bob Corker and Richard Lugar of the senate foreign relations committee. The message I sent via an e-mail was to urge both the Senators to demand accountability of every single cent being given to Pakistan and to ensure that funds are applied and used for the intended purpose.  I was delighted to learn later at least from Senator Corker that there would be some provisions for accountability of the funds.  There was even a mention of an “audit office” to be setup in conjunction with the US Embassy, Islamabad to Monitor US aid to Pakistan. 

However, as the saying goes; the more things change the more they stay the same; and the call for accountability turned into the suggestion that the US is trying to “micromanage Pakistan’s internal affairs”. Senator Corker then had to go on the defensive and deny charges of any intentions of “micromanagement”.  Pakistani expert spin masters craftily and handily turned any calls for accountability into meddling into Pakistan’s internal affairs. Now, common sense, even economic and financial sense, behooves the donor of any monies to reserve the right to require even demand accountability. Pakistan somehow manages to evade all rules to include common sense. Money flows in and where it ends up nobody knows.  All the while the ever destitute people of Pakistan remain so and turn even more so every passing day.

I recognize that the issue of lack of accountability is not unique to Pakistan instead is typical of an underdeveloped country model. In almost every case local politics, bilateral relations, country and regional sensitivities not to mention warped policies, bureaucracies and lobbies get into the way of common sense good practices and the victims remain the wanting populous of the country in question.  It’s an open secret that donor countries almost always provide aid and assistance with “strings” attached.  All “aid” to any recipient country is intended to increase the sphere of influence in general or for specific gains due to geo-strategic concerns.  The net result however remains the same; money changes hands.

So then the question I posed earlier for donor country’s to determine who to partner with the politicians or the people of the country. Corrupt politicians and inept, insincere administrators come and go with the shifts in local politics, issues and regional and country specific exigencies. However, the people who vote these rulers in remain and serve as the constant. Simple math and common sense rule then dictates that the “donor” countries ought to be able to recognize what gets them the biggest bang for their buck over the long haul.  It almost certainly never is the political, administrative or the bureaucratic setup of the recipient nation. It almost certainly should be the people of the country.

Countries like the US, Japan and the member countries of the European Union need to ensure that their funds and investments are accounted and acknowledged not by the Government of Pakistan but by the people of Pakistan. This can happen only if these Governments partner directly with the people of Pakistan.   In essence partner don’t donate!



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