Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ISLAMABAD: The US has failed to show progress from billions of dollars in aid given to Pakistan over the past few years to help the country with basic needs like electricity, health care and education, said an inspector general’s report.

The finding comes as some in the US have questioned the wisdom of lavishing Pakistan with military and civilian aid given the government’s reluctance to target militants based on its territory who regularly attack American troops in Afghanistan.
The US has committed nearly $4 billion to projects in Pakistan since 2009 to help the country address critical infrastructure needs, provide basic services and improve government performance, said the report released Monday.
But the largest contributor, the US Agency for International Development, has not committed to a way to measure the success of its programs, said the report, which was written by officials at USAID, the State Department and the Defense Department.

“We believe that USAID has an imperative to accumulate, analyze, and report information on the results achieved under its programs,” said the report, which covered the period through Dec. 31, 2010, and came about a year after the State Department, which guides USAID, developed a strategy for providing civilian assistance to Pakistan.
“One year after the launch of the civilian assistance strategy in Pakistan, USAID has not been able to demonstrate measurable progress,” it said.
The US Embassy in Islamabad has also failed to come up with a core set of indicators to measure the success of all American development programs in Pakistan run by USAID, the State Department and the Defense Department, said the report.
Failure to show progress could cause problems within Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment is high and many suspect US aid of simply lining the pockets of corrupt politicians rather than helping the poor. Many of Pakistan’s 180 million residents lack access to clean water and effective health care and education. The country also suffers from chronic power shortages that can last up to 18 hours a day.
One of the reasons the US has struggled is that the embassy in Islamabad has had difficulty staffing the positions it needs to monitor and run its programs, said the report. The USAID office at the embassy remained understaffed by more than 20 per cent, or 68 positions, as of the end of 2010, it said.
One of USAID’s main efforts in Pakistan has been to foster development in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border, where poverty and neglect by the central government have contributed to the rise of militants. But the initiative has been plagued with problems.
The office of the USAID inspector general conducted audits of two livelihood programs in Pakistan’s tribal area during the last quarter of 2010 that were aimed at fostering economic development to counter the rise of extremism.
“The audits found the programs had made little progress in achieving the goal largely because of the hostile environment – the chief of party for one implementing partner was assassinated – but also because of a lack of baseline data and inadequate oversight, which resulted in questioned costs of $767,841,” said the report.
Also, USAID terminated its agreement with one implementing partner, the US-based Academy for Educational Development, after an investigation revealed fraud stemming from false statements and claims, it said.
The problems raise questions about how effective future aid will be to Pakistan. The US pledged last year to provide Pakistan with $7.5 billion in civilian aid over the next five years. It also provides the country with billions of dollars in military aid.
But the assistance has done little persuade Pakistan to concede to Washington’s most important demand: launching an offensive in the North Waziristan tribal area that is home to the Haqqani network, a militant group that US officials say poses the greatest danger to American troops in Afghanistan.source

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