Development assistance: Impediment or facilitator? – by Junaid Qaiser

Individualland Pakistan, on 20 February, 2010 , organized a seminar on the issue of “Examining Development Assistance”. Representatives from civil society, media and education sector participated in the discussion.

In her welcome remarks and context setting address, Individualland’s Director Gulmina Bilal Said “If we were to hate the US, then logically we should hate their money too. However, here is the dichotomy. We love their money and just as the Americans urge us to “do more” to curb extremism, we urge them to “do more” financially. This is where the hypocrisy comes in. It is a fact that given Pakistan’s financial challenges, we cannot meet our development challenges on our own. The reasons for this are many and date back to Pakistan’s creation.

However, one has to accept that the development assistance that Pakistan receives from the Western aid agencies go a long way in providing some aspects of social services to our teeming public. We should be self-sufficient in this but the sad truth is that we are not.

For instance, we should have had Rs 1.4 billion that was needed for the enhancement of Tarbela dam’s hydroelectric plant. We did not and instead the US provided this money. We should have had the Rs 1.8 million needed for educational reforms. We did not and instead the Australian government provided us the money. We should have had the $ 899 million for FATA reforms but we did not. Instead the US provided us the money.

We cannot take another country’s taxpayers’ money and then spit in their face, but unfortunately that is exactly our attitude towards foreign assistance. After almost 63 years, we should be footing our own social services bills. The fact that we cannot is our failing. If allegedly we have been “exploited under the guise of foreign assistance”, we are the only ones responsible for it. Why should another country look after our interests if we cannot look after our own? Pakistan has not been raped. It was consensual. Before finding solutions, it is important to understand what the problem is and most importantly who our friends are”.

It is important to note that Pakistan is a signatory to the Paris Declaration. The Paris Declaration on development assistance was developed at a forum in Paris in February 2005. It looks at the responsibility of developing countries for delivering and managed assistance in in terms of five principles: ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing of results and mutual accountability.

Talking about the government and aid allocation in the education sector, Executive Director Centre for Peace & Development Initiatives (CPDI) Mukhtar Ahmed Ali said the trend is evident from the fact that the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank apportion most of the project aid to infrastructure development. He further mentioned that grants constitute only 19 per cent of ODA and the remaining comes in the form of loans.

He also said that development assistance should be invested in research, planning and intellectual development.He stated that we usually criticized NGo’s for foreign funding, but all Governments department and state institutions are depended on foreign assistance. Mukhtar Ahmad Ali described educational sector challenges including low literacy, low enrollment poor quality of education, gender gap, variety of educational system.

Asif Saeed chairperson economics department GC university said that it is not important question that either official development assistance (ODA), is impediment or facilitator? The real question is that how it contribute in social development profile and improve human index of Pakistan? our approach should be that how ODA should be contributing in economic development? He said people and of the country should be major participants and beneficiary in the process. The ODA should improve human development index and it also increase per capita income.

Dr Khalil Ahmad, Director Alternate Solution said that it’s very unfortunate, that in this age of globalisation we are still believer of irrelevant concepts just like self reliance and sovereignty, we are living in old paradigm and obsolete world. Even we see official development assistance as conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam. We don’t believe in coexistence with outer world.Development assistance is not bad thing, problem lies in our mindset, which is very much conservative. We view foreign world as our enemy we described all their moves and actions as conspiracy against Islam and Pakistan. The real question is how we use development assistance and how to get maximum benefits. he said Modern world is a combination of social relationship, foreign assistance is also one relationship and we should view it as social connector, if we really want to get maximum benefits through the ODA than we must change ourself and broad our vision and horizon.

Mr Iqbal Haider Butt, Senior Partner of Development Pool said We lack in the field of research and planning, so there fore we could not get desire result, although corruption is a issue but main reason behind our failure was lack of planning and research, there fore we could not get better result from Official development Assistance. In 2002 massive investment come in Pakistan, but we could not get desired result as we have not done our home work. When we did not give clear and solid proposals or projects than people come from abroad and implement their agenda. He also said that US military assistance supported Pakistani Army and undermined democratic process.

It is a fact that economic and social development is possible only in a democratic regime. Our deepest hope is that such workshops and seminars would create a broad discussion on development assistance, especially how to identify more citizen centric ways of using the ODA.




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