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In a recent blog, my colleague posed a set of questions for members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ask Senator Kerry in his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State. One is about the United States’ work to support development in Pakistan:

You were a lead co-sponsor of the 2009 Enhanced Partnership for Pakistan Act (commonly known as the Kerry Lugar Berman bill), which formalized the United States’ commitment to long-term development assistance in Pakistan.  How would you grade its impact so far?  As Secretary of State, how will you support US development efforts in Pakistan, and will you consider any changes in the way the State Department, USAID, and others implement the development approach in Pakistan?

Senator Kerry of course has deep experience with the challenges in Pakistan, on which he can draw to craft his response to this question.  But here are a few elements that I’d like to see in his answer:

  • KLB was a visionary piece of legislation.  It sought to place security and development on separate tracks, insulating the planning and implementation of development programs from the short-term diplomatic and security challenges that have derailed development assistance in the past.  It often appears easiest to ‘grade’ KLB according to the amount of money disbursed, and by that measure performance is low: the funds are not being spent at close to the rate they were authorized ($7.5 billion over 5 years, or $1.5 billion/year).  However this is the wrong measure, for the same reason that makes the KLB legislation important in the first place: this work takes time, so we need to take a long-term approach.  This is particularly true in Pakistan, where the volatile history of US aid has made our Pakistani partners hesitant to use aid for long-term investments in their people and institutions.  KLB sent an important political signal that the US will be a strong and steady partner in development, and it is critical that Congress maintain its support for this work.
  • Furthermore, Pakistan is crucial to the United States’ geo-strategic interests.  With a population of 180 million people, it is poised to become the fifth largest country in the world by 2050.  It has a youth bulge, with 46.6% of the population between the ages of 15-29, and rising unemployment – often a dangerous combination.  It also has nuclear weapons.  Thus it is in the United States’ interest to help Pakistan develop into a stable, productive, democratic country that can help bring peace and prosperity to the region.
  • Lastly, there are concrete ways to improve the effectiveness of our development assistance to Pakistan.  These are listed and discussed in detail in CGD’s 2011 and 2012 reports, but three actions the next Secretary of State could take are:
    1. Name a leader: make it clear who is in charge of the development strategy in Pakistan.  Whether that person is in the State department or USAID, this work is too important to not have someone in charge.
    2. Clarify the mission: the first task of the new leader named in #1 should be to create and – perhaps more importantly – implement a development strategy.  This should be independent of our defense policy and independent of Afghanistan.
    3. Finance what is already working.  Other partners, such as the multilateral banks and the UK aid agency, are already making impactful investments in Pakistan, and we should make it easier for USAID to co-finance successful and proven projects.