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.
While CGD does not typically focus on country-specific initiatives, Milan -- a CGD post-doctoral fellow and associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace-- tells me Pakistan’s strategic importance for the US warranted the exception.“Pakistan is an extremely important country for the United States and our interests going forward,” explains Milan. “Both in terms of international and regional security and in terms of the really massive development challenges Pakistan faces. We are really talking about a nuclear-armed country with 180 million people.”
The new report follows up on recommendations issued in a report CGD released last year that drew heavily on the advice and knowledge of the CGD Study Group on a US Development Strategy in Pakistan. Danny, a policy analyst at CGD, tells me the 2012 report’s evaluations also draw on knowledge gained from a recent trip to Pakistan.
“The recommendations involved a trip that I made to Pakistan in May where I was able to meet with economists, academics, politicians, and people who are in and were formerly in the government, as well as USAID staff, people in the State Department, and other donors,” says Danny. “I got to interview a wide range of people working in and on development issues in Pakistan, so that’s also what informed the recommendations we make.”
After a short break, I ask Milan to explain why the US has not been more successful in delivering aid to Pakistan. The answer, he says, is due to underlying tensions between long- and short-term US goals in Pakistan.
“US policy is trying to balance our very real security interests with our also very real development interests,” says Milan. “It’s our assessment in the report that US policy has been dominated by short-term security issues.”
Central to US civilian engagement with Pakistan is the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill which in 2010 authorized up to $1.5 billion a year over five years for nonmilitary development assistance to Pakistan. Danny and Milan tell me there have been a number of problems with the way KLB has worked on the ground. The US government has never had a clear set of objectives that have been agreed upon with the Pakistani government, and it is not clear who is in charge of US civilian efforts. For these reasons, the report grants the US government a C and D on clarifying the mission and naming a leader, respectively.
The report also evaluates how transparent the US government is when it comes to US development efforts in Pakistan, and grants the government a mediocre C.
“The original recommendation urged the US government to be more transparent about the development program by telling us how much you're spending, giving us quarterly updates, and telling us what sectors or projects you're working on,” says Milan.
Milan tells me the National Security Council could be the place to bring together the various civilian agencies into one room and hash out their objectives and increase transparency.
The report gives failing grades for measuring what matters, and letting Pakistani products compete with products in the US market. Danny tells me the US government’s lack of action on trade with Pakistan is disappointing, especially considering the country’s expressed desire for trade, not aid.
The report gives one incomplete grade to the US government on encouraging investment. Milan tells me this is because OPIC--the leading trade and finance organization in the United Sates--has the capability to work with USAID to help small and medium enterprises in Pakistan succeed, but a proposal allowing it to do so is stalled in congress.
While the grades issued by CGD’s report may be disappointing for those working in the trenches, the evaluation is more a reflection of wider systemic problems and a failure of leadership at the top, Milan and Danny agree.
“There are a number of creative, intelligent, dynamic officials we've interacted with that are doing great things, but there are a number of constraints they're under,” says Milan. “This is where CGD has a role--not just in Pakistan but across the world--to shine a light on these things, and say that Congress, the White House, State Department, and USAID … they all have a role to play to make the US a leading development actor again.”
If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to get new episodes delivered straight to your computer every week. My thanks to Alexandra Gordon for her production assistance on the Wonkcast recording and for assistance in drafting this blog post.