Whatever happened to Kerry-Lugar?

Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s dire fiscal situation has resulted in the reduction of development spending by 40 per cent. This does not bode well for the citizens who have been tormented by an energy crisis, persistent food inflation and rampant unemployment. In these circumstances, the development assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) is much needed. Pakistan’s civilian government braved a media onslaught and the ire of the security establishment for tacitly supporting the US legislation. Other than the rhetoric around the ‘conditions’ drafted in Washington, there was an unstated agreement that the development assistance was welcome.

Months have elapsed and Pakistanis have yet to witness the roll out of the KLB. Global recession and political uncertainty at home underlie the tough days for Pakistanis especially the poor. It was expected that given the urgency of the situation, USAID was going to kickstart the delivery of its interventions. Well, the progress so far has been disappointing.

First, there seems to be no public sign of a consensus within the US bureaucratic machine how the aid under KLB will be delivered. Unconfirmed media reports suggest that the political versus the bureaucratic channels are not on the same page. The ‘political’ administration is ostensibly managing USAID systems and processes. There may be strategic reasons for that but the net result is that things are delayed. Not long ago, Pakistani government’s procedures were thought to be a problem but the trajectory of US bureaucracy only proves that public sector ailments are common.

Second, USAID is unfamiliar with the methods of working with the governments. In fact, its operations keep the government systems out of the programme design and create parallel structures for big US firms for accountability and results. On the ‘results’ front the experience of USAID has not been flattering to say the least. The case of irregularities in the ongoing FATA programme, highlighted by the media in recent months, is a case in point.

Third, there is no clear roadmap for the key priorities that KLB will help address. We read about the energy sector support and other immediate responses to Pakistani government’s needs. But surely, the sizeable pipeline of 7.5 billion needs to be well planned. Needs identification and programme design should be responsive as well as flexible. Bureaucracies are averse to out of box thinking; and perhaps this is what explains lack of alternatives to lengthy, US firms-centric approach typically employed by USAID.

Finally, the capacity of the US aid handlers seems to be as problematic as that of Pakistani government and nongovernmental channels. Delays define the culture of aid and in our case; the government machinery and business processes are unable to execute development budgets even when they are available.

Aside from the ideological debates whether we should be using foreign aid or not (and there are good reasons to engage in this debate), it is time for action. Further delay is only going to lengthen the lunatic shadows of anti-Americanism here. US will be seen to breaking yet another promise.

For the US administration it is imperative that modalities of aid delivery are finalized. There is of course no one solution to this dilemma. Foremost, budgetary support is critical: to restore the development budget, handle the circular debt to overcome the energy crisis and undertake major investments in water sector.

By the time, KLB will be operational Pakistan will be a changed polity. Assuming that the 18th amendment is fully implemented by July 2011, the locus of power and development planning would shift to the provinces. This is why US administration needs to do business with the provincial and (yet to be defined) local governments. Thus USAID needs decentralization in the host country as well.

But provincial capacities in Pakistan remain weak to manage aid budgets and convert resources into results. As provinces redefine their operations, and settle power distribution with local governments, this is a critical time for USAID to enter into constructive engagement with provincial governments. Under the Paris declaration other donors have agreed to use country systems to achieve aid effectiveness. Pakistan is an alliance of provinces and not a small, easy to fix unitary state where directives from Islamabad will be blindly followed.

The donors’ community known for its competitive posturing, fragmentation and duplication also needs to assess how it is going to work with Pakistan. KLB will be an unprecedented grant for Pakistan. But other donors have experience of working here far more than US, which had closed shop in the 1980s. Thus pooling of donor expertise and knowledge base is also an area for immediate action.

Pakistan has suffered badly due to the crisis in Afghanistan and being a partner of US strategies since the late seventies. It cannot be treated as just another ‘poor’ country where a routine USAID operation will do. It is a transitional society undergoing political and institutional change. Therefore, development remedies for this context need to be extraordinary and not cut and paste solutions. Having said that, the KLB needs an immediate rollout. The delay will take away its cutting edge and further diminish the dwindling credibility of the US.

Raza Rumi is a policy advisor and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at www.razarumi.com manages Pak Tea House and Lahore Nama cyberzines

An edited version of this piece was published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.

4 Comments

Filed under Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Terrorism, USA, War On Terror

4 responses to “Whatever happened to Kerry-Lugar?

  1. mazbut

    Excellent article.
    Congrats.

    At least in one industrial sector I know how American consultants are fiercely struggling to eke out maximum funds from the USAID by submitting ‘sketchy and erroneous’ ‘ feasibility reports and plans to the concerned authorities in the United States for the uplift of that industry. From this it is clearly apparent that most of the KLB grant will be stashed away by these consultants and their coteries (local counterparts and politicians) and the funding will not be of much avail to the country.

  2. Nadeem

    There is nothing bad in being cautious but Pakistani’s in general love to be cynical and negative.

    I still have to know a country where a considerable part of funds does not go in to pocket of consultants, contractor, politicians and bureaucracy.

    That has not stopped them from constructing roads or building power plants.

    Situation in Pakistan is bad because of two reasons;

    1. Absence of or weak institutions,
    2. Very small economy

    If there are strong institution, less is corruption, and institution could net be built overnight, i need process and time.

    Same goes for economy, it also needs stable and functional institution to generate revenue and bring in investment.

    Many of those who were crying against KL law are themselves studying in US institutions on Scholarships, well, if poor rural folks get a piece of same American money, it hurts the EGO of righteous men.

    Qazi Hussain Ahmads whole family got educated in US, his daughter is a US citizen and he is a proud grand father of a US national Grandson. It doesnt hurt his Ego but if money goes to poor – from where he will get the fools for Jihad. Same is with Imran Khan and rest of the ghairt brigade.

    In fact it is good that money is upended jointly, at least it wont go for political projects. Just imagine, the so called ‘ghost schools’….these are schools built on political considerations – some influential in a remote village got his son or daughter as school teacher, next thing he does is ask his MNA/MPA to give him a school – the building is built which becomes his DERA/Hujra, son gets salary and school is even not accessible/viable.

  3. Yasmeen Ali

    I had posted this article on both my Groups. I share with you a note on KL, written when it was newly introduced.
    YAA
    Dear Enkightened Writers
    It is a known fact, whether or not we want to accept,that repeated loans & debts have already compromised our sovereignity. However, should this mean, compromising it even further?
    I am reproducing some clauses from the proposed bill with my queries in blog. I will be interested in your response. I quite agree we need the money offered. Only an insane person will not. The point of diffference,I believe,raised in many circles is not questioning this need but some conditions attached:
    Limitation on Arms Transfers: For fiscal years 2012 through 2014, no letter of offer to sell major defence equipment to Pakistan may be issued pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC 2751 et seq.) and no license to export major defence equipment to Pakistan may be issued pursuant to such Act in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification required under subsection (c) for such fiscal year.
    Does this control & dictate our foreign policy?
    Limitation on Security-related Assistance: For fiscal years 2011 through 2014, no security-related assistance may be provided to Pakistan in a fiscal year until the Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, makes the certification required under subsection (c) for such fiscal year.
    There is no comment in the Bill or clause stating the outcome of such a certifucation is rejected. Who will arbitrate,if at all? will it be a one sided decision of the donor to deliver a decision on whether or not Pakistan has delivered on various grounds & stop aid if they feel it has not? Does this undermine our sovereignity?
    the Government of Pakistan during the preceding fiscal year has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups, consistent with the purposes of assistance described in section 201, including taking into account the extent to which the Government of Pakistan has made progress on matters such as (A) ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against the United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries;
    Does this allege & indict Pakistan Military of supporting terrorism ? Will acceptance of this clause translate to accepting the allegation?
    (3) the security forces of Pakistan are not materially and substantially subverting the political or judicial processes of Pakistan.

    This is not defined here. Who will define “substantial subversion”? Is this interfearence in domestic politics?
    ) Appropriate Congressional Committees Defined:
    I think the Congressional Committee defined relates to one formed by the USA Parlimentarians? If yes, with each report to be submitted to the Committe,does this place Pakistan directly under USA’s Parliment & answerable directly to them?
    and (15) an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.

    Can this be viewed as domestic institutional interfearing?
    Waiver: (1) IN GENERAL – The Secretary of State, under the direction of the President, may waive the limitations contained in subsections (a), (b), and (d) for a fiscal year if the Secretary of State determines that is important to the national security interests of the United States to do so.

    May this be seen as a one sided clause to guard US interests ONLY?
    It is I think, important to view each and every clause closely,with an eye to safeguard Pakistan’s interests.
    Whereas unannounced meetings with military leadership are being held to frame a better understanding of the proposed bill, would you also suggest a broad based panel of legal experts to review the same?
    I will appreciate if you can find time to write a reply to clarify these queries. As you have written an article on the subject,the assumption is, you have read the Bill thoroughly in its minutest details.
    Warm Regards
    YAA

  4. Ammar Zafarullah

    The KLB bill envisions 7.5 billion USD for development programs and this aid can play a vital role in development if utilized in a transparent manner. The author rightly points out towards the dependence on USAID for distribution of funds and the Bureaucratic hurdles associated with it. However the inability of the state to ensure transparency is the key issues here, FATA secretariat has a 750 million USD aid package but till now very little has been spent upon and the prospects of transparency are bleak. We need to comprehend that aid comes with responsibility it is not for fancy SUVs’ or the high tech laptops.