The Obama administration and Congress are correct to emphasize civilian economic and social development and support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions in the proposed U.S. assistance package for Pakistan. But any increases in nonmilitary assistance will require substantial governance reforms in Pakistan to ensure that the money is not wasted.
Two key steps are necessary. First, the government of Pakistan will need to undertake serious reforms and prioritize the needs of its citizenry. The United States and other allies should contribute to this process by providing expanded training and educational opportunities for civilian bureaucrats, parliamentary committees, and civil society groups in the United States and other countries. Second, U.S. bilateral development assistance should be delivered as one component of an overall international strategy to help Pakistan create a more sustainable economic system.
This will require greater coordination with other bilateral assistance programs and international and multilateral initiatives by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the Friends of Pakistan group. Pakistan has already benefited from substantial increases in assistance, loans, and donor pledges. Donors pledged more than $5 billion of assistance at the April conference in Tokyo, and last year the IMF provided a standby loan of $7.6 billion. The World Bank gave Pakistan an interest-free $500 million International Development Association credit in March 2009.
Pakistan’s civilian government needs to develop a strategy based on a comprehensive needs assessment that ensures aid and loans are a bridge to advance fundamental reforms that help Pakistan achieve a sustainable economic position. Other mechanisms such as proposed reconstruction opportunity zones can help facilitate growth, but they are not a panacea to Pakistan’s substantial economic problems.
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