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Pakistan aid plan hit as ‘counterproductive’

A senior USAID economist, C. Stuart Callison, has written a formal dissent memo entitled “Dissent memo: Contradictory objectives for USAID/Pakistan program,” to the Director of the State Department Policy Palnning Office, which tells that the USAID mission in Pakistan is “receiving contradictory objectives” from Holbrook about U.S. aid for Pakistan.

[The formal dissent memo can be downloaded from Box.Net file sharing on the Blog]

Dawn- Oct 13, 2009

A senior economist at USAID has said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is micromanaging financial aid to Pakistan in a 'shockingly counterproductive' way. -AFP File Photo

A senior economist at USAID has said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is micromanaging financial aid to Pakistan in a 'shockingly counterproductive' way. -AFP File Photo

WASHINGTON: An economist at the US international aid agency has protested that special envoy Richard Holbrooke is micromanaging a giant package to Pakistan in a ‘shockingly counterproductive’ way, a memo showed Monday.

The dispute comes as the five-year, 7.5 billion-dollar US plan also faces intense criticism in Pakistan, where the powerful military has said that the package carries too many conditions.

In a memorandum to State Department officials, C. Stuart Callison, a senior economist at USAID, complained that Holbrooke was insisting on personally approving every funding decision, usually made by the agency’s local mission.

‘This approval process has been difficult, time-consuming and extremely frustrating for an already overburdened mission staff and the disapprovals already received are shockingly counterproductive to priority (US) counterinsurgency and economic development objectives,’ he wrote.

‘They have had a chilling effect on all decision-making by mission staff, who know better than anyone else what will work and what will not work in the Pakistan context,’ said the memo reproduced on the Politico and USA Today websites.

Callison voiced concern that Holbrooke was trying to direct all money through Pakistani groups. The economist said the trend showed a lack of understanding of local conditions and would slow down achievement of US goals.

‘Based on past experience in Pakistan, very few Pakistani firms and NGOs can currently satisfy the stringent financial management audit requirements for USAID project funding,’ he said.

‘Building up the capacity of Pakistan institutions … is a worthy goal, but it will take considerable time and effort before they can successfully contribute to shared US-Pakistan objectives,’ he said.

The US Congress approved the plan on September 30, part of President Barack Obama’s bid to weaken the appeal of extremism in Pakistan by building schools, roads and democratic institutions.

The legislation calls for the wide use of Pakistani non-governmental organizations, particularly those involved in alleviating poverty and improving the rights of women.

Holbrooke, a heavyweight in Democratic Party politics, serves as the special envoy handling Afghanistan and Pakistan, a top priority region for Obama.

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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