LAHORE: As the people and the government of the United Kingdom were fully committed to ameliorating the lot of the poverty-stricken people in different regions of the world including Pakistan, effective contributions were being made on a constant footing, for quite some time, by DFID (UK’s Department for International Development) in helping the federal and provincial governments in their empowerment, diversified capacity-building, and improvement and enhancement of institutional functioning.
These views were expressed by the global head of DFID and UK’s Permanent Secretary Matthew Rycroft CBE during an exclusive interview with The News, here on Friday.
The interview was held in a girls’ school run by the Punjab government in the provincial metropolis’ Township area where DFID has built 13 new classrooms with 11 toilets on the pattern of a modern, state-of-the-art architecture. The idea, according to UK’s Permanent Secretary, is to help the countries in developing self-sustaining systems of public empowerment and welfare.
In focus are both the Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries around the world where the British have connections and which are afflicted with extreme poverty. “We also continue our work with commitment in conflict zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya with the collaboration of different organizations including the United Nations, NGOs and private as well as government sectors”.
Answering a question as to which countries of the world were worst hit in economic terms, Matthew replied that the countries of the sub-Sahara region, like, for instance, Somalia and Tanzania were badly affected where local populations were facing abject poverty.
Giving further details, the global head of DFID said that, although at present, his organization which is also known among many circles as ‘UK aid from the British people’ is working in full swing in two provinces of Pakistan namely Punjab and KPK as well as in the federal area, they were also contemplating expanding their humanitarian and capacity-building services to other provinces inside Pakistan in the near future.
When asked to draw a comparison between the performance of Punjab and KPK governments in the perspective of ‘cooperation with and response to DFID contributions’, Matthew Rycroft said he could only say that some kind of healthy competition between the provinces was a good thing.
The underlying principle, according to him, was strengthening and modernizing the institutions and systems in a self-sustaining way so that the governments and public segments of the contributions-recipient countries were able to move forward in their own way in harmony with the guidelines given by DFID. As such, the governments of the recipient countries were given enough leverage to monitor the results and “as for results, it is an ongoing process and the things are going on well”.
One area in which Pakistan was given technical advice (in addition to many areas of mutual cooperation ) by DFID experts was the tax-collection area. Pakistan’s Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was being given technical advice for the purpose of rationalizing its tax-collection system, obviously aiming at enhancing the financial capacity and self-sustainability of Pakistan to enable it to deliver more effectively. It was a long-term exercise, asserted DFID’s global chief.
The News was also informed about the figures and projections which explain the volume of DFID contributions and the scale of the forthcoming contributions towards education and health sectors inside Pakistan.
According to the official figures, DFID expects to achieve these targets in Pakistan till the year 2020-21: (a) Support 2 million children to gain a decent education; (b) Help 6.8 million people to get sustainable access to clean water and / or sanitation; (c) Reach 6.6 million children under 5, women and adolescent girls with nutrition-related interventions & (d) Support 1.4 million additional women and girls to use modern methods of family planning.
In the health sector, DFID was lending support for the modernization of healthcare system and main focus, in the beginning, has been on primary health, children’s vaccination and protection of pregnant women and their children. DFID provided facilities for Basic Health Units and in the area of poverty-alleviation, it was also working in close liaison with Benazir Income Support Programme, sponsoring Waseela-e-Taleem educational programme with solid financial contributions, Matthew told this scribe.
Before the interview was concluded, the Permanent Secretary was asked to elaborate as to what did the title CBE mean that was affixed to his name. He replied, “CBE stands for Commander, Order of the British Empire”.
While concluding, UK’s Permanent Secretary, Matthew Rycroft, expressed words of appreciation for 70 years of UK-Pak cooperation. “We wish it to continue in future even beyond 30 years, i.e beyond Pakistan’s 100 years of independence”.