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December 19, 2010

USAID back … to the US

Instep Today

Maria Shirazi
December 19, 2010

USAID is busy implementing its Empower Pakistan Project (EPP). Under EPP, USAID has Empower Pakistan JOBS, Empower Pakistan FIRMS, Empower Pakistan TRADE and Empower Pakistan ENTREPENEURS. In 2009, USAID contracted Care International to implement its 5-year, $80 million JOBS project. The JOBS project aims at linking the “private sector with training institutions to give the youth the skills they need to find and succeed in jobs.”
Last year, USAID contracted Chemonics to implement its 4-year, $89.75 million FIRMS project. The FIRMS project aims at developing a “dynamic, internationally competitive, business sector in Pakistan.”
The same year, USAID contracted Deloitte to implement its 5-year, $30 million TRADE project. The TRADE project aims at improving “trade activity ... through policy-level interventions, capacity building, support to duty free zones and firms in these zones engaged in export.”
On May 15, 2009, USAID’s Acting Administrator Alonzo Fulgham presided over the swearing-in of Robert Wilson as the agency’s new mission director for Pakistan (Fulgham is now USAID’s chief operating officer). Frank Young is Asia Bureau’s senior deputy assistant administrator and on November 10, 2009, Dr Rajiv Shah was nominated as administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
The president appoints the administrator, and after confirmation by the senate, the administrator reports to the secretary of state. In the normal scheme of things a country’s mission director reports to his regional head but Pakistan, like all other things, had to be different.
USAID’s Pakistan Mission is now more like an intergender, mixed tag team professional bout with Frank Ruggiero, Robin Raphel and Cameron Munter all in the same ring that has three ropes but no padding. In that sense, USAID-Pakistan is a tetra-headed monster with professional wrestlers going for illegal pinning, loss by knockout or at least a count-out.

Ruggiero may have his own Af-Pak game to play while Raphel is Hillary’s eyes-and-ears in Islamabad with the added responsibility of neutralising Ruggiero.
By mid-2010, ex-Mission Director Robert Wilson had put the future of JOBS, FIRMS, TRADE and ENTREPENEURS in doldrums. But by then, the ‘Beltway bandits’ had already made a cool hundred million.
Rubén Berríos, the author of ‘Contracting for Development: The Role of For-Profit Contractors in U.S. Foreign Development Assistance’, claims that only a “few cents of every dollar of foreign aid ends up in the Third World.” The author asserts that the “development industry has become more self-serving than caring. As such, the development industry has become more preoccupied with its own growth than with the alleviation of poverty in the Third World.”
Rubén Berríos is further convinced that although USAID is “often seen as an agency that puts money into foreign hands, USAID is actually a source of contracting dollars and jobs for US companies and organisations. By funding principally US for-profit contractors who in turn deposit their cheques in US banks, USAID makes these contractors the main beneficiaries of development assistance.”
Is USAID empowering Pakistan or serving US interests in the area? Are dollars from the US helping the donor or the recipient? Is USAID trying to influence the internal politics of our country? Is USAID really helping the people it was intended to help?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]

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