7.5-bn-dollar US aid to Pak fails to show "measurable progress" so far: Official report

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Washington, Feb 9(ANI): The United States' civilian-aid program for Pakistan, meant for developing its infrastructure, has failed to "demonstrate measurable progress" since the Congress approved the five-year, 7.5-billion-dollar assistance package in late 2009, according to an official US government assessment.

The report, released jointly by the Office of Inspector General of the US Agency for International Development, the Department of State and the Department of Defense, found that US aid officials on the ground in Pakistan had failed to supply data to allow a systematic evaluation of whether the aid was helping stabilise the nation.

"One year after the launch of the civilian-assistance strategy in Pakistan, USAID has not been able to demonstrate measurable progress," The Wall Street Journal quoted the report, an assessment of the program for the final three months of 2010, as saying.

"We believe that USAID has an imperative to accumulate, analyse, and report information on the results achieved under its programs," it added.

The Obama administration is hoping that the aid program to Pakistan, the second-largest recipient of US civilian aid after Afghanistan, will help stabilize the fragile but strategically important country and also boost America's image among ordinary Pakistanis. The program is focusing on funding visible infrastructure like bridges, roads and power stations.

The report found that the USAID, the lead US government agency for overseeing foreign civilian assistance, has been unable to recruit sufficient staff to oversee its Pakistan program, with its local office having 228 employees at the end of 2010 against a target of 296.

"Ongoing security threats impede effective implementation and monitoring of assistance," the report noted.

The US has moved to change the way it distributes aid, funnelling more money through the Pakistan government and local organizations rather than international contractors, but the report said that relying on Pakistani institutions could lead to malfeasance.

"Limited institutional capacity- especially in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan- creates a risk that resources might be lost through inefficiency, theft, or general lack of capacity to handle large amounts of funding," said the report. (ANI)

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