November 24, 2012

Reforms, Now!

Only a meaningful civil service reforms can improve  the state capacity to perform better

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s inability to provide security and justice to its citizens; and deliver basic services is a common theme in our political discourse. Political parties, which are in power, make tall claims of doing this and that but in effect their reliance on a state apparatus which is unable to deliver is a known reality. During the last four years, other than taking very cosmetic steps the way our executive branch of the state is organised has remained unchanged.

Whereas a beginning has been made to shift the power from centre to provinces, the provincial administrations continue to work according to structures that were established nearly 160 years ago. Much has been said and written about a long pending civil service reform but nothing has been achieved except the partial reform in the 1970s.

Pakistan is a populous country now and its problems have grown manifold in the past few decades. Yet the inability of the state to respond to the challenges is spectacular. Also, the word ‘reform’ is a joke now for every time it is mentioned the transformationists make fun of it and the agents of the status quo start citing the failed experiments of the past.

What impedes reform then? Working on various projects with federal and provincial government departments and agencies teaches you that structures are overwhelming when it comes to arguing for even minor changes. Continue reading

August 12, 2012

US civilian efforts in Pakistan may be a failure

 A new report card on the US development strategy in Pakistan gives failing marks in key areas but recommends that the United States stay engaged in Pakistan, focus on areas where it has achieved success, channel more funds through other entities, such as the World Bank, and spread previously authorized assistance over more years. The following is the press release by the Centre for Global Development. 

For Immediate Release
July 30, 2012

Media Contact:  Catherine An
Media Relations Associate
(202) 416-4040

Poor Marks for US Civilian Efforts in Pakistan

CGD Report Finds US Policy Dominated by Short-Term Security Issues, Development Approach Lacks Coherence

Washington, D.C. –The grades and recommendations are from a new study by the Center for Global Development that assesses American support for economic growth and poverty reduction in a fractious, nuclear-armed state in the frontlines of the US fight against Islamic extremists.

Report Card: US Approach to Development in Pakistan

The report card assigns Ds and Fs in four of the ten areas assessed. The sole B was awarded for “support Pakistan’s reformers.” The report noted with approval the existence of “small grant programs [that] provide some funding for reformers via civil-society groups” and “some support to research via Pakistani strategic support programs and centers for advanced studies.”

“Despite progress in consolidating US aid programs, the reality is that there are limits to what aid alone can accomplish. A set of discrete projects, even well-executed, does not represent a strategy,” CGD president Nancy Birdsall writes in the preface to the report, More Money, More Problems: A 2012 Assessment of the US Approach to Development in Pakistan.

“We recommend that for the time being the annual size of the program be reduced and that more US money flow through multilateral and other donor channels.  At the same time, we recommend a more clear and explicit commitment on the part of the administration and the Congress to strengthening the dialogue with Pakistani civilian counterparts on that country’s tremendous economic, social, and natural resource policy challenges,” she adds.

While Pakistan is too important for the United States to walk away, the report recommends patience and realistic expectations about what US assistance can accomplish.

It argues that the United States is “handicapped” in its efforts to support development in Pakistan because of high levels of anti-Americanism associated with the war in Afghanistan and drone strikes within Pakistan and should therefore provide more of its assistance by helping to finance the work of multilateral organizations and the aid agencies of US allies such as the UK.

Central to US civilian engagement with Pakistan is the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill which in 2010 authorized up to $1.5 billion a year over five years for non-military development assistance to Pakistan. Except for the first year, annual appropriations have fallen short and average annual disbursements, excluding flood aid in 2010, have been less than half of what was originally envisioned.

The report recommends that the administration and Congress extend the original $7.5 billion, five-year KLB authorization over a total of ten years, recognizing the limits to what US assistance can accomplish in Pakistan and that money for aid is likely to decrease because of US fiscal pressures.

At the heart of the problem, the report says, is confusion between two sets of US objectives in Pakistan: long-term development goals—helping Pakistan to become a more stable and prosperous country—and short-term diplomatic and security imperatives.

The tensions between the two sets of objectives were strikingly evident in a CIA-led fake vaccination drive used to collect DNA to confirm the presence of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This month, gunmen in Pakistan have twice fired on foreign health workers delivering polio vaccines, killing one and wounding two.

Report co-author Milan Vaishnav, a CGD visiting fellow who recently became an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said “because security concerns dominate US policy towards Pakistan, there is no consensus across government agencies on the US development strategy.”

The report shows that the United States has instead bumbled along with an ad hoc approach that limits the effectiveness of individual agencies such as USAID, the main US development agency. “On issues ranging from leadership, transparency, integrating non-aid tools, and clarity of mission, the development program continues to flounder,” the report says.

“The problem is not just the tumultuous environment in Pakistan,” the report notes. “It is also a matter of self-inflicted wounds: unrealistic expectations associated with new money (more money, in retrospect, brought on more not fewer problems); the system-wide shortcomings of US aid programs throughout the world; and the political difficulty of dealing with a reluctant Congress on new trade and private sector support programs for developing countries.”

The report recommends that the administration work with the Congress to make it possible to channel more of the KLB funds through the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and to “make it easier to take sensible advantage of the strengths of other donors like the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) in Pakistan, particularly in education and other service delivery.”

The report card assigns grades for US progress on ten key recommendations in a 2011 CGD report,Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the US Approach to Development in Pakistan, that drew on the knowledge of a 20-member study group of US and Pakistani experts on development and US-Pakistan relations.

The report gives a failing mark for “measure what matters,” that is, tracking Pakistan’s overall development progress, not just the outputs of US projects.  Also earning an F: “Let Pakistani products compete in US markets,” a call to offer Pakistani exports duty-free, quota-free access to US markets. On two of the items, USAID gets a B for effort, higher than the US government’s overall grade.

This new CGD report offers five recommendations to get the US development program on track:

  • Keep the economic and development policy conversation going: Distinguish between the size of the Pakistani aid program and active, high-level policy dialogue. Efforts to foster a long-term relationship in which the stability and prosperity of the region is a primary concern should be a priority.
  • Avoid the rush—spend KLB funds over more years: Given the constraints on aid delivery and difficulty achieving measurable success, Congress and the administration should agree to reduce annual spending and extend the original 5-year authorization over a 10-year program.
  • Focus on what the United States can do best: In Pakistan the United States has been effective in supporting higher education and increasing short-term energy supply, and it has a good record elsewhere in helping small businesses thrive. The United States should focus on these areas of strength.
  • Development with friends—channel more US aid dollars through other donors: In areas where the United States has had less success—primary school education and health, for example—take advantage of the strengths of other donors, such as the World Bank and the UK foreign assistance program. Create a diversified development portfolio consisting of direct assistance, co-financing, pooled or trust-fund financing, and non-aid tools such as trade and investment.
  • Focus on transparency, not branding and logos.  The US government should be far less concerned with branding and much more focused on improving the transparency of US development efforts. Development strategy should drive branding strategy, not the other way around.

“The recommendations proposed in this report are intended to guide development efforts so that they make a concrete, discrete and measurable impact towards a more stable, prosperous Pakistan,” said Danny Cutherell, a CGD policy analyst and co-author of this report.

2012 Report Card on US Development Strategy in Pakistan

August 3, 2012

NGOs and the lack of development in Pakistan

An interesting article on Pakistan has been posted at Global Dashboard (a knowledge hub for issues in international affairs and foreign policy) by Seth Kaplan “Why do some countries have so few NGOs?“, a policy consultant on state instability, governance and development based in New York. The thesis of it is as follows:

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are significant for service delivery to the poor, they hold governments accountable and are a positive impact on development. However, in Pakistan there is a very small number of NGOs, and as thus development Pakistan has suffered. Additionally respectable think tanks, and independent monitoring organizations (IMOs) are also few and far between.

Kaplan goes on to say that this lack of independent organizations extend to politics with political parties structures on kinship ties. However philanthropic contributions are huge (1% of GDP) but “a relatively small share of this money is going to build institutions that contribute to state building and social development. The poor may be gaining adequate relief from destitution—the streets of Pakistan have far fewer beggars than India—in ways that did little to change the situations.”

Firstly, the blame according to Kaplan falls on the Pakistani society dominated by kinship relationship that distrusts externally developed institutions. Secondly, institutions are not run by consensus but by cults of personality.

The arguments are not without merits but Kaplan forgets some of the subtleties of the cases of India and Bangladesh that have a proliferation of NGOs. Most NGOs start off providing a specific serves in a specific policy areas and this hold true for India and Bangladesh as well. In India much of the drive behind NGOs and independent service delivery is entrepreneurship and a good business environment. In Pakistan the economic environment is too complex to such NGO growth. It is not kinship and ethnic ties that doesn’t let NGOs proliferate, its taxation, security, terrorism, inflation, transportation costs, road infrastructures etc., that make wide scale operations too risky or too costly. With many NGOs in Pakistan trying to works as self sustaining non-profit organizations, much of the activity is constrained because of economic reasons rather than the frailty of trust networks.

Kaplans second point on institutions being hijacked by the people who are running them is also flawed because assuming NGOs to be independent ventures, initially NGOs are the effort of a few people but there is no evidence to suggest that these people are corrupt or grossly inefficient. Personal power in government institutions is a different matter and it is too much of a generalization to bunch NGOs with all other institutions and say that these are run on personal agendas.

Kaplan’s broad-brushed analysis then jumps to the weakness of civil society being weak and only advocating specific issues. But is that not how civil society and lobbying groups work?

Accepting that Pakistan has fewer NGOs, can we even say that NGO’s cause development? NGOs are small scale service provides where the state cannot reach, they fill in the gaps in development and give signals to the state and civil society highlighting vulnerabilities. Development has always been the job of the state. The weakness of civil society advocacy and participation is key to this. NGOs do have a role in this, however the case of Pakistan is different from that of Bangladesh and India. We have vast networks of charity based on societal trust (that Kaplan says is weak in Pakistan). Even NGOs like SOS Children’s Villages and CARE in Pakistan operate on these donations. Just because Pakistan does not have an NGO titan like Grameen, does not mean that philanthropy and non-state service delivery are not present. Additionally there is a large growing criticism of microfinance and its actual impact on development due to high interest rates and defaults with loans. The problem with too many NGOs is that the governments starts relying on these NGOs for development, and this is not a sustainable solution for long term economic and social development and it de-links civil society from the state.

Rather than just looking at the number of NGOs in Pakistan as a problem, a better question would be to see how significant NGOs actually are for development in Pakistan and what are the conditions that are inhibiting development as compared to India and Bangladesh? NGOs is probably not the answer.

Pakistan Policy Group 2012. 

August 1, 2012

Corruption and fundamentalist movements-Discussions from Africa

Lets start off by looking at the logic of corruption in society. This ‘logic’ come outs of experiences of systemic corruption, and is not just visible in Africa.

1.    Corruption is wide ranging, affecting many types of transaction;
2.    Corruption has become the norm;
3.    Everybody hates corruption; Nobody will denounce the corrupt;
4.    Corruption corrupts, and once the rot sets in little can be done to stop it;
5.    All political systems are prone to corruption (democracy offers no easy cure);
6.    Corruption is considered “fair” by its perpetrators, but not by its victims.

We have taken this description of corruption from a paper titled, “A moral economy of corruption in Africa” (De Sardan, 1999). The general conclusion drawn by the author  is that the most likely outcome of conscious and generalized corruption is a fundamentalist revolution. The description of corrupt practices, and our discussion to follow, is very relevant to the case of Pakistan.

Pakistans Corruption Rankings, Transparency International

Corruption is diverse in practice and is not marginal or sectoral  and ranges from petty corruption to major (state elite corruption). It is generalized and banalised, and a central part of civil discourse. However, everybody knows who is corrupt, but it would be unthinkable to denounce a relative or acquaintance to the police. Similarly, “Important individuals” are all compromised and dare not denounce each other, giving rise to a loose network of solidarity. Corruption is expanding, and seems to be irreversible due to its pervasiveness and “normalisation”. In the case of Africa this inability to regress comes from state failure, massive unemployment, unproductive civil servants, an irresponsible ruling elite and underpaid civil servants. Additionally development aid and income from illegal drugs trade and demands has caused clientelism favorable to corruption.

Single institution/sector perceived to be most affected by corruption, overall results. Source: Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2009. Percentages are weighted.

Such a situation offers dismal prospects for political solutions. De Sardan writes that, “There is no obvious correlation between the extent of corruption, on the one hand, and the types of political regime, their degree of despotism and their economic effectiveness, on the other.” Thus the type of government may affect the type of corruption in vogue, but not its scale. Secondly, corrupt practices are consider legitimate by perpetuators, it may sometimes only be exclusion from the gains of corruption that causes criticism and awareness- “A minister may think it fair to use government resources to build a villa, because he is far from being properly recompensed for his services.” Predatory authorities may even consider these gains a right of office- a mindset modeled on colonial relationships. Corruption is also necessary for social acceptance and the logic of solidarity requires linkages from school or family or middlemen, and bargaining patters or gift giving between them, to get things done.

What facilitates the acceptance and fuels the banality or ‘everyday-ness’ of corruption? Within traditional cultures there exists a practice of over-monetarisation. By over-monetarisation De Sadan means the social pressure to give gifts, especially in cash (e.g. marriage gifts, birth announcements, religious holiday gifts etc.) These social relations can form an “excuse”, or a vehicle, for corruption practices like bribery, concessions etc. Shame or guilt of not helping and acquaintance with the manipulation of the system is also a reason for acceptance of corruption and a legitimization of ones own actions. A study of civil servant corruption from Malawi says that three sets of rules intertwined- official rules, kinship rules and the unofficial code of conduct, are what encourage corrupt behavior (Anders, 2002).

Coming to the issue of a “fundamentalist revolution”, a major proposition in anthropological studies of corruption say that it is not realistic to combat corrupt practices as long as the people who take part in them view them as acceptable, thus systemic reform will be difficult. For success an almost utopian change at the administrative level will be needed. As long as political elites are unwilling to give up some of their privileges and to reform, changing the general public’s attitudes may ultimately take the form of ‘puritanical’ or ‘fundamentalist’ movements based in the ‘grassroots’ (Fjeldstad, Kolstad and Lange, 2003).

Anders, G, “Like Chameleons: Civil servants and corruption in Malawi”, 2002, La gouvernance au quitidien en Afrique, 23-24.
De Sardan, J P Olivier,  “A moral economy of corruption in Africa?, Journal of Modern African Studies”, 37, 1, 1999, pp 25 – 52
Fjeldstad, O, Ivar Kolstad and Siri Lange, “Autonomy incentives and patronage: A study of corruption in the Tanzania and Uganda revenue authority”, 2003, CMI: Norway.

November 1, 2010

An agenda that does not deliver

Published in South Asia Magazine

South Asia is a region marked for its turbulent history and its endemic poverty and misgovernance. Much has been written about how certain states in India are worse off than Sub Saharan Africa in terms of social and economic indicators. Or that Pakistan and Bangladesh have millions of people struggling for a meager income to keep their families alive. The truth is that despite the recent gains made in economic growth in most South Asian economies, the structural causes of poverty persist and haunt the national planners.

The World Bank, or the rather grandiose title – the Bank – has remained a major player in the South Asian economies aiming to help these countries in reducing poverty and enhancing economic growth. The Bank has gained more traction in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh where the unelected executive is eager to engage with the IFIs and decisions on lending are achieved quickly. India has remained engaged but its complexity and federalism makes transactions more intensive. Having said that the country has emerged as World Bank’s favorite in the recent years. For instance, the Bank, committed USD 9.3 billion in financial assistance to India in the 2009-10 fiscal, more than the aid committed by the U.S. and the European Union. Although this is a small sum for India’s U.S. $1.2 trillion economy, it represents a sharp increase from the U.S. $2.2bn lent to India by the Bank last year  – Bank lending to India has traditionally averaged about U.S. $2.5-3bn a year. Similarly, for Pakistan the average lending level has been around $1-2bn, this has increased lately due to the recent recession and food and energy shocks. Continue reading

September 23, 2010

Future of a crisis: Pakistan’s governance challenges

Pakistan’s devastating floods have opened up a Pandora’s Box of governance dysfunctions and historical distortions that have plagued the polity since independence. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the greatest calamity in our recent history. Various estimates show that the floods have affected 18-20 million people. The death toll has crossed the figure of 2000 while 2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters are receding in many areas, and though there are concerns about standing water that remains in Punjab and other areas, the worst of the current flooding is taking place in Sindh.

The disaster is still not over but the fissures within Pakistan have started to erupt and once again proving how vulnerable the state is and how fractured the Pakistani society has become. Five key crises have emerged, some old and some new. However, they point to the fact that our continuous refusal to address structural problems remains a key challenge.

Martial state syndrome: Pakistan’s history is an uninterrupted tale of direct and indirect military rule and centralisation. Each time there is a crisis there is a need to resort to the de facto, real governance paradigm: the military rule. Therefore, Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are not saying anything new. The perennial search for a Messiah, rooted in the religious ideology that the state and education system have cultivated, is back in full force. This time the media and other discordant voices are calling for another phase of direct military rule.

Continue reading

September 5, 2010

Post-floods: Pakistan must embrace a comprehensive reform agenda

Pakistan’s recent disaster has exposed the long standing crisis of statehood. It would be a cliché to state that even the best prepared country would have been swamped by the scale of the floods. However, the flood also exposed our failing state and never before have we witnessed such radical damage wreaked on the governance institutions in the country.

Beyond the early recovery phase: The enormity of the humanitarian crisis requires concerted planning and a seamless transition into the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. A key reason for the skepticism of citizens and the international community relates to the obvious challenges of governing Pakistan and ensuring that the state delivers on its inherent mandates. Humanitarian assistance has been forthcoming and the pundits’ credibility-deficit argument has been trashed by the world as it made pledges of over 600 million dollars. However, resources for the post-relief phase are uncertain. The usual recipe of the international economic order through IFI loans seems to be the only solution in sight unless the world wakes up to the potential long term consequences of this disaster and finds other ways than to increase its debt.

Financing challenges: A bigger challenge that faces Pakistan’s crumbling governance is related to financing the disaster-management. Already, competition between the Pakistani state agencies and the United Nations system seems to be apparent. The intentions of the UN notwithstanding, its inefficiencies (such as high administration costs) are all too well known. Similarly, the funding tensions between the federal and provincial governments will also come to light as and when assistance arrives. The criteria are unclear – Punjab wants it according to the damage while the smaller provinces are already talking about the state of ‘relative devastation’ and losses. This is something that the national council of common interest will have to resolve, lest it creates more fissures and becomes another pretext for an extra constitutional upheaval. Continue reading

August 30, 2010

Indicative Areas of Intervention in Climate Change

Pakistan Policy Group (PPG) shared the key findings of its research on Climate Change from the platform of Commonwealth Foundation. The University of Management Technology Consulting International (UMTCI) on behalf of Commonwealth foundation organized “Regional Workshop: Knowledge and Practice Sharing on Local Innovation in Adaptation to Climate Change‟ in Islamabad on July 23 and 24, 2010.

The workshop brought together leading advocates of Climate Change Adaptation from government agencies, national and international NGOs, corporations and media under the same roof. To ensure policy gains from this workshop, senior officials from Federal Environment Ministry also participated in the meeting. The workshop focused on the themes of Local innovation, Microfinance, and role of Corporations for adaptation measures.

The workshop identified a roadmap for knowledge and practice sharing on local innovation in adaptation to climate change in Commonwealth through establishing a “community of practice‟ on climate change formally called as Innovation for Climate Change Adaptation Network (I – CCAN).

Pakistan Policy Group (PPG) made a presentation on “Indicative areas for intervention”. PPG shared various policy recommendations with the participants of the workshop, which included strategic interventions in different sectors like Agriculture and Energy and key measures to develop Carbon Market. The participants also included experts from Ministry of Environment  who are actively involved in the drafting of first Climate Change Policy of Pakistan.
August 27, 2010

Rescuing the Pakistani state

Three weeks after the floods have broken Pakistan’s back, the international community is yet to show its resolve in helping a drowning country. The reasons for such a slow response are erroneously being understood in the context of the Pakistani government or the current crop of civilians in power. However, this is a narrow twist to the reality. The real angst and distrust being displayed by the world is at the Pakistani ‘state’. The situation is also reflective of the duplicity of international opinion makers and power-centres in labelling Pakistan as a country with an ‘image problem’.

One is sick of reading nauseating reports on how the post-earthquake assistance was ‘diverted’ or squandered. The truth is that in 2005 a military dictator was ruling Pakistan and the entire world was doing business with him. At that moment, the issues of democracy, transparency and human rights all took a backseat and strategic imperatives prevailed. Continue reading

August 23, 2010

Pro-Poor Initiatives of RSPs

From this website

Dissemination Workshop of the Study on the “Pro-Poor Initiatives of RSPs: Experiences & Lessons from the Grassroots”

…A team from the Pakistan Policy Group, carried out a study for RSPN to document and draw lessons from Rural Support Programmes’ Pro-Poor Initiatives (PPIEs). The study documented 13 PPIEs which focused on improving the quality of life of the poorest. PPIEs included low-cost housing, mother & child healthcare, the Union Council Poverty Reduction Programme and the way in which Local Support Organisations (LSOs) had facilitated the poorest in acquiring government social safety-net schemes such as the Benazir Income Support Programme and the Punjab Chief Minister’s Food Stamp programme.

The study found that the RSPs were venturing out into challenging areas such as addressing land issues and bonded labour. Study highlighted that PPIEs in which the direct beneficiaries were involved, had a greater impact. Finally the study drew important policy lessons relating to the importance of social mobilisation, working with government, using improved tools for targeting of the poor, and the relevance of knowledge management. A Policy Brief based on the main study document has been prepared and printed for wider dissemination amongst stakeholders.

More here