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Thursday Jul 18 2019

Pakistan faces UK aid cut as pressures grow

LONDON: Britain’s aid to Pakistan could reduce significantly by next year as pressure on the government grows to cut foreign aid to all countries amidst Brexit crisis, rise in poverty at home and a parliamentary inquiry into aid for Pakistan reviewing aid from 2013 to 2018.

A source in the International Development Committee (IDC) of the British Parliament said that its inquiry into the Department for International Development (DFID)’s aid programme for Pakistan will be looking at the general spending of aid in Pakistan but confirmed that pressure on the government had increased to either drop aid to several countries, including Pakistan, or cut it significantly.

The source said the final decision in this regard will be made by the government once the findings of it’s aid programme investigation are released next year.

“The inquiry will likely be conducted November 2019 into 2020 (March / April) on current plans,” a source told this reporter.

Aid to Pakistan for the year 2019/20 is already down to £302 million from £325 million in 2018/19.

Three weeks ago, the International Development Committee announced an inquiry into aid for Pakistan to establish whether UK’s strategic aims for its Pakistan aid programme clear and appropriate; UK/Pakistan relationship coherent and well-coordinated with the aid programme and its aims and objectives; and to what extent is there effective joined-up strategy and delivery across the country portfolio, and what has the trajectory of programming priorities and impact been over the last 4 years.

Parliamentarians from Labour, Conservatives, Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and one independent are part of the 11 members committee to include a broad range of opinion.

The official said that the current investigation is only into Pakistan and the IDC is not considering investigating aid to any other country at the moment but it would be constantly reviewing the aid projects.

The official said that it was becoming increasingly difficult for the British government to dedicate aid to growing economies and confirmed “several new issues related to Pakistan” have surfaced putting the whole perspective of aid into doubt. The official didn’t elaborate what the new issues and concerns are. One of the key focus of this inquiry is to assess whether Pakistan had a commitment to reform and whether it now has access to other resources of money.

On record, a spokesman has said that the IDC has invited written submissions on all aspects of the inquiry, focusing on how effective is UK aid in Pakistan in terms of supporting the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable people in that country and whether it's being implemented properly in Pakistan.

The IDC said that Pakistan is a strategic priority for UK aid and DFID’s office in Pakistan has the largest budget of any DFID country office with a planned spend of £302 million in 2019/20. For the UK parliamentarians, it makes sense to investigate the aid.

Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Committee, said the parliamentary committee has decided to look at the DFID’s country programme because Pakistan receives more UK aid spending than any other nation. “We have launched this inquiry to understand how well UK aid spending addresses these challenges and progress made since the last IDC inquiry in 2013. We will investigate how the different strands of aid spending in Pakistan - including health, education, economic development, security and stability, and climate change - work together to meet the aims of the UK’s overall aid strategy in the region and globally. The Committee will also examine how programmes in Pakistan address UK commitments to broader issues including poverty focus, disability inclusion, gender equality and safeguarding as well as overall progress against the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Stephen Twigg MP was in New York for a conference and unable to comment but his office spokesman said that Pakistan inquiry is “part of the 2017 Committee’s plan to keep DFID’s thematic work, the more substantial country and regional programmes, humanitarian situations and topical, fast-emerging, issues under review on a systematic basis”.

Right-wing press and right of the centre parties in Britain have stepped up a campaign against Britain’s foreign aid to developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Over the weekend, Mail on Sunday published an article alleging corruption in one of DFID’s projects in Pakistan and accused that funds were transferred in the bank account of a family member of Shahbaz Sharif, the former Chief Minister of Punjab. Shahbaz Sharif has announced to take legal action against the paper in Britain for false allegations.