ISLAMABAD (APP) The USAID Pakistan Mission Director Dr. Andrew B. Sisson has said that despite financial constraints and tension is Pak-US relations the USAID has been providing financial assistance for various sectors including energy, education, health and rural development programmes.
In an interview with the news agency, the USAID Pakistan Chief said, We are here to help Pakistan to develop its economy, to provide better future to Pakistani citizens, helping to improve its energy supply, stablise its conditions in FATA, improve educational opportunities for kids, provide jobs, and improve health sector. He said, we think this is in the interest of Pakistan and in the interest of US as well.
The USAID Pakistan Chief said, We work closely with Pakistani government, Pakistani business community and Pakistani civil society leaders like NGOs and have very excellent cooperation with all of them.
Replying to a question he said, the USAID is also helping some projects with the cooperation of Pakistan Military and working with Pakistani military in building roads in FATA, and this cooperation with FWO is continued to be excellent.
Explaining details of USAID budget, he said, although the budget process in US is a complicated process but under Kerry Lugar Berman (KLB) legislation, Pakistan will receive $1.5 billion every year for five years.
He said, This year the actual appropriation does not quite reach that level and USAID portion is less than $1.0 billion while total civilian US assistance to Pakistan during the current year is $1.3 billion and USAID portion is $950 million.
The reduction in the USAID funds out of $1.5 billion to Pakistan this year is due to variety of reasons including fiscal budget problems being faced by US government, he said.
Replying to a question about allocation of funds under USAID, he said, the highest allocation is for energy sector. He said energy sector is now at top of the list of the USAID projects and during 2011 an amount of $254 million were allocated only in energy sector as compared to $86.5 million spent in 2010.
Andrew Sisson said, We are helping the government of Pakistan to complete Gomal Dam and Satpara Dams and similarly we are supporting in major upgrade of Tarbela and that is enormous investment to increase power generation.
He said, We are considering carefully to invest in big projects of energy like Tarbela and Mangla to produce energy to resolve energy crisis in Pakistan.
Proposals in this regard have been prepared and one of them is to finance Basha Diamir Dam.
He said the USAID is also helping to improve thermal power plants in different areas of Pakistan especially in Muzaffargarh and Guddu. He said the USAID started projects to improve tube wells for water supply to the farmers and there is excellent improvement on this project. We have piloting the new approach to helping farmers introduce fuel efficient technology to get more water for irrigation with less electricity. he added.
Under this project he said, we have reached almost 1000 farmers so far and the target is to reach 11,000 farmers initially and we are planning to expand that number and working closely with Asian Development Bank for more funds for this project.
This project will save 1000 MW of electricity in Pakistan, he added. Regarding assistance in education sector, the USAID Pakistan Chief said, both primary and higher education are important both for Pakistan and USA.
He said in terms of financial amount USAID is proving more funds to primary and basic education. We trained thousands of teachers, we directly supported over million kids with better schools, better curriculum and books, he added. He said, We are investing a lot on basic education in Pakistan. He said during 2011 an amount of $123 million was allocated for education that include $85 million for basic education and $38 million for higher education.
Although the education sector received $198.6 million in 2009 and $191.6 million in 2008 from the USAID. We are investing a lot in higher education also but it is not the same level as the allocation for primary education, he added. We provide 400 scholarships to Pakistani students every year for the study in American educational institutions, he said. The USAID is also helping universities in Pakistan to develop their centres of excellence. Explaining financial assistance in agriculture sector, the USAID Pakistan Chief said, We do have projects for rural areas and one of them, started recently is mango farming to helping mango farmers to upgrade their production, quality control, marketing and export.
He early this month first ever consignment of Pakistani mangoes reached United States. He said Pakistan has very high quality product of mangoes and its export could be improved in coming years. He said with proper handling of mangoes Pakistan can also get more share in the European and Gulf markets. Replying to another question, he said, We are planning a new major agro-business programme focusing on horticulture, fruit and vegetables, live stock and dairy.
He said, We are going to work with Pakistani organizations, to reach farmers and all other players who contribute in the agriculture sector to improve production, storage, transportation, marketing, packaging of agricultural products as there are lot of opportunities to add value, and earn more income, create jobs.
He said that with the help of International Food Policy Research Institute farmers will provide more conducive environment to flourish their business. We are investing in improving irrigation system in Pakistan to make more land under cultivation through different schemes, he added. Referring to other projects for agriculture sector, the USAID Pakistan
Chief said, Another important investment in agriculture sector support from USAID to half a million family to revive their farming after last years floods. The farmers were provided seeds and fertilizers for wheat crop and Pakistan got bumper wheat crop this year.
He said in Sindh the USAID helped in sunflower crop and there was good crop this year due to this timely assistance and help. He said for wheat crop USAID provided $62 million while for the sunflower crop was given assistance with $15 million. Under agro business, he said, dairy development would be a major programme under USAID in future in Pakistan.
Appreciating the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), the USAID Pakistan Chief said, We have completed our funding for the BISP and contributed $160 million.
He said, We have completed a small evaluation that has given us confidence that the funds being disbursed under BISP are reaching to beneficiaries and people are getting benefit from this programme. We are satisfied with the BISP scheme as it has been helping the needy, he added.
About criticism on USAID programmes in Pakistan, he said, When we are in the field people are very appreciative, as people are getting basic needs. When we meet farmers, they are appreciative but it is different than the Pakistani perception across the country in the media.
He said, We need to increase awareness among the public what we are doing and there is need to explain investment in the rural areas.