Foreign aid — a bane ? | By Waqar Hassan


Foreign aid — a bane ?

EVEN though Pakistan is blessed with a plenteous wealth of mineral and human resources, it has been wading through the waters of economic wane since its inception.

Indubitably, Pakistan is not a poor country but it is a poorly managed country. By and large, Pakistan depends on foreign aid which has made it dilettantish to work for the upswing of its economic conditions.

Unquestionably, it is the paucity of will-power on the part of our political elite — what else? Pakistan has been receiving foreign economic backing for the past many years but has it made any difference?

Aren’t we still asking for more financial bailout packages? Undeniably, all the developing countries that had ever received economic assistance from other countries have never been able to get rid of this maelstrom of economic and financial dependence.

Moreover, many such countries have found themselves awfully collared by the political motives of their donors.

It’s a vicious circle which becomes a permanent cat’s cradle for the developing countries making them scum to the foreign agenda.

The upshots of receiving aid are more baleful than we can even imagine. It blackjacks nations to acquiesce to many of the demands of the aid providers even if the importunities are against their national agenda.

Only those countries that prefer re-strengthening their economy by reprobating any kind of aid from other countries have turned the tables in the best interest of their people.

There is a truth in the cliché ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Receiving foreign aid is just like getting a fish every day but no one teaches how to catch a fish as it makes nations financially independent and sovereign.

According to the World Bank, from 1960 to 2019, the average value of the aid that Pakistan received was 115.74 million U.S dollars with a minimum of 252.74 million dollars in 1961 and a maximum of 3764.02 million U.S dollars in 2015.

The latest value for the year 2019 is 2170.74 million U.S dollars.Has this aid transformed Pakistan economically or socially?

No, but it has made us bank more on foreign aid. It has made us oblivious to the fact that we have all kinds of resources to make this country financially self-sustaining.

Verily, aid is linked to political gains. All the countries that offer financial support to other countries ask for political mileage and then it becomes a permanent tool of manipulating the foreign policy of a country that requires financial help to keep its economy breathing.

Therefore, it is impossible to disconnect aid and politics. Currently, Pakistan has been engulfed by all kinds of crises, be it political, economic or social.

Our economy has malfunctioned.Our education sector is doing no wonders. Our investment in the well-being of our people is the lowest in the region.

Our youth is jobless. Besides, our society is cranking out crevasses and cracks that are becoming observable.

Our agricultural sector has become unproductive. Our industry is demanding economic reforms to save itself from total closure.

All this is happening because our economy has always counted on foreign assistance rather than strengthening its foundations.

Today, we are again looking toward the IMF make it happen for Pakistan. The irony is that we are receiving foreign aid for the past sixty years but are still in need of more aid to save our country from economic meltdown.

This dependence is taking away the ingrained ability of this nation to work for its financial survival.

Pecuniary aid has become a bane for Pakistan as it has made us believe that we can only survive if we receive financial assistance from donors even at the cost of our national interests.

Dollars-and-cents assistance is needed in times of natural disasters or calamities. The objectives of providing aid are always based on moral grounds.

In all other kinds of situations, the plots and designs behind offering aid to other countries are political in essence.

We should accept the fact that foreign aid is not helping us to become a prosperous state.

It is bringing more harm to us as we witness the negative impacts of receiving aid in the form of hard-handed policies from donors and lenders.

Realistically, if we receive a call today from all our lenders that Pakistan will not be receiving any financial assistance after 5 years from now, Pakistan will, for sure, achieve economic self-sufficiency as Pakistan has the capability to become an economic giant.

Pakistan needs to get to the point that aid is only benign if it is used for developing the capacity of people to garner economic returns for a country.

Moreover, it’s time to redesign our economic trajectory. Many South Asian countries have transformed their economies drastically.

The example of Bangladesh supplements the fact that nations can hanker for the path of prosperity but only by acquiring the wisdom of becoming self-dependent and self-reliant.

Our omphalos should be on how to utilize our plentiful natural resources. We need to shift our focus from geo-political gains to geo-economic gains for drifting this nation away from economic reliance to economic independence.

Wars, in the modern world, have become economic in nature. No nation, in the contemporary world, risks going nuclear in case of any conflict.

Modern conflicts are won by achieving economic gains. Indeed, economic strength is bagging more points than military strength nowadays.

It is the economy that is shaping political, economic and strategic alliances across the world.

Needless to say, the economy is being used as a tool to develop cordial relations, build policy narratives and pressurize other nations today.

And foreign aid is the most lethal weapon that accomplishes all the above-mentioned objectives for a nation.

Therefore, it’s time for Pakistan to devise policies that can help Pakistan to sustain itself without banking on foreign aid.

It will help Pakistan to maintain and protect its national interests in the best suitable manner as foreign aid is a weapon that dragoons a nation to set aside its national agendas for the sake of fulfilling the vested interests of loan lending nations.

—The writer is CSS Officer, based in Lahore.


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