Foreign aid — boon or bane

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan, who has been a strong defender of national causes, prestige and honour, regretted on Tuesday that Pakistan could not reach its potential of the trajectory which it had maintained 50 years ago and foreign aid made the country weak.

Nations become strong when they become self-sufficient and trust their potential to flourish, he added.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has received a substantial amount of foreign aid since its independence in 1947 but its impact on socio-economic development of the country is not encouraging.

This is because foreign aid inflow should have influenced the process of growth by reducing the saving-investment gap, increasing productivity and transferring the modern technology but this has not happened as projects were poorly conceived and implemented, the aid money was squandered and the Governments used the aid money to bridge budgetary deficit.

According to a study, Pakistan received around US$ 73.14 billion in the form of foreign aid from 1960 to 2002 but the benefits of the aid flows did not reach the whole society.

It is also a fact that some countries linked their aid to fulfilment of their political and security agenda and the money was mostly spent on theoretical programmes and projects that have had little bearing on the life of the people.

Foreign aid itself is neither a boon nor a bane as it depends for what purpose the aid is sought and how efficiently it is spent so that it becomes relevant to socio-economic development of the country and increases its ability to pay back loans.

While projects relating to water reservoirs, seaports, motorways and highways, agricultural and industrial productivity and most importantly education and health are contributing immensely to accelerate the pace of socio-economic development, there are countless instances when billions of dollars were spent through so-called NGOs proved to be just propaganda tactics to influence the public opinion in the country.

China is spending over fifty billion dollars in Pakistan on mutually agreed projects in different sectors and these have started making an impact on the people’s life.

The Prime Minister definitely has a vision to get rid of the unproductive foreign aid but the PTI Government has so far relied heavily on foreign loans and aid and a beginning has yet to be made to restore national honour and dignity.

The focus of the Government on promoting exports, increasing remittances by Overseas Pakistanis and attract foreign investment has the potential to help realize the cherished objective of reducing crippling dependence on foreign aid but an enabling atmosphere is wanting in the face of non-stop increase in the cost of doing business.

 

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