US and Pak officials concerned over monitoring of aid money: NYT

December 25th, 2007 - 1:58 pm ICT by admin  

Peshawar, Dec 25 (ANI): US and Pakistani officials, and analysts familiar with the 15-year anti-terror investment plan to eradicate extremism through development of the most affected parts of Pakistan, are concerned over the monitoring of aid money, and fear that it could fall into the wrong hands.
The disputes have left many sceptical that the 750 million dollar five-year plan can succeed in competing for the allegiance of an estimated 400,000 young tribesmen in Pakistans tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
At present, the area is used as base to fuel violence and instability in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan and to plot terrorist attacks abroad by al Qaeda, the Taliban and other foreign militants, the New York Times (NYT) reported.
The reach of Pakistan Government is limited in the entire tribal area and the region is rife with corruption. But the risk of leaving it isolated and undeveloped is greater than ever.
The civilian aid programme would provide jobs and schooling, build 600 miles of roads and improve literacy in an area where almost no women can read, the NYT said.
The tribal area for which this new money is intended remains so unsafe that no senior American official has visited in the last nine months, the NYT claimed.
“My sense is they are ready to start, but who is going to be responsible for management,” asks Senator John F. Tierney, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Were not quite certain about it,” Mr. Tierney said. “I have concerns that it not be a repeat of situations in Iraq.”
In fact, American officials wary of corruption and local hostility, say that as in Iraq they will rely heavily on private contractors to administer the development aid, a decision that could eat up nearly half of the budget.
The new programme is meant to start slowly, with the first portion of the overall programme out to bid at 350 million dollar. Among the handful of companies invited to bid are DynCorp International and Creative Associates International Inc., both of which won substantial contracts in Iraq. How effective they will be in the tribal areas is equally uncertain.
Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan, where large numbers of American soldiers offer some protection to aid projects, the Pakistani authorities tightly control access to the tribal areas.
The Pakistani military has suffered hundreds of casualties trying to subdue the area in the last few years, and heavy fighting has flared again in recent weeks.
The tribal region remains so dangerous that it is virtually off limits even to American military officials and civilians who would oversee the programmes.
The Pakistani authorities have ruled out using foreign NGOs. But neither do they approve the American choice of private contractors. They would like the money to go through them.
Rick Barton, a former official at the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., who now works on Pakistan issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the estimate was in the ballpark.
Development firms commonly charge 25 per cent to 50 per cent of a programmes entire cost in profit and overhead, depending on the scope and difficulty of the task, he said. And the task is indeed difficult.
The area having a population of 32 lakh has no industry, virtually no work and no hope. Men aged between 18 to 25, who are the target of the programme, find offers of 300 rupees a day from the Taliban about five dollar attractive.
Concerns about corruption are so severe that the first grants will be held to only about 25,000 dollar each, to finance small projects like repairing water wells and small sewage plants.
A senior official for one of the contracting firms in Pakistan, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, suggested a way to monitor the money up close, but which is unlikely to be acceptable in the tribal areas, the paper said. (ANI)

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