Remarks by Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, at the USAID Exhibition Opening, Pakistan National Center for the Arts

Thursday, April 12, 2012

[As prepared]

Thank you, Ambassador Munter.

It is an honor to be here in Pakistan and see the progress of our work together. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to officially open this remarkable exhibition, showcasing the long-standing relationship between our two peoples.

In the 1950s, we helped bring the University of Karachi and two American universities together to establish The Institute of Business Administration-Pakistan's first business school.

In the 1960s and 70s, we helped spark the Green Revolution-supporting Pakistani and international scientists to develop high-yield varieties of staple crops and prevent widespread poverty and hunger.

Around that same time, we helped construct the Tarbela and Mangla dams, major feats of engineering that accounted for more than 70 percent of the national output. In fact, one of USAID's senior officers here in Pakistan first came to live in this country as a child, when his father was a civil engineer working on dam construction.

Today, we're building on this legacy to generate real development results for the Pakistani people. I know it's been a tough year, and our relationship has weathered more than its share of difficulties. But despite the challenges, our relationship has endured and our commitment has remained strong. We will continue to focus intensely on building the capacity of the Pakistani nation-a collaborative effort that advances our mutual interests and lays the groundwork for a peaceful, prosperous future.

Over the past few years, we've listened carefully to Pakistani communities and refocused our programs on five key priorities: energy, economic growth, stabilization, education and health. In each area, we're emphasizing good governance and gender equality to ensure that everyone has access to critical public services and can participate fully in Pakistan's development.

We've made energy a top priority because we know that Pakistan's chronic shortage of electricity stifles the nation's growth.

By supporting more electricity generation to narrow Pakistan's energy deficit, we can help ensure that all facilities-from schools to clinics-have the power they need. By the end of 2013, USAID will have added over 900 megawatts to the grid, enough to provide electricity to nearly 14 million people and close 20 percent of Pakistan's current energy deficit.

We're supporting Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority to complete two dams: the Satpara Dam and the Gomal Zam Dam, which will generate electricity, control floods and provide irrigation to over 200,000 acres of land and water for at least 280,000 local residents.

And we're helping to modernize the Tarbela Dam, which we originally helped construct in the 1970s. These upgrades alone will add 128 megawatts to the grid.

Alongside energy, economic opportunity remains one of Pakistan's most pressing needs.

Because agriculture provides 21 percent of GDP and employs 44 percent of Pakistan's workforce, we're working with farmers to improve their harvests and connect them to profitable markets abroad.

Over the past year, we've helped mango growers in Punjab and Sindh increase exports by more than 60 percent and revenues by more than $4 million.

And in the aftermath of the devastating floods in 2010, we provided over 600,000 households with improved seeds and fertilizer, helping to save the winter wheat harvest and increase yields by 60 percent.

But we know that sustainable prosperity won't come from a single harvest. It needs reliable supply chains, a supportive enabling environment and vibrant regional markets. This past year, we helped drive the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. While there are still issues to be worked out, the groundbreaking agreement is expected to generate as much as $7 billion in Pakistani exports to Central Asia-up from $8 million in 2010.

We're also focused on helping conflict-affected communities achieve vital stability, reducing the pull of extremism and building citizens' confidence in public services.

We've created 170,000 jobs; funded 220 kilometers of roads in South Waziristan; provided 7,500 scholarships to youth displaced by military operations; and worked alongside Pakistani communities to build or renovate 1,500 small infrastructure projects like schools, clinics and wells. These projects bolster the capacity of the local government, while weakening the grip of militants in the region.

And to help ensure that even the most vulnerable do not slip through the cracks, we're supporting Pakistan's innovative safety net-the Benazir Income Support Program-which delivers money directly to women in impoverished families

Finally, as the government of Pakistan devolves authority to the provinces, we're working with local governments and organizations to support the basic needs of every Pakistani citizen.

Every year, about as many infants are born in Pakistan as in the United States, even though the U.S. has almost twice the population. By 2050, Pakistan's population is projected to more than double, a rate that will dramatically outpace economic growth and overwhelm the government's ability to provide essential services. To help address this high fertility rate, we've worked with Pakistani organizations to reach over 50 million people with messages about voluntary family planning.

We also have to ensure that all children have a chance for a healthy life. Today in Pakistan, nearly one child in 10 dies before the age of five. Though the Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Newborns project, we've helped reduce maternal and newborn deaths by over 20 percent-saving 30,000 newborn lives-though a community based approach that offers care to mothers and newborns outside of a health facility.

And we're working closely with the government and local communities to strengthen Pakistan's education system, enabling 900,000 more children to attend school and expanding opportunity in higher education. Just this morning, I had the opportunity to officially open four centers of advanced studies to help strengthen the capacity of Pakistan's researchers and accelerate progress in the priority areas of energy, agriculture and water management.

I share these results not to imply that everything is easy or always generates a breakthrough. It is important to be honest about the challenges we face, so that we can reduce misunderstandings and improve our efforts.

To increase accountability, we've taken a number of steps to ensure we are spending every development dollar in the most efficient, effective and transparent way possible.

We've put pre-assessment teams on the ground to help ensure that local organizations and government agencies have the proper controls in place from the beginning.

We've established an Anti-Fraud Hotline, where citizens can voice concerns about possible fraud, waste and mismanagement.

And we're funding contracts to the government on a cost reimbursement basis. That means we confirm the work was really completed before we pay the government. I know it can sometimes feel like a slow process, but it is vitally important to ensuring our efforts are effective and transparent.

At the same time, the government and the Pakistani people have to do their share. By most accounts, fewer than 2 percent of the population pays taxes-and the wealthiest often pay the least. So long as this remains true, Pakistan simply won't have the resources it needs to prosper.

Even as we work hard to shift more assistance directly to Pakistan's national and local government, we also know that we can't limit our work to the government. We have to foster diverse relationships with Pakistan's entrepreneurs and civil society leaders.

That's why we've implemented a small grants program to support innovative projects by Pakistanis NGOs. Since August 2010, we've worked with different local organizations to install solar powered panels in remote villages; improve the participation of parents in school management; and improve health and sanitation in flood-affected regions.

With total donor assistance to Pakistan accounting for barely 1 percent of the nation's GDP, we know that the development community can only do so much. Responsibility for Pakistan's development lies with the government and citizens themselves. And it will require crucial reforms and the decision to marshal the country's own resources.

Because ultimately, our work is about helping the people of Pakistan chart their own future.

And supporting your efforts to ensure that the fruits of development benefit the most vulnerable…

…that economic growth is as meaningful to a smallholder farmer as to a women entrepreneur…

… and that individuals once tempted by extremism today can see the value of peace.

Thank you.

Pakistan National Center for the Arts Islamabad, Pakistan

Last updated: June 01, 2012

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