Rethink aid to Pakistan, MPs tell DfID

Justine Greening, U.K. secretary of state for international development stops by a school in Pakistan during her visit to the country in January 2013. Photo by: Usman Ghani / DFID

A group of British legislators agrees the United Kingdom’s aid agency should maintain its bilateral assistance to Pakistan, but it should consider a few things before deciding to double the current amount. DfID plans to increase its bilateral aid to the country to 446 million pounds ($674 million) come 2015.

The Department for International Development should only increase its aid to Pakistan when there is clear evidence of improvement in tax revenue in the notoriously corrupt country, the International Development Committee said in a report published Thursday.

“If the Pakistani government is unwilling to take action to increase its revenues and improve services for its people, it cannot expect the British people to do so in the long run,” the MPs argued.

Tax reform is unpopular but much-needed in Pakistan. The country suffers from having one of the lowest number of people paying taxes around the world. Last year, only 768,000 Pakistanis or 0.57 percent of the population paid their income tax, according to the country’s revenue board.

MPs recommended DfID set measurable targets in its anti-corruption drive in the country.

It also suggested the aid agency revise its governance program for Pakistan with the main focus on tax collection, corruption and the rule of law.

The MPs were concerned that DfID does not include in its priorities bringing public officials accused of corruption in court.

On tax reform, the International Development Committee called on DfID to support Pakistan by implementing a nationwide communication plan aimed at increasing tax revenue in the country. The U.K. government, the MPs said, should use its influence in the International Monetary Fund to keep the pressure on tax system reform.

DfID agreed with the committee’s findings.

“Following the election we will make available practical assistance to the incoming government to help deliver reform of the Pakistani tax system and work with the IMF, but tax and economic reform must take place,”  an agency spokesperson said.

Pakistan is set for general elections May 11.

The MPs also touched on the agency’s education, and health program in Pakistan. They noted DfID should be able to ensure the sustainability of its education program in Punjab, and address the issues the Independent Commission on Aid Impact identified in DfID’s maternal and newborn health program.

We “are not asking for the funding to be stopped for [community midwives and lady health workers] … but that the remuneration packages and way of working [be] made complementary not competitive,” the lawmakers said.

The report comes days after news broke out that DfID was allegedly supporting a program rumored to be financing late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s former political party. This has been denied by the British aid agency.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.