At a time of increasing international financial isolation for Islamabad, the UAE Pakistan Assistance Program continues to provide crucial and appreciated assistance from a time-tested, all-weather friend. Already with the coalition support fund caught in official logjam, the IMF program abandoned and other multi- and bi-lateral donors shying away because they take cue from the Fund, Pakistan’s fiscal position has come under immense strain. And considering our troubles with natural and manmade disasters over the last few years, the financial choke could not have come at a worse time for the government of Pakistan.
The UAEPAP is all the more appreciated because in addition to helping contain negative fallout of the mammoth human catastrophe created in the wake of the floods, the program caters to social and infrastructure projects with significant positive spill-over. Education and health projects in some of the areas where they are most needed will not only empower a new generation entering the competitive job market in the future, they will also slowly but effectively negate influences of extremism so rampant in the periphery. But of far greater immediate intrinsic value are projects pertaining to the water sector and social overhead capital – roads, buildings, etc.
The good thing about the latter is that while more roads, bridges and purification plants are always welcome, their initiation creates valuable job opportunities and stimulate consumerism, two of the most basic features of any coordinated attempt to snap out of persistent stagflation. Islamabad would do well to emulate the UAE model when undertaking targeted fiscal expansion of its own.
Interestingly, while foreign grants are known to be politically motivated and sector specific, the one in question clearly addresses the people of Pakistan – from displaced sufferers ravaged by hellish floods to innocent, deprived children growing up in extremist, merciless surroundings to the army of unemployed, unable to subsist. A friend in need is indeed a friend in deed.