ISLAMABAD - A senior United States Advisor on Pakistan Robin L. Raphel said the government of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has its priorities right on the issues of economy, energy, extremism and education.
To a question about Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif government’s performance during an interview, she said, “Whether it’s the economy, energy, extremism or education, they have their priorities right. Robin Raphel has a long designation and an even longer association with Pakistan.
The senior advisor on Pakistan at the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., first came to the country in 1975 to work as a financial analyst for USAID. She said, “The government’s strong suit is on the economics side. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is an amazing implementer. It’s like he’s got a computer in his brain because he doesn’t forget anything and can spit out statistics. “He’s much better informed than anybody else in the room and it’s made a huge difference. They prioritized right in terms of approaching the problem. If you’re going to fix the economy, what do you do?” “You pick the low hanging fruit. Now it’s going to get harder and harder with this budget and how they’re going to deal with tax issues, but Dar has a plan. They’re also focusing very much on energy. The last government tried a number of times to set up an LNG terminal but they just couldn’t get it organized,” Raphel added. To a question about the U.S. Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act which was supposed to provide $7.5 billion in aid over five years, she said, “funds to Pakistan get appropriated on an annual or two-year basis. In the first couple of years, we got the $1.5 billion per year for Pakistan.” “In recent years, we haven’t because overall levels are declining. At the end of the day, we will get to $7.5 billion. It will just take a little longer, maybe a couple of years. And in many ways, that’s okay.” “We did find that it took us longer to make well-informed decisions about what to do with the money. You’ve got to talk to people, talk to government, talk to civil society. You’ve got to figure out what else is going on in a sector. It takes time to spend money wisely. But I hasten to add, I’m not the Congress of the United States.”
Raphel said Pakistan is important to U.S. interests. She said Pakistan has its own internal-security challenges and contradictions and the results of the 30 years of fighting in Afghanistan are real to this country.
“It’s often used as an excuse, but there’s a certain element of truth to that.” Pakistan got behind and it needs to catch up and make use of its potential, she said adding, “We’re committed to helping it get there. We’ve learned a lot in the last five years about how to be effective and that’s what we tell our Congress, that it is money well spent.”