Pakistan
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Mudassir Saeed Laghari |

Pakistan is now China’s darling. At least one recently-published report says so. According to a years-long study published by the College of William and Mary’s AidData research lab, Pakistan has emerged to be the second-largest recipient of Chinese donation. According to the study, the total aid received by Pakistan from Beijing between the years 2000 and 2014 amounts to nearly $24.3 billion in the form of loans, grants, and other agreements.

Headed by Bradley Parks, the AidData research lab is situated at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. It teamed up with other researchers at Harvard University and the University of Heidelberg in Germany to complete the research.

And also when it comes to the country’s elite, the truth is our elites are hardly reliable. They are known for filling their own coffers, no matter in whatever cost it translates into for the lives of the country’s average citizens

Covered in the database, the findings of the study shows that China closely follows the US, and could even be poised to overtake it, in terms of the amount of foreign aid spent around the globe. Between 2000 and 2014, China committed over $350 billion in official finance in 140 countries around the world. As for the U.S. overseas aid – at $394 billion, it was slightly higher during the same period.

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“At the very top level, you could say the U.S. and China are now spending rivals when it comes to their financial transfers to other countries,” Bradley Parks, executive director at AidData, told AP. Interestingly, Russia tops the list of global destinations of Chinese foreign aid with Beijing providing a total of $36.6 billion to Moscow. In terms of regions, African countries have captured a large part of China’s total-donated aid and loans.

The working paper issues from AidData signifies the positive relationship between the Chinese foreign funding and the growth in recipient countries. “Our results show that Chinese official development assistance (ODA) boosts economic growth in recipient countries.”

The AidData’s research provides traces of China providing grants to Pakistan to assist it in anti-terror fights. For example, in October 2001, China donated to the Pakistani government emergency aid worth 10 million RMB

It’s important to maintain here that the findings are quite contrary to what many international donors, especially western policymakers, have said about the lack of Chinese financial aid to other countries. Furthermore, they have portrayed Chinese financial assistance as a tool to protect and project its national interests. The working paper goes even further to refute the popular claim that ‘significant financial support from China impairs the effectiveness of grants and loans from Western donors and lenders’. “Our results do not support this claim”, reads the paper.

Interestingly, around the globe, China isn’t perceived as a country willing to dole out billions of dollars to address other nations’ issues such as health, education, infrastructure and humanitarian emergencies. The Pakistan case isn’t much different. To most Pakistanis, the news that Pakistan has received such a large volume Chinese aid will surely come as a surprise.

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However, the major reason behind this is because China keeps a complete lack of transparency on its foreign financing and it is hard to track. According to Bethany Allen, a Foreign Policy expert, “China does not publish it’s foreign aid data and views it as politically sensitive, even a state secret”.

The humanitarian activities vary from providing aid to Afghan refugees in Pakistan; helping drought victims of Sind and Baluchistan provinces to providing books and computers to Pakistan

The bilateral relationship between China and Pakistan accounts for one of the most important strategic partnerships in the modern history of the world. While the mutual ties were already burgeoning, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has added a powerful chapter to the new phase of interconnectivity and interdependence between the countries.

As the Sino-Pakistan friendship is transitioning into renewed commitments and efforts to improve the economic content of their relationship, which comprises trade, investment, and energy co-operation within a bilateral framework, for Pakistan, however, this transition seems too ambitious. The reason is quite obvious: Pakistan needs to reform and restructure its economy and society which require huge infrastructure and investments. The Chinese aid, therefore, could be a one a big tool to assist Pakistan in developing and promoting its economic infrastructure.

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As the Sino-Pakistan friendship is transitioning into renewed commitments and efforts to improve the economic content of their relationship, which comprises trade, investment, and energy co-operation within a bilateral framework

As such, therefore, the purchasing of locomotives and coaches for Pakistan railways; construction of nuclear power plants, White Oil Pipelines, Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project, Jinnah Hydropower station, Pakistan Gwadar Port Project in the country are but a few examples.

The database also revealed about many instances of China’s engagement in humanitarian activities in Pakistan. The humanitarian activities vary from providing aid to Afghan refugees in Pakistan; helping drought victims of Sind and Baluchistan provinces to providing books and computers to Pakistan. For example, it shows that “from 2011 to 2012, China worked closely with the WHO and dispatched 15 experts to Namibia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Pakistan to help control the spread of poliomyelitis”.

The AidData’s research provides traces of China providing grants to Pakistan to assist it in anti-terror fights. For example, in October 2001, China donated to the Pakistani government emergency aid worth 10 million RMB. There are also cases of China’s donations for building Pakistan’s educational and training infrastructure: in December 2000, the Chinese government provided an interest-free loan worth 127.361 million rupees to Pakistan for the Peshawar-based Advanced Technical Training Center (ATTC).

Covered in the database, the findings of the study shows that China closely follows the US, and could even be poised to overtake it, in terms of the amount of foreign aid spent around the globe

However, large grants have their own concerns for recipients, especially when it lacks transparency. There are enough reasons to contest the scale of its success. Though Pakistan is gradually improving the standard of its governance and accountability, yet corruption is still a systemic problem in the country. And also when it comes to the country’s elite, the truth is our elites are hardly reliable. They are known for filling their own coffers, no matter in whatever cost it translates into for the lives of the country’s average citizens.

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Needless to say, that if targeted and managed wisely, foreign aid can work wonders. It set South Korea and Taiwan on the path to riches, helped alleviate the poor suffering in Africa and has almost eliminated polio from the world. But if not managed, then it’s not just the foreign aid that fails, with it fail the receiving societies too.

Mudassir Saeed Laghari is a freelance columnist. He has contributed several pieces to various magazines, especially to Lahore-based Jahangir’s World Times. He also teaches international affairs and contemporary politics. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

 

Mudassir Saeed Laghari is a freelance columnist. He has contributed several pieces to various magazines, especially to Lahore-based Jahangir's World Times. He also teaches international affairs and contemporary politics.

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