On December 9th, ASP hosted a roundtable discussion sponsored by FTI Consulting with Admiral William Fallon, USN (Ret.); Mr. Daniel Grant, Assistant to the Administrator for Pakistan in the USAID Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs and Mr. Mark Thompson of APCO Worldwide, titled “Pakistan- Aid, Trade, and Security”.
The geopolitical significance of Pakistan is undeniable, as is the instability plaguing the country. The discussion opened with each speaker offering their perspective on the barriers facing Pakistan’s development and key strategies for improvement going forward. No issue was ignored; from Pakistan’s relationships with India and Afghanistan, the “youth bulge” in the population, the need for reliable electricity to spur development, to Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, China’s influence through investment and opportunities for US public and private investment to strengthen the US-Pakistan relationship were all examined in detail.
Admiral Fallon characterized the situation as, “bleak but with potential,” citing “continued political instability and serious issues of political economy, corruption” as the largest concern.
Joblessness among youth is another systemic problem, according to Grant. “Effectively 50% of the entire population is 22 years old.” The lack of meaningful work and income feeds a cycle of continued poverty and unrest. Grant also acknowledged the alarming energy deficit facing the country and the impact of unreliable power and rolling brownouts on economic development and security. Pakistan lacks the necessary transmission and wattage capabilities to meet the needs of its 300 million citizens. “If these needs were met, it would be a major economic engine for development and stability efforts.”
Mark Thompson of APCO focused on the importance of changing the perception of Pakistan in the global community, and the role of business diplomacy going forward. “Business diplomacy is key for Pakistan moving forward and is another method for the Pakistani community inside and outside the country to change the situation.” Private investment could also go along way to repair the fractured U.S-Pakistani partnership. Thompson cited Pakistani opinions towards China, which are largely positive, as an example of progress through investment.
The event in its entirety can be heard by clicking on the podcast link above. ASP looks forward to continuing the discussion on how development and US ,private sector lead trade and investment can support the security priorities of both Pakistan and the US.