August 8th, 2006 10:59 EST
U.S. Supports New Business, Academic Enterprises in Pakistan By Lea Terhune
Washington – When the United States and Pakistan recently signed agreements to fund educational development and small businesses, it was a step toward implementing a much larger program to promote economic growth in Pakistan.
One bilateral agreement commits $13.7 million for economic growth, and will enable the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to give more than 130,000 loans for small businesses in 2006. The other agreement aims to develop academic programs in support of knowledge-based businesses. Both agreements, signed in Islamabad August 1, are part of a $73 million five-year package for economic growth assistance.
Loans will be made to small entrepreneurs throughout Pakistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. USAID will continue support for promising Pakistani industries and assist drought-hit farmers. Seeds, livestock and irrigation systems will be provided for more than 50,000 farmers in Baluchistan.
“The people of the United States are excited to see a growing, vibrant Pakistani economy. By appealing to Pakistanis’ entrepreneurial spirit, the United States’ economic growth programs in Pakistan will continue to help business grow and reduce poverty,” said U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, who witnessed the signing along with Pakistan Minister of State for Finance Omar Ayub Khan.
The educational development agreement will buttress economic progress by partnering the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF) with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to support knowledge-based economic development projects. The CSF is a joint initiative between USAID and Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance, to help Pakistan become more competitive in the world economy by upgrading its ability to respond to opportunities in knowledge-based markets.
“The main thrust of this initiative is to build linkages between business and academia,” Omar Ayub Khan said. “Such linkages will spark the kind of information sharing that makes business more dynamic and supports the commercialization of innovations developed at our universities and research institutions.” Khan is also chairman of the CSF.
Chairman of the HEC Atta-Ur-Rahman said the linkup should attract more money for research. “Cooperation of this type between business and academia has generated tremendous innovation in the countries that have developed it, not just in the United States and Europe, but also in places like India, Thailand and Turkey. Pakistan cannot afford to ignore these successes,” he said.
The goal of the U.S.-Pakistan agreements is giving disadvantaged families and entrepreneurs the means to build and maintain assets. The education component will give academic innovators in the commercial sphere incentive for developing their ideas, and open up collaborative links between local and U.S. universities and research institutions.
Microenterprise development is a chief tool in accomplishing sustainable economic growth, according to USAID assistant administrator Jacqueline E. Schafer, who testified to a House International Relations subcommittee July 31. “USAID’s microfinance support has helped strengthen financial sectors to better meet the needs of poor households and new and growing micro enterprises,” she said, adding that micro enterprise helps families “cope with the risks and vulnerability that accompany poverty, and plan for better futures for their children.”
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)