USAID terminates $15m research project in Pakistan

Irshad Salim — The US government has terminated funding an ongoing $15 million research project at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (UAF).

According to local media reports, the US government issued a notification in this regard after completing close to 50 per cent work on the US-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security project in Punjab.

The stoppage of funding has caused termination of more than 79 employees working on the project since December 2014, which was mandated for five years under ‘USAID from the American People’ program, report the Express Tribune.

The Pakistani government had given a guarantee for the project’s sustainability and continuity even after completion of five years to achieve its target-oriented results.

The ‘notice of award termination’ was served upon Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Vice Chancellor, UAF, who is also the chief of party of the project, by the Agreement Officer of the USAID program.

Pakistan has been given time till September 21, 2017 for submitting all final invoices, completed project deliverables and/or settlement plans, according to the notice.

Of the total $15 million cost of the five-year project, $6.2 million has already been spent on account of payment of salaries to the staff, purchase of lab equipment, library and other material. In addition, $5 million special grant had also been spent on the construction of a three-story building spread over 56,000 square feet, including basement, 12 modern labs, lecture theater and rooms, and conference rooms equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.

Describing the decision as harsh, Dr Ahmad said, “It is tantamount to wasting the efforts of top class research scholars to achieve the goal of the projects which are far-reaching in nature.”

He said, “The project has already achieved remarkable outcomes, well exceeding the mandated targets for mid-term. Many of these achievements and future impact will be lost with this termination.”

Termination at mid-term will have devastating effects on ongoing activities and future achievements as it undercuts the gains already made through hard work and resources of UC Davis, UAF and USAID, said Dr. Ahmed.

The termination of the ongoing project comes days after Pentagon announced to withhold $50 million reimbursements under the Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan on the pretext that it is unable to verify whether Islamabad conducted adequate counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, report ET.

Seems like the “Trump administration’s vow of a tougher stance against Pakistan” is materializing in this manner, the paper said.

USAID has several ongoing grants-based programs and projects in Pakistan related to economy, export, energy, agriculture, education, health, women and youth employment empowerment, etc. One such program is helping Pakistani exporters enhance their capabilities and capacity to market mangoes, citrus foods, halal meat overseas.

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